Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vayeishev & Chanukah

The Torah Portion of Vayeishev 

"And Yaakov dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan.  These are the generations of Yaakov, Yoseph..."  (Bereisheet 37:1-2)

The Alshich says that in the land of his fathers sojournings, with all of the chiefs (of Eisav) and also with Eisav, Yaakov was able to manage, and he was in a situation of dwelling with a feeling of being settled and tranquil.  But when his sons were not in unison that made him suffer more than anything else, and that began a new situation as described by: "These are the generations of Yaakov, Yoseph."

"..and the pit was empty, there was no water in it."  (Bereisheet 37:24)

Rashi says "but there were snakes and scorpions in it".  This can be seen by means Roshei Teivot.  The Hebrew letters of the words "Ain Bo" (in English: "was not in it")  which appear in this verse, are Aleph Yud Nun Beit Vuv.  These form the first letters (Roshei Teivot) of the Hebrew words "A'val Y'eish B'o N'achashim  V'Akravim" (in English:"but there were snakes as scorpions in it").  The Masters of Mussar (Ethics) explain that water is likened to Torah.   And this is the meaning of "there was no water in it": if there is no Torah within a person but he is empty of it, then immediately come the bad Middot (character traits) which are likened to snakes and scorpions.  And apparently this presents a difficulty, for if there are snakes and scorpions in the pit, then it is not empty.  However, the Gaon HaRav Povorski ztz"l said that the whole purpose of the pit is that it should have water in it, and all the time that it doesn't have water it is thought of as empty even though it has other things in it.  And in this way he explained the verse (from Shir HaShirim), "like a slice of pomegranate is your forehead", even the empty ones among you are filled with Mitzvot like a pomegranate.   And apparently, if they are full of Mitzvot why are they empty?  But the explanation is that it is not sufficient for a man to do Mitzvot, but the Mitzvot need to be his purpose and the main point of his aspirations, so that this can be seen in all his ways and deeds.  And if this is not the case, he is called empty even though he is full of Mitzvot.  


It is written in the Rambam that the Mitzvah of Chanukah is a very beloved Mitzvah, and this language is found only regarding Chanukah.

"And when he tortured it (the people of Israel) so it would increase and so it would spread..." (Shemot 1:12)

The Yavanim (ancient Greeks) wanted to cancel out, in principle, three Mitzvot: the Chodesh (Month), the Shabbat, and Brit Milah (Circumcision).  And in Chanukah we find all three of these things, for in Chanukah we have Rosh Chodesh Teivet (the beginning of the Month of Teivet) which is during the days of Chanukah, Shabbat, and the 8 days needed to fulfill the Mitzvah of Circumcision for a boy who is born on the first day of Chanukah.

"There are Yavanim (ancient Greeks) and there are Chashmonayim."

A famous head of a Yeshiva said once at a Chanukah party for students at a Talmud Torah, that in every generation "there are Yavanim and there are Chashmonayim".  Those who interfere with the learning of the Torah are the Yavanim in our generation, and you, the young students who are learning Torah, are the Chashmonayim in our generation.  You need to strengthen yourselves in the Torah and overcome the evil.

The Torah Portion of Vayeishev has 112 verses. Haftora: "Ko Amar Hashem" (Amos 2).

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat and Chanuka.  Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah.  

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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