We have not yet figured out the precise formula for winning an election. The next experiment to determine such a formula will cost our country about two billion Shekels. From the point of view of the voters, a time of elections brings up thoughts about the purpose of having elections. Does our ballot really make any difference? Perhaps the reason that the fraction of eligible voters who take part in elections is constantly decreasing is related to the lack of thinking in this way. The results of our elections establish the character and the behavior of our country in all walks of life in a way that corresponds to the outlook and value systems of the parties which win, just as much as they also depend on the personalities of the elected officials (honesty, morality, remaining true to their own platforms, and so on).
Why Have a Festival?
Today we will share with you some thoughts about the proximity of the comingelections and Chanukah. The following passage in the Talmud is very well-known. "What is Chanukah? When the Greeks entered the Temple they defiled all the oil in the Sanctuary. When the kingdom of the Chashmona'im gained the upper hand and was victorious, they searched and found only one small vial of oil that still had the seal of the High Priest, and it had only enough oil to burn for one day. However, a miracle occurred, and they were able to light the Menorah for eight days. The following year this was established as a holiday, with praise and thanks." [Shabbat 21a]. According to the Talmud, the miracle was that they were able to find a vial of oil that burned for eight days, so that they could renew the holy service in the Temple. However, in the "Al Hanissim" prayer we emphasize the military success, the victory of a few against many. Is there a conflict between these two issues?
At first glance it would seem that the symbols of the holiday emphasize the reason given in the Talmud. The name Chanukah, meaning a dedication, is related to the Altar and not to the military victory. The holiday lasts for eight days, the time of the miracle of the oil, and it is not just one day in which Hallel is recited, as is the case with Purim, Yom Haatzmaut, and Yom Yerushalayim. The special Torah sections that are read are the sacrifices brought by the leaders of the tribes for the dedication of the Tabernacle. And the Haftarah on Shabbat of Chanukah discusses the Temple. We may well ask: Why did the sages emphasize the miracle of the oil more than the military victory? As noted, this question is even stronger in view of the text of "Al Hanissim," which describes the victory and mentions the oil only in passing. In short: Does the holiday of Chanukah celebrate the liberation from the yoke of the Greeks or the miracle of the vial of oil?
The Ultimate Objective: The Temple
The Maharal writes: "Specifically this miracle was performed (with a vial of oil and not something else) because the main evil of the Greeks was that they defiled the Sanctuary... And the blessed G-d gave strength to the Chashmona'im, who were priests serving G-d in His Sanctuary, and they were therefore the ones who were victorious and not anybody else." [Insights in the Aggadot of Shabbat]. From his words we can see that the dedication and the loyalty to the objective of the war, which was the purification of the Temple and the restoration of its sanctity, is what gave the Chashmona'im, who were priests, their great strength and led to victory. The reason for the victory was their dedication to the concept of sanctity.
The Meshech Chochma notes that Judaism purposely does not celebrate military victories and only marks the release from the yoke of the Gentiles. This is also evident on Purim, which is celebrated on the day when the Jews rested from the battles and not on the day when the fighting took place. And with respect to Chanukah too, the sages have taught us to pay attention mostly to the Temple and less to the military victories.
The following appears in "Assufat Maarachot" (a collection of essays by Rabbi Chaim Goldvicht, the founder and Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva in Kerem B'Yavneh): "There is an internal link which connects between the conquest of the Greeks and the dedication of the Temple – between salvation and sanctity, between the military/political aspects and spiritual success." That is: the goal of the victory was not simple political achievements but mainly an attempt to renew the holy service in the Temple. The rededication of the Temple was the main goal of the battles, not merely military victory. The people did not win in war and then rest, they won a battle in order to achieve a higher level of holiness.
The salvation and the sanctity brought back the national independence as a means to establish significant Jewish life. Thus, the success was a miracle that overcame the Greek attempt "to make them forget their Torah and to take then away from the laws of Your Torah" [Al Hanissim]. It is written in the Book of the Maccabees: "And Yehuda said to his brothers: Behold, we have vanquished our enemies, let us rise up to purify the Temple... And they set up the dedication of the Altar for eight days, and they happily offered Olah Sacrifices and brought Shelamim and Todah Sacrifices... And Yehuda and his brothers and the entire community of Yisrael established that the days of the dedication of the Altar shall be celebrated every year as a holiday, for eight days from the twenty-fifth of Kislev, a joyous time."
The sages viewed military victory and political independence as secondary to the rededication of the Altar and the Temple. Victory and independence were seen as a means to achieve the main objective of reinstituting proper Jewish life. This is the message of the sages for all generations. In our generation too we must remember and remind the people and the parties who are running in the elections just what the main goal of the State of Israel is. Election Day is more of a test of the voters than it is a test of the candidates. On this day of reckoning, it is imperative for us to support those whom we can be sure will act out of a conviction that the creation of the State of Israel is a renewal of the full significance of sanctity and Jewish life in our nation and in our land.
- by Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavne
"And Yosef said to Pharaoh, G-d told Pharaoh what He is doing... G-d showed Pharaoh what He is doing" [Bereishit 41:25,28]. Rashi comments: "In the seven good years G-d told Pharaoh, because He was close by. And in the seven bad years Heshowed Pharaoh, because He was very far away and the correct verb is to show." Rashi is teaching us that for a simple and nearby thing talk is sufficient but for a faraway and exalted object hearing is not enough, and it is necessary to see.
On Purim the miracle of salvation was plain for all to see. Haman wanted "to destroy, to kill, and to eradicate" [Esther 3:13]. But things "were turned around" [9:1], and the Jews were saved from death and allowed to live. The miracle was clear and definite, and therefore reading out loud is enough. The mitzva of the day is to read the Megillah, while most of the people listen attentively and pay close attention. On Chanukah, the mitzva involves looking – "We do not have permission to use the lamps, only to look at them" [prayer after lighting the Menorah]. "One who sees a Chanukah lamp must recite a blessing" [Succah 44a].
The struggle between Yisrael and Greece was not for the bodies of the Jews but for their spirit. Rav Kook wrote, "The root of the miracle of Chanukah was meant to show the unique merits of the Holy Spirit which exists within Yisrael, and the fact that this is the basis for the physical existence but does not depend on it." And that is why the miracle occurred with the oil and not with the Menorah, and why the people at the time used a Menorah made of iron. In material things it is possible at a time of dire need to "make do" with a modest fulfillment of the goals. This is not true for the oil, the spirit, which must be at its best possible state.
To understand this principle is not an easy task. Why don't people in general base their lives on the spirit? "Only an erroneous illusion views exalted nobility in a desolate way and sees all the agitation of life as being settled and built-up, but this is one of the most comtempt falsehoods in the world." [Orot Hakodesh, volume 2, 310]. The physical world appears to us to be stable and more massive than the spiritual and abstract world. It is therefore necessary to expend a lot of energy to convince us that the spiritual world is the essence of existence.
What the Greeks saw as most important was a culture of materialism, the external view, and the human body. Therefore, they said, "Write on the horn of an ox, 'We have no part in the G-d of Yisrael" [Bereishit Rabba 4]. The ox is a symbol of Yosef – "Glory will come to the firstborn of his ox" [Devarim 33:17]. Yosef represents the external side of things. He knows seventy languages, he masters the economy, he curls his hair. Greece wanted everybody to be just like him. They wanted the people to follow the path of Yosef, basing their lives on the material and not the spiritual. The victory of Yisrael over Greece is a victory of light over darkness, of the spirit over the material. To extol this event by telling and listening is not enough, it is necessary to incorporate the sense of sight. And therefore the mitzva of the holiday is to light the lamps and look at them.
This concept appears in the Haftarah that is read for Chanukah. The prophet wants to strengthen the recognition that "not by the military or by strength but only through My spirit, that is what G-d says" [Zecharia 4:6]. In order to do this, it is necessary to show a vision of the Menorah, and it would not have been enough to tell the prophet about it. He must be able to say, "I saw a Menorah of pure gold... And He said to me, What do you see?" [4:2]. Since the matter is "far away and exalted," just hearing about the events is not enough.
I have mixed feelings in these action-packed days of election time. The nation is torn and divided, only three months after the end of a military campaign that was marked by so much unity and pride. Where did all the hope go? Where is all the brotherly love that poured out from our hearts just moments ago, and has now given way to denial, contempt, and hatred?
In this week's Torah portion, Yaacov decides to descend to Egypt after the exciting news that his missing son has been found. Here we have it, a happy end to a difficult story of brotherly hatred that led to the tragedy of Yosef's disappearance. Evidently our family genes contain some element which leads time after time to harsh internal disputes and arguments, which usually stem from an inability to iron out our difficulties based on tolerance and mutual respect. Over and over again, matters develop into an explosive volcano, we separate, we enter into long-standing disputes.
From my earliest days, I was taught that Chanukah tells the story of a war to define our Jewish identity and to maintain our unique traits, as opposed to the expanding Hellenistic culture. We always made a comparison between the Hellenists in ancient times and their modern counterparts in our modern Western World today. It is certainly true that the great world brings to us today many cultural challenges that are not simple, which can easily damage our Jewish character unless we take precautions with respect to them. On the other hand, when I look at how we act in public today in our own sovereign state, I find myself wondering if we shouldn't sometimes take the opposite principle into account – we are told that "the other nations also have wisdom, we should believe" [Eicha Rabba 2:17]. Of course we must do this in measured portions, of course we must be careful, but perhaps it would not do too much harm to learn a little bit about the political and social cultures of other nations and peoples, as a protection against our genetic fate, which evidently includes brotherly war, internal disputes, violence, and separation.
Throughout our past we have known how to unite in order to oppose a cruel external enemy. That is how we survived as a nation for thousands of years, and we can be proud of what we did. However, every time we have been given an opportunity to continue on our own, to build up a national lifestyle of our own without an opposing force that stands ready to destroy us, we have failed. The State of Israel is a remarkable experiment by the Zionist movement to build up a new Jew, who can protect himself and establish a national home. However, in view of our history as a society, we have no real guarantee that unfounded hatred, disputes, and arguments will not cause the destruction of the Third Temple, heaven forbid. So perhaps it will be to our advantage to learn from the Western countries how to manage a society, how political culture operates, and how not to destroy one another and the very fabric of the state all at the same time!
For example, from the Americans we can learn that obeying laws is not a nice recommendation at best, or that in the worst case it is even a bad idea to obey them! Not that everything in the United States is perfect, far from it. However, at least they pay lip service like good soldiers to the principles on which their country was founded. It is something like, "If not for the fear of the government, each person would swallow up every other one" [Avot 3:2]. And from the Europeans we have a lot to learn about how to run a debate. In spite of our great pride that we speak only the truth and we are always driven to speak out with great warmth and tell our opponent the absolute truth, there are times when we can try to be a bit cooler and act in a way that is proper and professional, so that we might hold a debate respectfully even when we sharply disagree. The next step would be to learn something about good manners from the British, and about how to run a formal ceremony, with pomp and circumstance, even if this appears to us to be a bit childish. Perhaps, after all, such procedures can serve a useful purpose. And to go back to the Americans, we can learn from them a thing or two about democratic culture, which makes room for settling disputes without having to call new elections every year and a half. Maybe we can get from them just a nip of national and patriotic pride.
Of course, all of the above does not imply that we get rid of the traits that make us very special: our greatness as the People of the Book and the Israeli courage and "chutzpah" which help us to expand our influence way beyond the limits of our size and beyond all logic. I hope and pray that the coming election will enhance and not diminish our spiritual power as a nation and that the results will last for a long time, leading to internal peace, brotherhood, and unity.
Many Chassidic stories involve the moment when a Chassid first meets his Rebbe. The tales attempt to capture the moment of change, the foundational instant, when the two main characters are transformed into a Rebbe and his disciple. This moment almost always includes a stage of disappointment and frustration. The student comes to the Rebbe with an existing well-shaped spiritual world of his own, but in order to become a disciple he must eliminate his former world. He must give up complete edifices that he built up in his soul, and rid himself of his personality, which he built with a great effort. The frustration stems from the disciple's need to abandon his existing spiritual possessions. This is a terrifying step, when the student realizes that he must separate himself from the past, without knowing what the future holds in store. At this point the master, who caused such a momentous upheaval in his student's soul, offers him support and an embrace. And this completes the process of initiation, and it points to the way that the souls of the master and the disciple can meld together.
We will discuss the story of the first meeting between Reb David Biderman of Lalov with his master, Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhansk.
The story begins by telling us that Reb David had twice performed the regimen of self-mortification described in the "Sefer Hakaneh." Each time, he fasted for six years. Between the first and second times, he even took some blood of the Brit from his body. But after this strict regimen, he still felt that his soul was missing something. And he therefore went to see Rebbe Elimelech. During a terrible Shabbat, Rebbe Elimelech refused to shake the hand of the guest, and whenever Reb David came close, the Rebbe started to shout: "What a stink! Who is it that decided to come to my house with such a terrible smell?"
Perhaps the terrible smell was related to the severe fasting by which Reb David had made his body suffer. This is reminiscent of the story about the terrible odor that came from the mouth of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Horkaness, when he came for the first time to Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai after a long fast (Avot D'Rebbi Natan, chapter 6). However, as opposed to Rabbi Eliezer, Reb David was not rewarded with a blessing by the rabbi but was greeted by a reprimand that was too much to bear. In despair, Reb David waits for Shabbat to end in order to escape from the place. In spite of all that has happened, in the last few minutes of Shabbat the broken-hearted Reb David stands outside of the window of the Beit Midrash, where he once again hears a severe personal reprimand for him by the Rebbe:
* * * * * *
Some people come to me after spending years with the ideas of mortification. They have even performed the repentance as described in the Kaneh, they have even taken some blood of the Brit. After such difficult labor, they are sure that they are worthy of having the Holy Spirit come to them. They expect me to complete small elements that they still lack and to present them with the Holy Spirit, which is what they want. But they are liars, they are lying to themselves! They do not realize that all of their labor is for nothing! It is not even equal to a drop in the ocean! They are filled with pride, and all they do is pride, and they must repent fully and show their remorse for all the labor that they performed until today. They must begin over again to serve G-d with truth and perfection.
* * * * * *
These words completely broke the spirit of the despairing Reb David, and therefore – in a way that is reminiscent of Hillel in the snow on the roof of the Beit Midrash – he stands outside of the window of the Beit Midrash and weeps in repentance.
Rebbe Elimelech himself called this cruel soul-searching shock which he caused a "sin," but one that must be performed by the teacher in the name of heaven in order to rescue the souls of his disciples (Noam Elimelech, Torah portion of Chukat). The harsh reprimand hides within it a large measure of love. Rebbe Elimelech anticipates gathering together the pieces of the student's shattered soul and gluing them back together very gently.
At the moment of Havdallah, the borderline between holiness and the weekday, a complete transformation takes place. And Reb David is merited to acquire a new soul, and now he is privileged to obtain the consoling embrace.
* * * * * *
Inside the Beit Midrash, the Havdallah at the end of Shabbat was recited. At that very moment, Reb David made a decision. He said to himself, "I am an absolute sinner. No matter what happens, I will push my way into Rebbe Elimelech's room, I will fall down on the floor at his knees, and I will not get up until he tells me how to perform the act of repentance." At the end of Havdallah, Reb David opened the door quietly and went into the room. Rebbe Elimelech immediately rose up, ran to him and embraced him warmly. "Welcome, my dear Reb David!" the Rebbe cried out, and he sat Reb David down at the table, showing great fondness and love. Reb Eliezer, the Rebbe's son, stood there in shock – "Isn't this the same man whom my father could not tolerate, the same one he even threw him out twice?" And Rebbe Elimelech replied, "Heaven forbid! This is a completely different person. It is our own beloved Reb David!" [Based on Ohel Elimelech, pages 67-78].
* * * * * *
For me, this story holds within it a great hope. It gives us hope for the rejuvenation of the soul, for birth pangs of love, and a way leading to a new path.
Jerusalem is very close to the desert. There is an annual difference of 150 mm in the rainfall measured at the Ein Kerem branch of Hadassah Hospital and at the foot of the Mount of Olives. In the areas of Yehuda, Binyamin, and the Efraim Hills, the edge of the desert is much further to the east, but in Jerusalem it comes right up to the Mount of Olives.
This fact has many consequences. In arid times, shepherds tend to search for grazing land in a settlement close to the desert. And indeed there are times when the desert expands, as it were, into populated areas, transforming the city of Jerusalem itself into a desert. As is written, "Your holy cities became a desert, Zion was a wilderness, and Jerusalem was a wasteland" [Yeshayahu 64:9]. In view of this, the passage in the Torah portion of Eikev which describes the unique water regime of Eretz Yisrael as a whole, "You shall drink water from rain from heaven" [Devarim 11:11], takes on a special significance for cities which border on the desert, and especially for Jerusalem.
The dependence on rain means that there is a special link with the Holy One, Blessed be He, and the "land where G-d's eyes remain, from the beginning of the year until year-end" [11:12]. The stronger a dependence there is, the stronger is the link.
And that is how the prominent Torah scholar Rabbi Shlomo Fisher explains the remarkable fact that the Kohanim, the legions of the King, must move around from one granary to another to gather food, when ideally they should be provided with all they need in return for their holy services.
Similarly, in a sense, with respect to our subject today, the existence of Jerusalem on the border of the desert depends for its existence on its relationship with the Holy One, Blessed be He, and it therefore acts as a city of justice. Thus, when there is no justice in the city, there is no longer any justification for its existence. We can conclude that the continued existence of the city depends both on the practical level due to its proximity to the desert and in essence because it is a city of justice.
There are also other factors that are related to the fact that Jerusalem is so close to the desert. It is interesting to note that the capital city of the nation of Yisrael is close to a desert, reminiscent of the desert where Bnei Yisrael journeyed before they came to their land. The desert is a place that is ownerless, where the presence of G-d is felt and can be perceived in a significant way.
It is not by accident that the goat sent to "Azazel" on Yom Kippur is sent to a desert that is close to the Temple. Another point is that the desert can serve as a refuge for those who want to revolt against the government which resides in the royal city, Jerusalem.
Yirmiyahu asks the Holy One, Blessed be He, "Who will give me an inn for travelers in the desert?" [9:1]. When Jerusalem should be a righteous city but it becomes corrupt, he expresses a desire to flee to the desert, a place which is not corrupt.
Perhaps this aspect of the city is hinted at in the name "Tzion," which might be related to the root tzadik-yud-heh, referring to an arid area.
In the End of Days, when the Whole World Obtains Fresh Water from Jerusalem
The second aspect of the proximity of Jerusalem to the desert is the fact that several prophets predict that in the end of days fresh spring water will come out of Jerusalem and irrigate the desert. Each prophet has his own style and approach.
Yoel describes a spring that will come out of the Temple and will give water to the Shitim River.
Yechezkel talks about water that comes out of the threshold of the Temple and flows to the east. As it continues on its way, the amount of water increases, so much so that the prophet can no longer cross from one side to the other. The water reaches the Dead Sea and is added to it. Yechezkel describes scenery and phenomena taken from the Garden of Eden, which expands from Mount Moriah down to the Dead Sea. The miraculous water acts as a cure, and no fruit tree will ever lose its leaves. The fruit will grow every month, since the water comes out of the Temple.
Zecharia describes how in the future the Mount of Olives will split and light will change. "And it will happen on that day, the light will not be bright or dim, it will be a special day, known to G-d, neither day nor night. And in the evening there will be light." [7:14]. Then he discusses the water: "And it will be on that day, spring water will come out of Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea. This will happen in summer and winter, and on that day G-d will be King of the whole earth, and G-d will be One, and His name will be One." [14:8-9].
The unity of G-d will be revealed in the end of days, when there will no longer be any difference between light and dark and between settled areas and the desert. There will be light during the day and in the evening. There will be water both in the fertile areas which usually have water and also in the most desert-like land. In this way it will be clear that the direct source of the blessing is the Holy One, Blessed be He. The water will come out of the Temple.
Thus, the fact that Jerusalem is close to the desert will facilitate the mending of the entire world, including the desert, based on the power of G-d in the Temple.
A world where there is light and water everywhere is a return to the start of creation, where the whole world was filled with light and water.
Jerusalem is close to the desert and depends on this proximity, and since it is a city of righteousness its existence depends on justice. In the distant future, this proximity will allow for "tikun" – a mending of the status of the world, which will be revealed through light and darkness, stemming from Jerusalem, just as in the time of the original creation.
Question: A boy knocked at my door holding a bag containing a collection of candles, mostly unburned remains of used candles and from droppings of wax. He said, "This is my collection of candles. I suddenly remembered that it includes the remains of some Chanukah candles. Can I keep this collection?"
Oil that Remains from Lighting the Lamps
In the Talmud it is written that one is not allowed to use the light of the Chanukah lamps (Shabbat 21b). This refers to use while the Menorah is lit, but what is the law for what remains after the lamps have gone out? The RIF feels that one is permitted to use oil that remains from the lamps (Shabbat 9a in the RIF). But the author of the She'iltot feels that if some oil is left over on the eighth day, "its use is prohibited since it was set aside for a mitzva" [Torah portion of Vayishlach]. It is therefore necessary to burn any leftover oil. "A fire should be lit and it should be burned separately from other material." Most of the early commentators agreed with the RIF, including the Rambam (Hilchot Chanukah 4:5; the ROSH (Shabbat 2:3); the Rashba (Responsa 1:170); and others.
However, the Beit Yosef explains that there is no dispute among the rabbis (677:4). The She'iltot prohibited the use of the oil since he was referring to oil which had explicitly been set aside for use in the lamps, while the others permitted use of the oil since they were referring to oil that was left over after the mitzva had been observed. In fact this is the ruling in the Shulchan Aruch (672:2), that if any oil remains after the lamps have burned for the required time (half an hour) this oil does not have the status of "muktzeh," having been put aside for a mitzva. This would imply that there is no problem in collecting the leftover wax from candles used on Chanukah.
However, this is not a simple matter, since today people put in oil with the intention that it should all be set aside for the mitzva of the holiday (and even including the longer time limit in our day, of "when nobody is left in the market"). This might mean that all the oil has the status of muktzeh (see Mishna Berura 672:4,7; 677:18).
Saving the Oil Until the Following Year
At first glance it would seem that saving the leftovers should be permitted, since they are not being put to use but merely being collected in a group of spent candles. In addition, the Chanukah candles are mixed together with other candles, and there might be good reason to give permission to keep the mixture. However, these two issues are not so simple.
The Maharam of Rottenberg writes that even though the oil that remains is only forbidden by a rabbinical decree, one should not add permitted oil to it in order to cancel out its effect (quoted by the TUR, 677). And he adds that one should also not save the oil for use on Chanukah the following year, out of a fear that by mistake it will be used for other purposes:
"Rabbi Meir of Rottenberg wrote that one should not add other oil to it... And in addition it should not be saved for use on Chanukah of the next year, since we fear that one might derive some benefit from it after keeping it for such a long time."
The RAN questions this (9a in the RIF), in that for other mitzvot (such as Succah) one is permitted to make use of the wood of the succah after the end of the holiday. In addition, in general for rabbinical decrees the Rashba feels that one is permitted to add other material and thereby cancel the prohibition (quoted by Beit Yosef, Yoreh Dei'ah 99). And this is also the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch in general (Yoreh Dei'ah 99:6), even though for Chanukah lamps he agrees with the ruling of the Maharaham! Note that the ROSH (Beitza 1:2) and the RAMA (Yoreh Dei'ah, ibid) rule that one is not permitted to cancel out a rabbinical prohibition a priori.
The SHACH explains that the prohibition of using the oil of Chanukah lamps is more severe than other rabbinical prohibitions since the oil has been set aside for a mitzva. Magen Avraham (677:12) feels that since in principle the oil could have been put aside for use the following year this is a material that can eventually become permitted for use ("yesh lo matirin"), and this can never be cancelled out in a mixture (even though one is not allowed to save it for a whole year, but this is due to a side issue).
Lamps for Chanukah and for the Temple
Perhaps there is another reason for special stringency with respect to the Chanukah lamps. As noted above, the Talmud ruled that the light of the lamps should not be used to provide a benefit. Why is this so? It is the subject of a dispute among the early commentators. Rashi writes (Shabbat 21b) that the light of the lamps should not be used in order to show that they are meant to be used for a mitzva. The RAN, on the other hand, writes (ibid) that since the lamps are in memory of the lamps that burned in the Temple, just as the Temple lamps are prohibited for use by outsiders, the same is true for Chanukah lamps. Similarly, the Ramban writes that Chanukah lamps are "as if they had been sanctified for heaven." [Shabbat 21b].
This concept of similarity to the Temple can be seen in other places, such as lighting the Chanukah Menorah in a synagogue. In general, we observe the mitzva of lighting at home, but it has been a custom, from the time of the Geonim, to light in a synagogue also. Why? According to Hamanhig the reason is that the miracle occurred in the eternal Temple, and we copy it into the synagogue in the exile, which is a 'model' of the Temple." [page 105a]. That is, we light in the synagogue because it is similar to the Temple. Another example of the link between the lamps of Chanukah and those in the Temple is the law that "the performance of the mitzva is the lighting of the flame," which Rashi explains as being similar to the lighting of the Menorah in the Temple: "It is lit like the Menorah is lit in the Temple." [Shabbat 22a].
In addition, we are familiar with the words of the Ramban in the beginning of the Torah portion of Behaalotecha (Bamidbar 8:2). The leaders of the tribes were privileged to participate in the dedication of the Altar. When Aharon expressed his desire to join, the Holy One, Blessed be He, told him, "When you light the lamps" [Bamidbar 8:2]. And G-d added that the lamps in the Temple will continue to exist forever, even after the Temple is destroyed, through the lighting of the Chanukah lamps. This clearly implies that the Chanukah lamps are an extension of the lamps in the Temple!
If this is true, then perhaps the special holy status of the Chanukah lamps is the reason that the law for them is more stringent than usual. This would explain why leftover oil should not be mixed with other oil or saved for use in a later year, as a precaution.
Since we accept the ruling that leftover candles or wax should not be used, and since we rule like the Maharam that the remains should not be stored until the following year to avoid any mishaps, it would seem that it is best not to keep the remains of Chanukah candles in a "candle collection." If a child wants to make a collection for next year, it should be explicitly declared that any wax left after the candles have burned for the required minimum of half an hour is not to be considered as being set aside for the mitzva. In this way, the use of the leftovers will be permitted. (In any case, oil that has remained in the bottle and candles that were never removed from the box are not "muktzeh" at all.)
Note: Both of the phrases in the title use the Hebrew word "nekifah" – the first is "nekifat matzpun," the second is " nekifat etzba."
We will start with a riddle: Which root in Hebrew has the two letters that are expressed from deep within the throat, ayin and chet?
The answer is that evidently the only such word is "lefaanayach" – to decode or interpret. The language shows a preference for words with consonants that come from different areas and has a minimum number of words whose sounds come from close areas in the mouth. (For example, look for any words that have both the letters "beit" and "peh." As far as I know there is only one such word in the Tanach - except for names, such as Mefiboshet and Avi'assaf.)
The word lefaanayach did not come from Hebrew originally, it is derived from the (evidently) Egyptian name that Pharaoh gave Yosef after he appointed him as his viceroy. "And Pharaoh called Yosef by the name Tzofnat Pa'aneyach, and he gave him Osnat the daughter of Poti Pherah , the priest of On, as a wife" [Bereishit 41:45]. (Compare this to other Egyptian names that appear with both an ayin and a chet. "An Egyptian slave by the name of Yarcha" [Divrei Hayamim I 2:34}. "Pharaoh Chofra, King of Egypt" [Yirmiyahu 44:30]. There is also an Egyptian king named Tut Anach Amon.)
The root of the first word in Yosef's Egyptian name, tzadik-peh-nun, is well known in Hebrew, and it means to keep something secret. Therefore Yosef's name, Tzofnat Pa'aneyach, means a person to whom secrets are revealed. That is how Onkeles translated the name – that hidden and secret matters are open and revealed to him.
Based on this approach, the liturgical poets used the root paaneyach to mean "to reveal." It appears this way in the prayer, Nishmat Kol Chai: "He who supports those who fall and straightens up those who are bent, and who reveals secrets." (The last phrase does not appear in some of the texts, such as in the Siddur of the Rambam.) From the use in liturgy the word has spread to other realms and today is a common word in Hebrew.
The root tzadik-peh-nun is also the basis of "matzpun," the conscience. And what about the phrase nekifat matzpun? Nekifa means to strike something, and when a person feels his conscience he feels that he has been struck, and he suffers. Today the phrase "Lo nakaf etzba" is used to describe somebody who didn't lift a finger and did not take any action. However, this is evidently not the original meaning of the phrase. In the Talmud it is written, "A person does not injure his fingers below unless a declaration was made about him from above, as is written, 'A person's steps are established by G-d, and man does not understand His way' [Mishlei 20:24]." [Chulin 7b]. Here the word nokef means to sustain a blow, and the "finger" in the verse is a toe, which often sustains an injury while a person is walking, as is seen in the verse that the Talmud quotes.
Since the original phrase means that a person "is not injured, even with a small injury" unless G-d decrees that it will be so, it has taken on a wider meaning, that the person "did nothing." And this is the way the phrase is used today.
The Clear Vision Of Rav Kook > Chanukah / Rabbi Chagai Londin, Hesder Yeshiva in Sdeirot and Machon Meir
With all due respect to a small vial of oil which lasted for eight days – this really doesn't seem to be sufficient reason for the gala festivals and the orgy of calories of "sufganiot" – doughnuts – that we encounter every year at this time. Why do we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah? Miracles similar to that of the vial of oil have taken place many times within Yisrael. One example is the miracle of the cruse of oil that Eliyahu performed for a poor widow (Melachim I 17). And the military victories by Yehoshua Bin Nun and King David – which were clearly not any less than the victories of the Maccabees – were not seen as justification for establishing a holiday for generations to come.
In order to understand the full significance of the holiday, it is important to note that the story of Chanukah took place after many generations when our people did not have national sovereignty. At the time, the Jews in the land had experienced hundreds of years of living under the control of foreign nations (Persians, Greeks from the Macedonian dynasty and from the Seleucid dynasty). And that is why at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt the Jewish national awareness was so vague that the talk of the Maccabees indicated an interest in maintaining only the Jewish religion. This can be seen in the speeches by Yehuda the Maccabee, who declared that the goal of the war was that "we are fighting for our souls and for our laws" [Maccabim I), or in the strange story (ibid) about Jewish revolutionaries who chose to die in a cave and not violate Shabbat to fight the Greeks (contrary to the well-known rule, "a mortal threat takes precedence over Shabbat"). In the eyes of the Jews at the time, the concept of war was no more than at the level of a personal religion.
But as the war progressed, things developed differently. The guerilla war that Yehuda the Maccabee led against the legions of Greece began to succeed, and suddenly, after three years of fighting, the Chashmona'im found that they have not only been released from the religious coercion of the Greeks, they have political control of the area of Eretz Yisrael. Later, when a new legion arrived from Greece and offers them religious autonomy, they did not accept the offer. Rather, they began a war of attrition which lasted twenty-five years, until it ended in total victory. And Shimon, the last surviving member of the Chashmona'im, was appointed as the governor of Yehuda. This was how an independent kingdom of Yisrael was established. As Rav Kook wrote: "The Chashmona'im were candidates for royal positions, corresponding to the will of the people" [Mishpat Kohen, page 336].
At the time of Chanukah, the awareness of the Jewish sovereignty took hold for the first time since the First Temple. Even the small vial of oil is not an independent reason for celebrating the holiday. Rather, it serves as an expression of the internal essence of Judaism which controls all the events and eventually leads to victory and royal sovereignty. As the Rambam wrote, "the kingdom returned for more than two hundred years, until the destruction of the Second Temple" [Hilchot Chanukah 3:1].
It happens to everybody during their lifetime. You fall down, you are struck a blow, you are hurt. And a short time later you lift up your head and try to pick up the pieces, and to recover. However, the lethal blow that struck Yosef gives the appearance of something from which no recovery is possible. This was not something that was carried out by strangers. Those who were closest to him of all struck him as hard as possible. His brothers hated him, they even thought of killing him, and in the end they sold him to slave traders. And he was only 17 years old at the time. After his mother's death he found consolation in his father's arms, and now he was suddenly torn away from home in a cruel manner and sent to a life of slavery and degradation far away. And if we thought that was all, we were wrong. He gets into deeper and deeper trouble, and because of trumped up charges he is thrown into prison even though he is not guilty of anything.
This young man had every reason in the world to lose his faith, to turn his back on his family and on G-d, and to become bitter and frustrated, and to lose any faith in other people, to burn with a desire for revenge. However, surprisingly, Yosef the Righteous One developed in a totally different way. He "climbed out of the pit" and was transformed into a figure remarkable for his nobility, faith, and exalted spirit. Even his brothers stood in front of him in awe. They could not believe that he did not intend to harm them in return for what they had done to him. How did this miracle come about? What was there about Yosef that allowed him to climb out of the pit? And most important, is there a lesson here that we can also adopt for moments when we fall down?
"Let Matters Take their Time"
In the first moments after a strong blow, it can really seem that life is over, that there is no way to continue. But time is a great healer. It makes things seem less desperate and helps to bring on a cure. If you are willing to take a deep breath, grit your teeth, and let time do its work, then after a while – a week, a month, maybe a year – things appear in a very different light. It took 22 years until Yosef was reunited with his brothers, and then the encounter was very different from the earlier times.
What should you Do? Do Something!
This is all especially true for a person who does not sit idly by but wants to take responsibility for his or her life and to remain occupied, active, and creative all the time. Yosef does not allow himself to settle into the depths of his despair and to develop a feeling of misery and helplessness. Wherever he is, he is active and tries to advance. That is what happens in the home of his Egyptian master, when he becomes the chief of the house in a short time, and it happens again even in the dungeons of the prison. Instead of feeling pity for himself he shows compassion for others, and he turns to the two former ministers, wondering, "Why are your faces crestfallen today?" [Bereishit 40:7].
At every station in his life, Yosef continues to be loyal to his principles – honesty, humility, diligence, and consideration for others. Even when a person is down and out, hanging on to the safe and absolute elements of his life – such as his value system and his personal honesty – can serve as an anchor of salvation and give him a feeling of value and significance.
The belief that everything that happens to me is not caused by cruel fate but is rather the result of guidance and supervision by heaven, the absolute conviction that G-d is with me under all circumstances, watches over me and is keeping His hand on the wheel so that the ship of my life will arrive at its appointed destination – this can give a person the strength to cope with any type of difficulty, even if at the moment he or she does not understand what is happening.
To Perform a Mission
Faith leads to another important insight. Every person has a specific goal to achieve in his or her life. This is a unique mission that nobody else will be able to accomplish. If I have reached a low point, evidently there is some specific light that I must turn on here and now. Yosef said to his brothers, "You are not the one who sent me here, it was G-d" [Bereishit 45:8], sharing with them his insight about his trail of suffering, which had helped him lighten his load and keep his head above water. In the end, it was clear to Yosef that everything that had happened was part of his mission to rescue them and the whole land from the famine.
Growing through Crisis
With the added perspective of passing time, an amazing thing is sometimes revealed – the very moments of harshest difficulty and crisis are often the times which helped us grow into our true personalities, much more than during the pleasant and simple times of our lives. The English poet Robert Browning Hamilton wrote a short poem about this which presents a very deep insight about life:
"I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
"I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me."
Yosef chooses to name his firstborn "Menasheh." Why? "Because G-d made me forget all of my labor and all of the house of my father" [Bereishit 41:51]. Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsh explains that the connotation of "nashani" is related to "noshim" – those to whom I owe a debt. This is then a remarkable statement: My tragedy and my family put me in debt to them. What had seemed to me up to now to be tragedy and abuse has in fact made me what I am, and it is something to which I owe my success and happiness today.
The purpose of the Torah is not to entertain us with fanciful legends, no matter how fascinating they are. The story of Yosef, which is the story of us all, and his ability to cope and to move on from a crisis ("mashber") deep in a pit into being the provider ("mashbir") – "Yosef was the provider for all the land" [Bereishit 42:6] – is a way that can be followed by every single person at his lowest ebb. They can become a stimulus that will lead to growth and advancement.
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The matter of using nicknames is an issue that involves both halacha and agaddah, and it cannot be treated fully in this short article. What can definitely be said is that the issue of nicknames has accompanied our nation from the earliest times. We have just left behind the matter of "Bibi" (Netanyahu) and "Boogi" (Yaalon), only to encounter a new pair of names, "Bibi" and "Buji" (Herzog).
Nicknames appear very often in the Tanach. Sarah was also called Yisska, Miriam and Aharon discussed Moshe's "dark-colored wife" [Bamidbar 12:1], Yosef's brothers called him "the master of dreams" [Bereishit 37:19], Pharaoh called Yosef "Tzofnat Paaneyach" and also "Avreich." Esther was also called Hadassah, the father of Kish was named Aviel and was also called Ner, Gideon was called both Yerubaal and Yeruboshet. And according to the sages, Yitro had seven names in all. And there are many more examples.
Tana'im and Amora'im called each other by nicknames. Examples are Shinena, Tirdad, Sinai, Nehorai, and more. And in later generations many prominent rabbis were called by the names of the books they wrote – the Chafetz Chaim, the Chazon Ish, to give just a few examples.
"One time Rav Kook asked Rav Charlap to remember him on a visit to the graves of righteous men buried in Tzefat. He asked Rav Charlap to add after his name, 'He who is called Kook.' He said that 'the special spiritual value of a nickname is the name that is well-known in the world.'" ["For the Third of Elul," published in Jerusalem, 5698 – 1938].
Riddle of the Week > Mikeitz / Yoav Shlossberg, Director of "Quiz and Experience"
This week's riddle concerns a prominent figure.
He passed away on the first night of Chanukah,
His common nickname is related to the holiday of Chanukah,
And those who study the Daf Yomi, the daily page of the Talmud, enjoy his commentary.
Who is it?
Answers to last week's riddle:
The question was: "What does the first of "two" in this week's portion
Have in common with the "second" of the two, in the first of the Prophets?
Hint: the letters that spell the word for "two" can be pronounced in a different way than is usual..."
The "first of two" refers to Zerach, the twin of Peretz whose hand was marked by the midwife using a thread of "shani" – colored wool. "And when she gave birth he put out a hand and she tied a thread of shani on it, saying, this one came out first. But he drew back his hand and his brother came out... And then his brother with the shani on his hand came out, and he called him Zerach." [Bereishit 38:28,30].
In the book of Yehoshua, the first book of the Prophets, Rachav tied a thread of shani as a sign of her house for the two spies, in order to rescue her family in the war: "Behold, we are coming into the land. Tie this thread of shani in the window where you let us descend, and gather your father, your mother, your brothers, and all the house of your father with you in the house. And it will be, if anybody leaves from the door of your house, their blood will be on their own heads and we are innocent. But we are responsible for whoever remains with you in the house if he is struck down." [Yehoshua 2:18-19].
Note that the letters that spell the word "shani" also spell "sheini" – the second one. And the second verse discussed above appears in Chapter 2 of Yehoshua.