Yosef and Chanuka

  • Rav Mordechai Friedman
VBM Torah Studies - Sicha

The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Holiday Shiurim
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Yosef and Chanuka

by Rav Mordechai Friedman

 
 	The hopes and dreams of Yosef and his brothers is truly  
an intriguing topic.  What could possibly drive Yosef's  
brothers to hate him to the point of fratricide?  Imagine what  
it was like to grow up in the house of Yaakov, having a  
father, grand-father, great-grand-father who had attained the  
spiritual level of prophecy, the highest level that a human  
being can reach.  The children of Yaakov must have been filled  
with the burning desire to attain such a spiritual height.   
They undoubtedly did all they could to learn from their  
father.  Perhaps, they wondered, it was an ability transmitted  
from father to son.  Yet, time went on and nothing happened.   
When will father reveal the secret?  Will there be only one  
successor?  Yosef already appears to be the favored one. 
 
	Then it happens: "And Yosef dreamed a dream and told it  
to his brothers, and they hated him yet the more.  And he said  
to them, 'Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed,  
for behold we were binding sheaves ..." (Bereishit 36:5) 
 
	The brothers "hate him more" before he even relates the  
content of the dream.  The very fact of the dream was enough  
to drive them to more hatred.  This is illustrated further by  
the wording after they are told the content of the dream, "And  
they hated him more for his dreams AND HIS WORDS."  (36:8)   
Primarily his dreams and secondarily their content have  
confirmed the brothers' anxiety - Yosef has been chosen to  
succeed the lineage of prophecy! 
 
	The age of direct prophecy was coming to a close at a  
time when the children of Yaakov needed it the most.  It was  
now in the young hands of Yosef to be the conduit of the  
Almighty. 
 
	While in jail, dreams gave way to an ability to see them  
for what they truly were and to accurately interpret their  
Godly message. 
 
	His brothers and father doubted the veracity of his  
dreams.  The two incarcerated courtiers of Par'o would have  
likewise dismissed their own dreams as a mundane occurrence,  
had they not coincided with each other.  Yosef had the ability  
to recognize the guiding hand of God behind these events. 
 
	Yosef's gift did not end with the semi-prophetic  
abilities of dreaming and interpretation.  While deep in those  
dungeons, another facet developed.  Offering his help to the  
two courtiers, Yosef explains that "interpretations are God's  
affair."  Two more years in the pit pass.  Yosef emerges to  
aid Par'o.  His first words to the king are: "It is not my  
power, God will tell you what they mean."  He subsequently  
mentions the name "Elokim" four more times during his  
interpretation.  Thus, he succeeds in instilling an awareness  
of God in Par'o - to the point that Par'o himself acknowledges  
God twice in his reply to Yosef. 
 
	Yosef's ability at this point was not only to dream and  
see the hand of Hashem, but to profoundly affect those around  
him with the sublimity of God. 
 
	The events of Chanuka occurred after the period of  
prophecy and supernatural events. 
 
	The war in which "the many fell to the hands of the few,"  
although extraordinary, was not a supernatural occurrence.  It  
was the unique ability of the Chashmonaim to recognize,  
interpret and more importantly, to effectively relate to the  
populace that this was truly the workings of God. 
 
	More so, bringing the significance of the events to the  
attention of the people was not sufficient.  The Chashmonaim  
succeeded in affecting the hearts and souls of the Jews enough  
to stem the tides of the oncoming Hellenism. 
 
	In many aspects, the other miracle of Chanuka illuminates  
this special ability of the Makkabim.  A flame burns in each  
cup of the menora in the beit ha-mikdash.  Nothing out of the  
ordinary is apparent.  How was the miracle of the oil revealed  
to the casual spectator?  The realization of the change in the  
laws of nature can only come to a person with the vantage  
point of witnessing the fact that no oil was added to the cups  
for seven days.  In truth, no part of the phenomenon could  
have been experienced first hand by the vast majority of the  
people.  It must have been communicated by the kohanim and  
levi'im who were the link to the people of the "outside  
world." 
 
	Like a dream occurring in the sleeping conscience of a  
person, the glowing flames of the menora were, at first, a  
hidden event.  And like the dreams encountered by Yosef, the  
events of Chanuka required interpreters, advertisers and  
inspirators to act as conduits to the souls of the people.   
Yosef and the Chashmonaim were illuminators of the will of  
Hashem. 
 
	Today, Benei Yisrael no longer benefit from the advantage  
of direct prophecy or supernatural signs.  We must seek out  
such inspiration using the tools God has given us.  As benei  
Torah, who, in the words of the Rambam, have volunteered to  
stand before Hashem, we enjoy a significant vantage point.   
Events that have occurred in the distant past, in our  
lifetimes or that are unfolding at the present, can be viewed  
in many ways.  Ours is the perspective of Torah and yir'at  
shamayim.  We are capable of noting the hand of God in the  
past and experiencing it in the present.  However, the  
profound spiritual effect that such a Torah perspective  
affords us is of little consequence to the rest of klal  
Yisrael, unless we realize our responsibility to relate these  
evaluations of events in such a manner as to inform and  
inspire our people in the most effective way.  We must  
stimulate and educate people in both formal and informal  
settings, intellectually and spiritually, using the  
spectacular or the mundane events as opportunities to bring  
the realization of yad Hashem to the Am Hashem.  Ba-yamim ha- 
hem ba-zman ha-zeh. 
 
(Originally delivered on the fifth night of Chanuka, 5757.) 


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