Repent! For The "End" Is Dear
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
Then Paroah said to Yosef, "Since G-d has made all of this known to you,
there can be no one as understanding and as wise as you. You will be in
charge of my house, and people will do what you say." Paroah called Yosef
"Tzafnat Panayach" [Seer of the Hidden]. (Bereishis 41:39-45)
This is THE Chanukah parshah, with all its many hints to the "Holiday of
Lights," even though this year, as it does only on rare occasions, falls on
the Shabbos after Chanukah. And, speaking of ends (mikeitz), it is going
around here that, the number of times that the letters "kuf" and "tzaddik"
appear together in the Torah, letters which spell the word "keitz," a term
used for the "end of history" at the hands of Moshiach, is 5,761 time. Just
thought I'd pass that on.
To understand how this is so, we have to bridge the gap between the
resolution of Yosef and his brothers, and what the story of Chanukah comes
to teach us in every generation, and why more this is truer of Chanukah
than, let's say, the holiday of Pesach.
There are many themes to both the story of Yosef and his brothers, and,
Chanukah. However, what we need is the universal thread that binds them
both together -- the MAIN theme common to both stories, and that theme is:
Nothing is NECESSARILY what it seems to be on the surface, and, this
principle has been part and parcel of creation ever since Day One of creation.
The Torah writes:
G-d saw the Light, that it was good, and He separated be-tween the Light
and the Dark ... (Bereishis 1:4)
-- and Rashi comments:
G-D SAW THE LIGHT, THAT IT WAS GOOD AND HE SEPARATED: For this also we need
the words of Aggadatah (Midrash): He saw that it would not be fitting to
use it, and He separated it for the righteous in the Time-to-Come. (Rashi)
Hence, the name of the Original Light of creation: Ohr HaGanuz -- the
"Hidden Light" of creation, because, from the first day of creation onward,
G-d hid that light, which, obviously, is not the light of the sun, moon,
and stars, or Westinghouse light bulbs. Although, it did make one last
guest appearance on the sixth day of creation, according to the Talmud,
when it shone for Adam HaRishon for thirty-six hours (Yerushalmi, Brochos
8:5) -- the number of Chanukah candles we light over eight days (not
including the Shamash of each day).
Hence, it says:
The original Light of creation was hidden in the thirty-six candles of
Chanukah. (B'nei Yissachar)
Where? And, how did G-d get all of that light in there, a light which the
Talmud says Adam could use to see from one end of the world until the other
end of the world (Chagigah 12a)? That was sommmme view.
What is unique about the candles of Chanukah is that they burn as a
reminder of the miracle that happened with the oil in the Menorah at the
time of the Chashmonaim -- a strong case to use olive oil in one's Menorah.
JUDGING from the amount of the oil that was found by the Chashmonaim -- one
small jar's worth -- there was enough to burn only one day, and, as the
A judge has only what his eyes see. (Bava Basra 131a)
However, be a judge only when you HAVE to be, for Halachah's sake, for, we
the Jewish people are called "Rachmanim" -- "Merciful Ones" (Yevamos 79a),
or else, suffer the consequences, as did Yosef's brothers:
The brothers said to one another, "We are guilty because of our brother
[Yoseph]. When he pleaded with us, we didn't pay attention, and therefore
this anguish has come to us." (Bereishis 42:21)
What had they been doing instead? Judging him, says the Midrash, and so
confident were they in their decision that they were able to sit down and
drink after (Bereishis Rabbah 84:16).He kept crying about his innocence
until the very last moment, and they kept calling him guilty, at least that
was the way it appeared to THEIR eyes (Bereishis Rabbah 91:10) -- which
were used to seeing things only on the surface:
And the well was empty, there was no water inside it (Bereishis 37:24).
From the fact that it says the well was empty, would it not be clear there
was no water inside? Rather, it teaches you that there was no water, but
there were snakes and scorpions. (Shabbos 22a)
On the "surface" of the matter, Yosef was in a waterless pit, held prisoner
by his own brother's spiritual blindness. However, below the surface, Yosef
was encased in miracle, a clear sign that the hand of G-d was actively and
directly protecting his beloved Yosef. This intellectual blindness, we will
see next, b"H, is the reason behind most of what goes wrong in Jewish
history, and, in the lives of Yosef's brothers.
Yosef saw his brothers and he recognized them, but acted as a stranger to
them and spoke to them harshly. He asked them, "From where have you come?"
They answered, "From the land of Canaan to buy food. Though Yosef
recognized his brothers, they didn't recognize him. (Bereishis 42:7-8)
What we said in the previous d'var Torah also explains the above posuk,
which emphasizes that:
Though Yosef recognized his brothers, they didn't recognize him. (Bereishis
How could they? Their eyes only saw a viceroy of Egypt before them -- they
were not equipped to see the Yosef below the surface of Egyptian clothing
and fanfare. The Hellenists could only -- would only -- see a Written Torah
before them; they were not spiritually equipped to see the Oral Law within,
of which the Midrash writes:
"The people who walk in darkness see the Great Light" (Yeshayahu 9:1):
These are the masters of Talmud (of which there are THIRTY-SIX tractates)
who see the Great Light because The Holy One, Blessed is He, illuminates
their eyes. The (darkness) is the Oral Law, which is difficult to learn and
causes great pain; this is why it is com-pared to darkness. (Tanchuma, Noach 3)
Great Light? The Hidden Light of creation, the one that was hidden away for
the righteous of the future, of which there are THIRTY-SIX in every
generation. In fact, the Sifsei Chachamim explains Rashi's comment as follows:
FOR THE RIGHTEOUS IN THE TIME-TO-COME: For the righteous person who is
"good," and therefore He made a separation, meaning, in order that there
should be a distinction between the righteous person who is "light" and the
evil person who is "darkness." (Sifsei Chachamim)
This makes Rashi's comment later (from Bereishis Rabbah 100:10), when Yosef
is reassuring his brothers that he harbors no plans of revenge, even more
HE SPOKE TO THEIR HEARTS: If ten candles could not put out one candle, how
then can one candle extinguish ten? (Bereishis Rabbah 50:21)
What the brothers originally saw as darkness, turned out to emanate the
greatest light of creation, ever since Yosef uttered the fateful words,
"I am Yosef" (Bereishis 45:3)
However, continues the verse:
His brothers weren't able to answer him because they were in shock.
So brilliant was the illumination, made even brighter by the supposed
darkness from whence it came -- second-in-command of Egypt, the most
immoral nation on the face of the earth at that time. However, that's just
the way it appeared on the surface, for, Yosef had not been Egyptian --
never was and never would be, just like the Torah is not what the
Hellenists -- ancient and modern -- think it is either. They just don't
"And this stumbling block is under your hand" (Yeshayahu 3:6). A person
cannot stand in Torah unless he stumbles in it. (Gittin 43a)
In "yeshivishe language" it is called "breaking one's teeth." Whether we
are talking about "hashemen" (the oil), "Neshamah" (soul), or, "Mishnah"
(Oral Teaching) -- all of which have the same letters as the word
"Shemonah" (eight) -- it is all the same thing: light hidden below the surface.
It is a Tree of Life for those who GRASP it. (Mishlei 3:18)
Waiting to be revealed through the deeds of man, and, ignited by the
actions of the wise:
The wise will understand these, the understanding will know them, for the
ways of G-d are straight, and the righteous walk in them, while the sinners
stumble in them. (Hoshea 14:10).
Then he searched, starting with the eldest and ending with the youngest.
The goblet was found in Binyomin's bag; they tore their garments. Then each
one loaded his donkey and returned to the city. (Bereishis 44:12-13)
From the Torah, it would appear that the brothers never suspected Binyomin
of actually stealing the viceroy's wine chalice, but, the Midrash tells
When the goblet was found in Binyomin's sack, the brothers shouted at him,
"Thief, son of a thief, son of Rachel who stole Lavan's idol!" (Bereishis
And, in spite of Binyomin's pleas of innocence, and warning to them that
they were being tested by G-d, the brothers still insisted it was
Binyomin's fault, and they even dealt him blows!
Would they ever learn? First they misjudged Yosef, and look where it got
them and at the uncontrollable suffering it caused their righteous father,
Ya'akov. Then, Yehudah assumed his own sons' deaths were the fault of Tamar
his righteous daughter-in-law, and not their own evil fault, as the Torah
reveals to us that it was. Then he assumed that Tamar was guilty of playing
the harlot, when, instead, he HIMSELF had been guilty of doing so. And now,
in spite of ALL OF THAT, still, they insisted on misjudging and mistreating
those they misjudge, in this case, righteous Binyomin!
The road to righteousness and spiritual completion for the brothers had
been a bumpy one, and, sometimes, the greater and more serious the issues,
the more difficult it is to avoid the bumps. And, as the Arizal points out,
until righteous people expunge whatever small amount of evil sparks they
may contain -- a result of Adam's eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil -- they can end up doing sins that even simple people don't seem
to commit (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 20, p. 55).
Here's a story you can tell one night this week, b"H, as you watch your Ner
Chanukah burn brightly with the healing light of the Hidden Light of
creation. It emanates out from the story of Yosef and his brothers, and, is
a very, very powerful lesson for all of us until the end of time. Enjoy.
One stormy night many years ago, an elderly man and his wife entered the
lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the
couple approached the front desk hoping to get some shelter for the night.
"Could you possibly give us a room here?" the husband asked. The clerk, a
friendly man with a winning smile, looked at the couple and explained that
there were three conventions in town.
"All of our rooms are taken," the clerk said. "But I can't send a nice
couple like you out into the rain at one o'clock in the morning. Would you
perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It's not exactly a suite, but it
will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night."
When the couple declined, the young man pressed on. "Don't worry about me;
I'll make out just fine," the clerk told them.
So the couple agreed. As he paid his bill the next morning, the elderly man
said to the clerk, "You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of
the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I'll build one for you."
The clerk looked at them and smiled. The three of them had a good laugh. As
they drove away, the elderly couple agreed that the helpful clerk was
indeed exceptional, as finding people who are both friendly and helpful
Two years passed. The clerk had almost forgotten the incident when he
received a letter from the old man. It recalled that stormy night and
enclosed a round-trip ticket to New York, asking the young man to pay them
The old man met him in New York, and led him to the corner of Fifth Avenue
and 34th Street. He then pointed to a great new building there, a palace
of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky.
"That," said the older man, "is the hotel I have just built for you to manage."
"You must be joking," the young man said.
"I can assure you I am not," said the older man, a sly smile playing around
The older man's name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent
structure was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The young clerk who
became its first manager was George C. Boldt. This young clerk never
foresaw the turn of events that would lead him to become the manager of
one of the world's most glamorous hotels. The Bible says that we are not to
turn our backs on those who are in need, for we might be entertaining angels.
And the lesson is: Treat everyone with love, grace and respect, and you
End of story; I didn't change a word. Though, I'm sure there are many
stories like it amongst the Jewish people, but this one just happened to be
sent to me this week, just as I sat down to write this d'var Torah, and
just as I was wondering how I'd end it. It seemed to fit in so nicely.
A Song of Ascents. Behold, bless G-d, all you servants of G-d, who stand in
the House of G-d in the nights. (Tehillim 139:1)
Another very short, but very powerful psalm.
"Night" is exile. "Night" is "hester panim," the hiding of G-d's
Providence, giving the world a feeling of randomness. "Night" is a time of
judgment, when mercy seems to be a distant reality, and even good people
are made to suffer at the hands of the wicked. And, "night" is a time that
people often run away from G-d, and not towards Him.
Specifically, then, night is a time to bless G-d, for, as the Nefesh
HaChaim points out (Sha'ar 2), the concept of blessing G-d works to end
night, and its cold darkness. To bless G-d, Who has all that He could ever
"need," is to do that which draws His Presence into the world; it is to
"increase" the clarity of His involvement in creation and the affairs of man.
This is why learning Torah, as the Rambam points out, is especially
important at night time. In fact, the Talmud teaches that anyone who learns
Torah at night time will be rewarded with his own increased blessing the
next day, not to mention it saves one's home (Eiruvin 18b).
As the Malbim says, the true servant of G-d never leaves his "post" nor
forsakes his mission. In the Western world, it is, "Where the going gets
tough, the tough get going." However, in the Torah world it is, "When
darkness of exile encompasses you, you encompass the darkness of exile" --
with the light of Torah in the "houses of G-d" -- beacons within the sea of
exile -- and the performance of mitzvos with enthusiasm, and, according to
the Talmud, this posuk is talking about those very people who do, and,
their families who support them (Menachos 110a).
Lift your hands in the Sanctuary and bless G-d. May G-d bless you from
Tzion, Maker of Heaven and Earth. (2 - 3)
And, this is just not A purposeful thing to do, this is THE purposeful
thing to do. It is the path to "Tzion" -- the code word for the Final
Redemption, when the Jewish people will return to Eretz Yisroel and live
under Torah and those who uphold her.
And, as the Midrash points out, it is no coincidence that "Yosef" and
"Tzion" share the same gematria, for, they represent the path to the same
end goal. For, which light is it that we are to emanate out at night -- the
"Great Darkness" -- if not THE LIGHT, the light of the first day of
creation -- the Ohr HaGanuz. And, the very same light that is hidden within
and, through our efforts, revealed from the thirty-six candles of Chanukah.