Parshas Mikeitz 5757--1996
Outline # 14
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
Yoseif had been sold as a slave, then sent to long years in prison. After favorably interpreting the royal cupbearer's dream, Yoseif asked the man to remember him, and help him out of prison. Immediately, the Torah states that the man did not remember Yoseif -- but forgot. Surely, if he did not remember, he forgot! Rashi explains that he forgot immediately, and did not remember even after a long period.
The medrash explains the Torah's emphasis in describing Yoseif's request to be remembered, and subsequent disappointment: Because Yoseif relied upon the man -- he had to suffer an additional two years in prison.
The Beis Halevi (Rav Yoseif Dov Ber Halevi, founder of the great school of Brisk), describes the relationship of effort and faith. Sometimes we exert ourselves, just so that we feel we are doing something. Fine; but more exertion than necessary can be folly and a waste. The result of foolish, wasted exertion will be the apparent need for more exertion. So Yoseif was punished for unnecessarily asking the cupbearer -- you will have two more years to foolishly try to get out of prison!
It seems clear from the Beis Halevi's words, that when one engages in foolish endeavors, there will be two options: As the opportunity arises for more foolish activity, one may fall into the trap, and become swallowed up in an endless cycle, like a rat in a treadmill. A person of great faith will realize, however, the folly of his wasted activities, and break the urge to over-indulge in such endeavors. So we would say of Yoseif -- during the next two years, he realized that the cupbearer, reinstated to his former position, had forgotten him. Yoseif learned his lesson, and did not engage in such speculative, unlikely effort.
Our parsha begins with the words, "At the end of two years, Pharaoh had a dream." The dream of Pharaoh, of course, leads to the sudden redemption of Yoseif. The medrash explains: Once the time arrived for Yoseif to be redeemed, Pharaoh had a dream.
The Beis Halevi commented: Everything has a cause and effect. Someone buys a commodity, and sells it at profit. It appears that the cause was his business acumen, and the effect was his profit. False. The cause was that Hashem wanted the man to profit, and the effect was that he bought the commodity! So the Torah explains: Don't think that the cause was Pharaoh's dream, and the effect Yoseif's release. No, quite the reverse. The cause was that the time had come for Yoseif to be redeemed, and this brought about the effect -- Pharaoh must have his dream...
If so, it comes out that certain purchases, activities, or events are "meant to be" -- purposeful, meaningful and important. Others are purely wasteful, and could lead to the endless trap... Think of the compulsive gambler, the compulsive buyer... how much money can be wasted on lottery tickets or foolish investments?
The Chazon Ish stated that Yoseif's request was so unlikely, that it took on the appearance, not of an act of faith, but of an act of a desperate individual. To take practical steps to help oneself is one thing, but to take a longshot may be an act of desperation, and show a lack of faith.
The Beis Halevi however, held that Yoseif's request was such a small effort, that we cannot measure what kind of "mistake" this could be. The point of the medrash, seemingly faulting Yoseif, was to show us that Yoseif was on such a high level of righteousness, that more was expected from him. We cannot measure the level of the Tzadik's faith!
Last week, we discussed the question: "Why aren't there nine days of Chanukah, due to doubt in the calendar?" Many people are surprised at the question, because the laws of Chanukah are Rabbinic, and the general rule is that we are lenient regarding a doubt in a Rabbinic ruling.
Actually, some do present this as an answer (Pri Chadash). We did not even mention this angle, however, because of an inherent problem.
The Ran in tractate Pesachim developed a major new principle regarding the leniencies of "safeik d'rabbanan" -- doubt in a Rabbinic ruling. The Talmud knew that, among the four cups of wine for the Seder night, two cups required leaning (reclining). However, the students quoted differing accounts. One had heard the first cups requiring leaning, the other had heard the last cups. The Talmud concluded that one should lean for all the four cups, in order to fulfill both versions.
The Ran was perplexed. We should be lenient in a "safeik d'rabbanan" -- doubt in a Rabbinic ruling. (The Torah does not command drinking four cups of wine on Pesach; it is a Rabbinic decree, similar to the Chanukah lights.) Answered the Ran: The leniency in such a case -- where the decree entails one of two possibilities -- would lead to the abrogation of the entire precept. In other words, the rule of leniency actually means that we would not lean at all, neither for the first cups, nor for the last cups. In that case, the decree of leaning for two of the cups would be entirely abrogated! Rather than destroy the entire ruling, some leaning would have to be performed. We would have chosen to lean during the first cups -- but what would be the superiority of the first cups over the last ones? Rather than chance that the mitzvah not be performed at all, both sets of cups require leaning. (See the Mishnah L'melech to Hilchos Megilah, and Marharshal, quoted by commentaries to Orach Chayim simon 488.)
Similarly, for Chanukah, the leniency because of doubt in a Rabbinic ruling would lead to keeping only seven days. Since the beginning of the month entails a doubt of one day, the first day and the ninth day of Chanukah are equally doubtful. We would have to drop both of them! In order to be certain that the eight days of Chanukah are observed, nine would have to be held!
An answer we suggested: Chanukah becomes a counting process. Our custom is to light an additional candle each day, because the miracle increased, with each additional day the oil in the Bais Hamikdash (Temple) continued to burn. A mitzvah of counting cannot be done through doubt, but must be precise and deliberate. For example, between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuos, there is a mitzvah to count the 49 intervening days. The Ba'al Hama'or asked: Just as two days of Pesach are observed -- from doubt -- we should count twice, from doubt as to which day to begin the counting. D'var Avraham (referred to in Mikra'ei Kodesh simon 67), answered that the counting must be done precisely and deliberately, and therefore cannot be performed out of doubt.
It could be argued that Chanukah is not essentially a "counting" process. Our custom to light an additional candle each day, is only the opinion of the School of Hillel; at any rate, it is certainly not obligatory. However, the Avudraham, one of the early authorities, found this custom so essential to Chanukah itself, that he explained the entire name of Chanukah due to it. The Hebrew name stands for: Eight Candles And the Halacha is in Accordance with the School of Hillel!* Therefore, we conclude that the counting process of Chanukah should not be performed from doubt. (See a related answer referred to in Mitzvas Neir Ish Ubaiso, chapter 1, footnote 15.)
*Ches, Nun, Vav, Kaf, Hei: Ches = 8, Nun is "Neir" (candle), Vav is "U" (and), Kaf is "K'Beis" (in accordance with the School of), Hei is "Hillel."
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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Last Revision: January 27, 1997