Sponsored by the Vogel family on the yahrzeit of mother and grandmother
Miriam bat Yehuda Leib a”h (Mary Kalkstein)
Dreams play a major role in both this week’s and last week’s parashot. In
this week’s reading, Pharaoh says to Yosef (41:15), “I dreamed a dream, but
no one can interpret it.” R’ Nosson Meir Wachtfogel z"l (1910-1998;
mashgiach ruchani of Bet Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J.) asks: What did
Pharaoh mean by “no one can interpret it”? Rashi writes that Pharaoh’s
advisers did offer him several different interpretations!
R’ Wachtfogel answers: The Gemara (Berachot 55b) teaches that the meaning of
a dream depends on the interpretation given to it. Some dreams are neither
good nor bad; rather, their fulfillment depends on their interpretation. If
a person interprets his dream as a good “prophecy,” that good may actually
come to him. On the other hand, if he interprets the dream as bad tidings,
that bad may befall him.
In Pharaoh's case, his advisers did offer him several interpretations for
his dreams. For example, they suggested that he would father seven
daughters who would then die. However, Pharaoh did not want to have seven
daughters who would die and he did not like the other interpretations
either; therefore, he insisted that no one was able to interpret his dreams.
R’ Wachtfogel explains further: When Hashem causes a person to dream, He is
giving the person raw materials with which the person can “build” a future.
This is why there are prayers by which a person asks that a “bad” dream
turn “good.” One cannot simply wish a dream away, just as one who has his
hands full of building materials cannot pretend that his hands are empty.
The building materials must be used for something — whether good or bad —
and so must the dream.
The Gemara teaches that a person should wait as long as 22 years for a dream
to come true. [Twenty-two is the number of years that Yosef had to wait
after his dreams until his brothers bowed to him.] Just as a dream may be
compared to building materials, so it may be compared to a seed. We know
that a person who plants seeds must wait for them to germinate. (Kovetz
“You delivered the strong into the hand of the weak; the many into the
hand of the few; the impure into the hand of the pure; the wicked into the
hand of the righteous; and the malicious into the hand of the diligent
students of Your Torah.” (From the Al Ha’nissim prayer)
R’ David Shneor shlita (Yeshiva Ohr Yosef-Novardok, near Paris, France)
writes: R’ Moshe ben Nachman z”l (Ramban: 1194-1270) writes: “The story of
the meeting between Yaakov and Esav was written to inform us that G-d saved
His servant [Yaakov] from one who was stronger than he [Esav].” Ramban is
informing us, writes R’ Shneor that, notwithstanding Yaakov’s preparations
to fight Esav, Yaakov is, by definition, weaker than Esav. We say in Al
Ha’nissim, “You delivered the strong into the hand of the weak.” It is a
given that, by any natural measure, Yisrael is weaker than any of its
enemies. It follows, writes R’ Shneor, that anyone who turns the Chanukah
story into a glorification of the strength of the Maccabees is corrupting
the holiday’s message.
Rather, the message of Chanukah is that, out of recognizing our inherent
weakness, comes our unique strength, namely our ability to place our faith
in Hashem. This explains the importance of pirsumei nissa/publicizing the
miracle, which is integral to Chanukah. On Pesach, we do not put a box of
matzah in the window to publicize the miracle that occurred. Why is the
menorah placed in the window on Chanukah?
The answer, R’ Shneor writes, is that no one could reasonably attribute the
Ten Plagues to nature. However, there are those who attribute the
Maccabees’ victory to natural forces, which demonstrates that, on Chanukah,
there is a possibility of erring and attributing the victory to natural
causes. Therefore, our Sages instituted pirsumei nissa, to declare before
the Jewish people and the whole world that we are a small and weak nation,
but a pure nation, a righteous nation, a nation that occupies itself with
This was the Maccabees’ own attitude, as the Book of Maccabees relates.
First, it records that Mattityahu instructed his sons before his death,
“Strengthen yourselves, my sons, and awaken yourselves to Torah study, for
in that you will find glory. . . Gather together all those who observe
mitzvot.” Similarly, Yehuda Ha’maccabee encouraged his men, “It is easy for
the few to defeat the many, for there is no limit to Heaven’s power to save
us. . . We are fighting for our souls and for our Torah.” This was the
Ramban’s point above--prepare for battle and send gifts, as Yaakov did, but
also pray and have trust in G-d, as Yaakov also did.
The Greeks themselves understood the source of the Jewish People’s strength,
and that is why they outlawed brit milah, rosh chodesh and Shabbat.
Circumcision appears to impair the body and symbolizes that we do not put
our faith in our physical abilities. Rosh chodesh relates to the moon, the
“weaker” of the two primary sources of light. And, Shabbat demonstrates our
ability to remove ourselves completely from material pursuits. In contrast,
Greek philosophy and the Greek lifestyle glorify the body and its strength.
(Motza Desheh vol. I p.242)
The gemara (Shabbat 23b) teaches: “Rav Huna said: ‘If one is meticulously
careful in lighting candles, he will merit to have sons who are Torah
scholars’.” Rashi explains: “This is based on the verse (Mishlei 6:23),
‘For a mitzvah is a candle and Torah is light’–through the mitzvah of
Shabbat and Chanukah candles comes the light of Torah.”
So many people light Shabbat and Chanukah candles, observed R’ Kalman Winter
shlita (rabbi of Southeast Hebrew Congregation-Knesset Yehoshua in Silver
Spring, Md.; may he be granted a refuah shleimah), yet there are relatively
few Torah scholars! Why? Because Rav Huna’s promise is addressed only to
those parents who want their children to be Torah scholars.
Not so long ago, R’ Winter added, the concept of studying Torah “lishmah”/as
an end in itself was relatively unknown in America. If a young man
announced that he wanted to remain in yeshiva and study Torah, his relatives
would ask, “But what will you do with it? Do you plan to become a rabbi?”
Rav Huna’s teaching, which relates the mitzvah of Chanukah candles to the
study of Torah, shows us that this attitude is wrong. Halachah states that
one may derive no pleasure from the Chanukah lights; one may look at them,
but nothing more. Similarly, there is a concept of studying Torah lishmah,
studying Torah without any material benefit in mind. This is the type of
Torah study which creates real Torah scholars. (Heard from R’ Winter, 23
Many answers have been offered for the famous question: Why is Chanukah
eight days long, when the miracle of the oil lasted only seven days? (There
was enough oil to last one day, and it lasted seven additional days.)
R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of
Eretz Yisrael) writes about this question as follows:
The usual complete cycle of time is seven days, which is one week. [This is
based on Creation.] However, this cycle is incomplete in one respect, since
the ultimate purpose of all that is holy will not be revealed until the
future. On the other hand, even now, a discerning person can see that the
world is progressing in the general direction of its ultimate destiny.
There is no other way, for example, to explain why the Jewish People have
roamed from one end of the world to the other [and back to Eretz Yisrael]
unless it is part of a plan that is being played out.
Shabbat is at the same time part of the seven-day cycle with which we are
familiar, but it also foreshadows the World-to-Come, which is beyond our
time. In the holiness of Shabbat we can taste the holiness that we will
experience in that as-yet unseen world.
The Greeks and those Jews who fell under their influence rejected our
concept of a future World filled with holiness. We see this from the
Mishnah (Berachot 54a), which relates that the Sages of that era instituted
that the following be said in the Temple, “Baruch attah Hashem, the G-d of
Yisrael, min ha’olam v’ad ha’olam/from [this] world until [the other] world.”
If there were no need to emphasize the existence of a future world, Chanukah
would have been seven days, which is a complete unit of time in this world.
However, there is such a need, so our Chanukah of eight days reminds us of
something beyond the world as we know it, i.e., the World-to-Come. (Ein
Ayah: Shabbat Ch.2, No.9)
One of the classic answers to the above question is that after the oil was
poured into the menorah each night, the jug miraculously replenished. Thus,
a miracle occurred each night.
R’ Zvi Pesach Frank z”l (1873-1960; Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim) writes: R’
Chaim Soloveitchik z”l (“R’ Chaim Brisker”; 1853-1918) objected to this
answer because the menorah in the Bet Hamikdash must be lit using olive oil,
and oil that appeared in a jug miraculously is not made from olives. R’
Frank continues, quoting R’ Shlomo Yosef Zevin z”l (1888-1978;
editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Talmudit and author of several popular
works), that R’ Chaim’s view is consistent with the commentary of R’ David
Kimchi z”l (Radak; Provence; 1160-1235) to Melachim II 4:7. The prophet
relates there that Elisha instructed an impoverished widow who owned nothing
but a small jug of oil to borrow as many pots as she could and to fill all
of them with oil from her small jug. Radak writes that that oil was exempt
from ma’aser/tithes because it was from a miracle, and not from olives.
However, R’ Zevin asks: We read (Shmot 35:27-28) that the princes of the
Twelve Tribes donated oil for the menorah in the mishkan, and the Targum
Yonatan says that this oil came from Gan Eden. How could oil from Gan Eden,
presumably miraculous, be used for the menorah?
R’ Frank answers: Gan Eden is a physical place with physical olive trees.
This is evident from the midrash which says that the dove that Noach sent
out from the teivah, and which returned with an olive branch, took that
branch from Gan Eden. Thus, there is no inconsistency with R’ Chaim’s
position that “miracle oil” is not kosher for the menorah.
Nevertheless, the classic answer that the jug miraculously replenished each
night is not necessarily wrong either, for we can distinguish between oil
that miraculously appears out of nowhere and oil that “multiplied” from a
small drop that remained in the jug from before. (R’ Frank notes, however,
that this cannot be reconciled with Radak’s comment mentioned above.)
(Mikra’ei Kodesh: Chanukah p.6)
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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