Rabbi Fishel Todd
Three gifts were created in the world. Anyone who merits any one of them takes all the delight in the world. They are wisdom, strength and wealth.
Of these three gifts wealth is the most external to a person, since it is not actually a part of him, but rather an appendage and thus most visible to others. Strength is a little less external, since it is not possible to determine a person’s might with a superficial glance. Indeed, there are small, weak-looking people who are in fact very strong.
Strength does nevertheless reveal itself outside the person.
Of the 3 WISDON is the most personal and concealed.
The intellect resides in the deepest recesses of the person and is completely obscured from others.
The 3 early exiles to which the Jews were subjected correspond to those three gifts. In each case, the oppressing was able to suppress a particular aspect of the Jews identity.
Paras and Madai were known for their wealth. In fact, at the beginning of the Purim story we find that the Persian king Achashverosh, as we read in Megelas Esther where Achashverosh showed them the glorious wealth of his kingdom and the majesty of his royal greatness.
Rabbi Fishel Todd
The Greeks were known for their outstanding wisdom, their philosophers and their ideas have been tremendously influential.
Thus when they oppressed Israel, they were even able to reach the wisdom of the Torah and enslave it to their own ends. Oil in Torah thought expresses wisdom [The Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash represents the light of TORAH radiating to all corners of existence].
So when Chazal, in our original quote, say that the Greeks defiled the oil, they mean that they were clever enough to subjugate the very heart of the nation, to contaminate their Torah wisdom, the oil of the Jews, and to defile it with Hellenism.
In this sense, the Greeks polluted “all the oil in the Temple”; that is , their twisted form of wisdom seized of all areas of Torah wisdom.
The Torah subtly hints at the Yom-tov of Chanukah, says the Ba’al Rokei’ach, by virtue of the juxtaposition of the Parshah of olive oil for the Menorah immediately following the Yomim-tovim in Parshas Emor.
The Torah actually concludes the Parshah of Mo’adim with the words “And Moshe told the Mo’adim of Hashem to the B’nei Yisrael”, and continues “Command the B’nei Yisrael and they shall bring you pure olive-oil”. And as we know, the ideal Mitzvah of Chanukah lights is with olive oil.
In fact, he goes on to explain, there are a number of points in this paragraph that are connected with Chanukah. To begin with, he points out, the words “Tzav es B’nei Yisrael” has the same numerical value as ‘bi’Yemei Matisyahu ben Yochanan’ (including the ‘kolel’ [the phrase], which is perfectly acceptable in terms of the rules of Gematriyos, and which he then explains at great length).
Rabbi FIshel Todd
The reason that the miracle took place with oil, the Rokei’ach explains, is based on the fact that the Greeks attempted to negate the light of Torah and to replace it with their own Chochmah (Greek culture). So the miracle took place with oil, which represents Chochmas ha’Torah, for so Chazal have said in Menachos (85b) ‘Wherever olive-oil is found, there one will find Chochmah. They based this on a Pasuk in Shmuel, where Yo’av sent to Teko’a to fetch a wise woman (to convince David to accept his son Avshalom back into the fold). And ‘Teko’a is the supreme place for oil’ (see ‘Why? Because’ in Parshah Pearls).
Moreover, the miracle ocurred with the Menorah, which represents Chochmas ha’Torah, too. For it is in connection with the Menorah that Chazal declared ‘Who wishes to be wise should turn to the south’ Because it was on the south-side of the Heichal that the Menorah stood. This can be understood by bearing in mind the connection between light and Chochmah (did Chazal not say that the original light of the creation was not for the use of the Resha’im, so Hashem hid it – according to the commentaries, in the Torah? Note also, the juxtaposition of the B’rachah of Torah to that of light, before the Shema at Shachris). And the south represents Chochmah, because, due to the fact that the sun shines there all year round, it is the brightest of all the directions.
Incidentally, the original light shone for thirty-six hours, say Chazal, before it was hidden, and correspondingly, we kindle thirty-six lights on Chanukah.
What’s more, the Rokei’ach adds, the dual expressions “le’ha’alos Ner Tamid” (singular) and “ya’aroch es ha’Neiros” (plural) hint at the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Ner Chanukah, one light on the first night, and a number of lights on the subsequent nights. In addition, says the Rokei’ach, the numerical value of “kosis la’ma’or” is equivalent to that of ‘Zera” (children), a hint to what Chazal say in Shabbos (23b) ‘Someone who observes the Mitzvah of ‘Lights’ meticulously, will merit children who are Talmidei-Chachamim’, and which many commentaries ascribe to Chanukah-lights Rabbi FIshel Todd.
He also extrapolates from the fact that Chanukah comes immediately after Sukos, that it had to be eight days, and helps to answer the Beis Yosef’s Kashya, why Chazal fixed eight days and not seven, seeing as the jar contained sufficient oil for one day, and the miracle therefore, lasted only seven.
Finally the first letters of the words “Zayis Zoch Kosis La’mo’or, Le’ha’alos”, the Rokei’ach points out, are equivalent to that of ‘be’Hallel ve’Hodo’oh’, the very words used by the Gemara in Shabbos, in describing the essence of Chanukah.
The very fact that the Torah chooses to hint at Chanukah using the medium of oil with connotations of wisdom, provides us with an insight into the deeper meaning of Chanukah. For the battle with the Greeks may have ended on the battlefield, but it began and, for the major part was fought, as a battle of cultures, of truth against falsehood, and of G-dliness against secularism. And this is indeed hinted in ‘Al ha’Nisim’, where we say – ‘You delivered strong men into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few, impure into the hands of the pure, wicked into the hands of righteous and slanderers into the hands of those who study Your Torah’.
This idea runs parallel with the inherently spiritual nature of Chanukah at all levels, which contrasts so greatly with the physical nature of Purim. This in itself, is well-known. It is however, worth adding that in this context, the word ‘shemen’ (oil) also contains the main root-letters of Neshamah. For you see, just as the seat of desire is the heart, so too, is the seat of wisdom in the brain, which is also the part of the body that one associates with the Neshamah.
(Adapted from the Ba’al ha’Turim)
The Seven Cows
Paroh dreamt about cows, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, because Yirmiyah described Egypt as “Eglah Yefefiyah” (a beautiful calf [46:20]).
And why seven?
Well, he says, the Pasuk in No’ach (10:13/14) lists Mitzrayim’s six sons: Ludim, Lehovim, Naftuchim, Pasrusim, Kasluchim and Kaforim – plus Mitzrayim itself, makes seven.
And also because of the seven nations of Cana’an, which were sustained by the Egyptians during the time of the famine.
All on One Stem
” … and behold, seven ears came up on one stem (be’koneh echod)” (41:5).
The words “be’koneh echod” appear three times in the Chumash, twice here (in connection with the good years), and once in Vayakhel (37:19), because the good years are like light to the world. And Par’oh saw the ears of corn on one stalk, only by the good years but not by the bad ones. It hints to the fact that, unlike the bad years, which got progressively worse, the good years were all equal in their goodness.
It’s In the Hands of the Interpreter
“Ka’asher posar lonu kein hoyoh (just like he interpreted them, so it was)” 41:13.
Our sages have taught us that dreams follow their interpretation. In that case, the Ba’al ha’Turim’s comment, that the words “ka’asher posar” has the same numerical value as ‘she’chalomos holchim achar ha’peh’ should hardly come as a surprise.
The Reward of Nice Words
” … ve’al picho yishak kol ami (and all my people will be sustained by your word)” (41:40).
The word “yishak” appears also in Mishlei (24:26) “Sefosayim yishak meishiv devorim nichochim (lips will kiss the one who responds with correct speech” (even though the meaning of the word is quite different in both cases).
This teaches us, says the Ba’al ha’Turim, that Yosef merited to sustain the entire Egyptian nation because he responded correctly to Paroh.
Bearing in mind that he was exiled for improper speech, we see both from here and from other instances throughout the current Parshiyos, how Yosef had rectified his original mistake.
Believe It or Not
“va’Yikro Paroh shem Yosef Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach” (41:45).
“Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach” means ‘the revealer of hidden things’, as Rashi explains, and what’s more, it has the same numerical value as Megaleh Nistorim, which also happens to mean ‘the revealer of hidden things’ (Ba’al ha’Turim).
And Tzofnas Pa’nei’ach, he says, also forms the first letters of ‘Tzadik Pitpet Nefesh So’eivah, Potifar Inah Nafsho Chinam’ (a Tzadik fought a desirous soul, Potifar afflicted his soul, for no reason), as well as ‘Tzofeh, Fodeh, Navi, Somech, Poser, Anav, Navon, Chozeh’ (One with foresight, redeemer, prophet, supporter, interpreter, humble, wise and seer).
” … ve’heim lo hikiruhu (but they did not recognize him)” 42:8.
And the same word is used in connection with Iyov (2:12) “me’rochok ve’ lo hikiruhu (from afar they could not recognize him)”, only the former is missing a ‘Yud’, whereas the latter is not.
Just as Iyov’s friends could not recognize him because he had changed so drastically on account of his suffering, so too, could Yosef’s brothers not recognize him because of his change from a slave to a great prince.
The difference between them was that, when Iyov’s friends came closer, they recognized him, whereas Yosef’s brothers did not.
Why is that? Because Iyov’s friends knew the identity of the person they were visiting, but Yosef’s brothers did not.
“We are all sons of one man” (42:11).
The word for ‘We’ ought to have been “Anachnu”. Yet here the Torah misses out an ‘Alef’, and writes “Nachnu”. The brothers were referring to themselves, and indeed, says the Ba’al ha’Turim, bearing in mind that ‘Alef’ is equivalent to one, there was literally one missing – Yosef.
Or perhaps, without realizing what they were saying, they were hinting that all those present (Yosef included) were sons of one father, and the missing one was – Binyamin (absent because his father had not sent him with his brothers).
Three for Three
“And he placed them under arrest for three days” (42:17).
The three days, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, corresponded to the three things that his brothers did to him: 1. They stripped him of his shirt; 2. They cast him into a pit: 3. They sold him into slavery.
Kill My Two Sons
” You may kill my two sons (es Sh’nei bonai tomis), if I don’t bring him back to you” (42:37).
This was Reuven’s strange guarantee to his father that if he would entrust Binyamin to him, he would return him safe and sound.
The word tomis appears in one other place (Iyov 5:2) “u’Foseh tomis kin’oh (for jealousy kills the fool)”, which the Medrash connects with the congregation of Korach, who were jealous of Moshe. The Masores here, hints at Dasan and Aviram, who were descendants of Reuven. They were the two sons who would die by the pronouncement of their own grandfather Reuven.
And that will also explain why the numerical value of “es sh’nei” is equivalent to ‘Eilu Dasan va’Aviram” (if one spells ‘Eilu’ with a ‘Yud’).
Six for Six
“And bring the man a gift; a little balsam, a little honey, some gum, resin, pistachio nuts and almonds” (43:11).
Six different kinds, explains the Ba’al ha’Turim, for each of the sons of Leah (one of the main wives) to carry one species as a gift for Par’oh. For obvious reasons, Rachel’s children were out of the picture.
ALL ABOUT CHANUKAH
(Adapted from the Ta’amei ha’Minhagim)
Rabbi Fishel Todd
Ups and Downs
It is customary to play Dreidel on Chanukah, whereas on Purim, there is a Minhag to wield a gregor.
The fact that the Dreidel is spun from the top and the gregor is rattled from the bottom symbolises one of the most fundamental differences between the two festivals.
Purim, as is well-known, followed a tremendous turnabout on the part of the people. As the Megilah itself informs us, the entire nation fasted for three days and wore sackcloth and ashes. This is known as ‘Ita’arusa di’Letata’ (an awakening from below), and that is why we hold a gregor from below and rattle it.
Chanukah on the other hand, was not the result of any such effort on the part of Yisrael as a whole (although one cannot deny the Chashmona’im’s self-sacrifice, which certainly contained great merit, but they were a minority group). In that case, the miracle of Chanukah was an ‘Ita’arusa di’le’Eila’ (an awakening from Above instigated by G-d in his Mercy), and explains why we spin the Dreidel from the top.
And this idea also explains a change in text from Chanukah to Purim. On Chanukah, we say in ‘Al ha’Nisim’, ‘You quarreled on their behalf, You judged their judgements and You avenged them’. Whereas on Purim, we say ‘who quarrels our quarrels, judges our judgements and avenges our vengeance’.
This is because on Purim the miracle was the result of Yisrael’s Tefilah and fasting, so it is appropriate to use the first person plural, since Yisrael were personally involved. On Chanukah on the other hand, where Yisrael did not play a major role in the miracle, they are mentioned only in the third person.
Another reason for the eight days of Chanukah (see ‘Why? Because’, down the page) is given by the Beis Yosef. The people, he explains, were all Tamei meis, in which case they required seven days to become tahor, and one more day in order to produce the oil.
Lighting in Shul
The reason that Chazal instituted lighting the Menorah in Shul as well as at home, says the Levush, is because of guests from out of town, who do not have their own home (and the Mitzvah of Chanukah-Lights is ‘Ish Ner u’Beiso’). It is similar to the Takanah of reciting Kidush in Shul, which they instituted for the same reason.
Another reason is based on the Kolbo, who explains that Kidush is recited in Shul so that people who are not conversant with Kidush (at least that’s how it was before the advent of the Sidur) should take their cue from the Chazen in Shul. And it is for that very reason that they instituted Hadlakas Ner Chanukah in Shul.
Yet another reason for lighting in Shul is given by the Rosh. After all, he explains, the Mitzvah is to commemorate the kindling of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, the location where it was originally lit. So we light it in Shul, which Chazal refer to as a Mikdash me’at (a minor Mikdash).
And based on the same principle, the Seifer Orchos Chayim explains why many communities light in Shul in the morning as well (even though the time to light Chanukah lights is at night-time). It is to accommodate the opinion of the Rambam, he says, in whose opinion, the Mitzvah of preparing the Menorah each morning (‘Hatovas Neiros’) incorporated kindling the lights again. Consequently, since our kindling commemorates the kindling of the Menorah in the Beis-Hamikdash, it is appropriate to commemorate the Mitzvah fully and light them twice, like they did there.
And a final reason for lighting in Shul, again by the Levush, is based on the principle of ‘Pirsumei Nisa’ (the Mitzvah of publicizing the miracle). ‘Because’, he says, ‘reciting the B’rachos communally involves a great publicizing of Hashem Yisbarach, and a sanctification of His Name’, which after all, is the essence of the Mitzvah.
Why? … Because!
Setting the more profound reasons aside, the Avudraham quoting the Yerushalmi, explains that Chanukah had to last for eight days, since the oil had to come from the north of Eretz Yisrael, from a location four days’ journey from Yerushalayim. To be precise, that location was Tako’a, in the territory of Asher, which was known to produce the best oil-growing olives in the country (as indeed the Torah specifically writes in ve’Zos-ha’B’rachah 33:24)
Four days there and four days back make a total of – eight.
Rabbi Fishel Todd