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Posted on December 22, 2011 (5772) By Shlomo Katz | Series: | Level:

Parshios Miketz & Chanukah

Build with Your Dreams

Volume 26, No. 10

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 Sichot II)



    “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 Torah study.

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 Kislev 5762)


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 start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.

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