Parshas Vayeisheiv 5757 - 1996
Outline # 13
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Chanukah is at the essence of Judaism. Throughout the year, the verse
from Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) is recited: "Hashem has redeemed Yaakov, saved
him from a force mightier than he..." (Yer. 31:10; Evening prayers, birchos
krias shema). Yaakov, with his wives and children, seemed no match for Esav
and his approaching army of four hundred. Yet, he was "saved from a force
mightier than he." The Ramban, indeed, applies this verse in his introduction
to the encounter of Yaakov and Esav (last week's parsha).
Isn't this the story of Chanukah? The children of Yaakov were overwhelmed
by the invading Sryian-Greek forces, the most powerful in the world at the
time. But -- "Hashem has redeemed Yaakov, saved him from a force mightier
The worse conflicts are internal ones. In our parsha, the sons of Yaakov
turn against their own brother, Yoseif. Eventually, "redeemed, saved from
a force mightier than he..." Yoseif rises above all of Egypt, and eventually
his own family. His powerful enemies subdued, Yoseif proceeds to unite his
family again. Once more -- the story of Chanukah rings. The greatest struggle
was the internal conflict between the Cheshmonayim (Maccabees) and the Hellenists
-- Jews who would sell their own brotherhood. The Cheshmonayim had to overcome
the mightiest army before they could lead their own brothers to unification.
Chanukah came at a "late" period in our history, during the Second Temple
period. The Ten Lost Tribes had long been exiled, and the main tribe was
Yehudah (Judah -- hence the title Yehudi, "Jew"). Notice -- the Cheshmonayim
(Maccabees) were not from this tribe... They were Kohanim from the tribe
of Levi. Chanukah was actually a civil war. By initiating and winning the
revolution, the Cheshmonayim won the civil war, just as Yoseif won the confidence
and admiration of his brothers after subduing all of Egypt.
2. Chodshei Hashanah (Months of the Year)
In ancient days, signals would be sent to the diaspora indicating that
the new month had been declared in Jerusalem. When this method was sabotaged
by the Samaritans, the Rabbis required that agents be sent to inform the
diaspora directly. The agents could only cover a certain distance by the
holidays; those areas beyond this distance had to observe two days of the
holidays out of doubt. (The holiday [Yom Tov] is a date of the month; in
the diaspora the date was in doubt until the arrival of the agents.) The
wide-ranging historical and practical significance of this procedure will
be discussed at length in future editions.
In regards to Chanukah and Purim, a particular difficulty arises. Since
the diaspora observed an extra day of Yom Tov (festival), why was there not
an additional day of Chanukah and Purim? (The diaspora should have nine days
of Chanukah and two days of Purim.) The early commentators have a special
answer for Purim; our investigation for now will examine Chanukah.
Several opinions emerge. One holds that Chanukah was only to have been
seven days, but became eight due to the doubt in the calendar (Arvei Nachal).
Another view holds that in ancient times, nine days were observed in the
diaspora (Minchas Chinuch).
The Art Scroll commentary to Mishnah Rosh Hashanah quotes a refutation
to each of these answers: There should have been a difference between those
who dwell in Eretz Yisroel (the land of Israel), versus those who dwell in
the diaspora. Yet, we find in the Talmud that there was never a difference
-- all observed eight days.
To us, however, the opinion of the Minchas Chinuch is very straight-forward.
It is known from the Talmud that the doubt in the calendar is only one month
at a time. It is always assumed that within thirty days, the entire diaspora
is aware of the date. Chanukah is unique, in that it begins late in the month
(the 25th), and continues for eight days -- going into the next month! In
this case, the likelihood of having to observe an extra day is so small as
to be negligible. The Minchas Chinuch only meant that in theory, if one was
not informed of the date, he would be obligated to observe an extra day.
Next week: a deeper view of Chanukah and the calendar...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © 1997
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
and Project Genesis, Inc.