Parashat Miketz Print Version
30th of Kislev, 5782 | December 4, 2021
Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik
Rabbi Eliezer Krohn What You Stand For
There was once an eight-year-old boy by the name of Leor, who lived in Akko, Israel and studied in the yeshiva of Shuvu, an organization which teaches Russian girls and boys all about Torah and Judaism. It was just around the days of Chanukah when his teacher began telling them about the story and miracle of Chanukah – how the Greeks did not allow the Jews to observe Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and the mitzvah of Bris Milah. The days went on as normal, at the end of which the school had its routine Chanukah break.
Following the Chanukah break, Leor wasn’t at school. This wasn’t too alarming at first, as there were always students who would be out for a few days after a break, for a variety of reasons. Leor’s teacher didn’t think too much of it. Except when one day turned into two and two turned into three. Phoning his mother, the teacher was told the reason. “Leor doesn’t want to come back to school because of you. What you said is making him not want to come back.” The teacher was surprised. Had she said something offensive? Did she hurt Leor’s feelings? She couldn’t recall saying anything to him that was off-putting, but perhaps she just didn’t remember.
The teacher felt out of sorts herself. Thinking back to the days before Chanukah, the only thing that came to mind was Chanukah itself. She had been telling them about the Chanukah miracle and perhaps it had something to do with that. Who knows? “See if has something to do with what I said about Chanukah,” said the teacher.
Sure enough, it was.
“Leor told me that you said in class that the Greeks were just like the Russians. The Russians did not let us observe the mitzvah of circumcision, and that’s how the Greeks were too.” When Leor came home, he mentioned what he had learned about the Greeks and bris milah and began asking all sorts of question. He himself never had one. And adamantly he said, ‘I am not going back to school until I have a bris milah.’ Understanding Leor and his wish for a bris milah, we arranged for a mohel to give him a bris. He returned from the hospital yesterday and he is recuperating. He should be back in school in a few days.”
This eight-year-old boy personified mesirus nefesh, giving over of himself for the sake of observing G-d’s commandments. And it is this very trait which encompasses the holiday of Chanukah. The Chashmonaim had mesirus nefesh when they realized that they couldn’t stand for the Jews being unable to keep a Torah life. We might be led to think that the way the world is around us is just the way it’s going to be. If the non-Jews impose certain restrictions, what can we do about it, even if it goes against our values and principles as Jews. But the Chashmoniam were uncompromising in their values. They would not give in at all to the dictates and whims of the Greek vision and way of life. As such, the Chashmonaim valiantly fought a physical war, putting their lives on the line, in order to retain their spiritual values and principles. You know your values mean something when you are willing to lay down your life for them.
We all have values which we are wiling to die for, and in small ways, areas of our life where we are willing to sacrifice for. Chanukah brings out the power of our values to the fore and elicits our mesirus nefesh. The light of Chanukah burns within our home and inside us, which propels us with a fire-like determination and strength to stay true to our Torah values and what we stand for. Leor knew it. If it’s the right thing to do, it must be done. That is our guiding compass as Torah observant Jews.
Rabbi Daniel Glatstein A Secret Formula
The Yom Tov of Chanukah is different from Purim. On Purim we celebrate physically with elaborate food and drink, whereas Chanukah is experienced by thanking and praising Hashem. But this act of thanking Hashem is so fundamental that the Rambam writes that the mitzvah of lighting the menorah is so dear. This is because the main function and purpose of our existence is to recognize and thank Hashem, and the medium of the Menorah allows for this very purpose to be expressed and actualized.
Asher had a number of daughters whom he was struggling to marry off. It occupied a good portion of Asher’s time and it was beginning to wear him down. Asher also had a chavrusa, Benny, whose daughter got married relatively quickly. As things turned out, Benny planned on helping his daughter rent an apartment in Israel, but was in need of a co-signer. He turned to Asher for that. Asher graciously agreed, and the paperwork was signed.
However, when things came to a head, Benny was unable to take care of his financial responsibilities for the apartment’s rent, and it fell on the shoulders of Asher. Asher, though, was neither in a position to pay, which prompted the bank to come after Asher.
Now Asher was not in a place to handle additional financial pressure. He himself was doing his utmost to see to it that his daughters met their husband and settle down themselves, and having this extra concern and burden of worrying about his friend’s personal matters was too much. The bank, in fact, threatened and actually went through taking over Asher’s home.
At the suggestion of someone, Asher went to the Gerrer Rebbe. The first question the Rebbe asked was, “Do you daven?” “Of course I do,” Asher said, “I ask Hashem to help me marry off my daughters and get out of this financial debt I’m in.” “But do you daven?” Asher didn’t understand. The Rebbe then asked the question yet again, a third time. Asher stood there in silence. He didn’t know what more he could say. Yes, he did daven. Three times a day. “Rebbe, am I missing something?”
“Davening is not just asking Hashem for what you need; it’s thanking Hashem for what you have. Do you thank Hashem for all the blessings you have?” With that, the conversation ended. Asher was unsettled. “What does he have to thank Hashem for?” But he couldn’t deny the truth of what the Gerrer Rebbe had said. Yes, he did have clothes and he was healthy. Hashem was making all of this work for him. Taking this to heart, Asher made a list of everything Hashem was providing him with, and came to the stark realization that what Hashem was giving him far outweighed what he didn’t have.
At that private meeting between the Gerrer Rebbe and Asher, the Rebbe also disclosed a valuable piece of advice. “Your prayers should be 60% thanking Hashem and 40% asking.” This formula, as Asher soon learned, had a strong Torah source. And of all places, in Hallel.
We say, “Ana Hashem hoshiana na … hatzlicha na – Please, Hashem, save us ... make us successful.” Here, we ask something of Hashem. However, we also state, “Hodu La’Hashem ki tov – Praise Hashem for He is good.” We also thank Hashem in Hallel. There are ten verses in total, between the four stanzas of request of “Ana Hashem” and the six of thanks of “Hodu.” This is the basis of the Rebbe’s breakup – 60% thanking Hashem and 40% asking Hashem.
The Yom Tov of Chanukah is centered around thanking Hashem. Yes, we have a long list of requests of Hashem, but the main function of prayer and of life is to thank Hashem. Our main focus should be on thanking Hashem for what we have, as we also ask Him for what we don’t. This lesson gleaned on Chanukah is one to carry us through the entire year.
Rabbi Shmuel Gluck In Service of Others
The life of Yosef HaTzaddik demonstrates how the ideal king and leader should act. Kingship is not about bullying your subjects, but rather serving them. The Akeidah (a medieval commentary on Chumash) highlights this quality in light of the blessing Yaakov Avinu gave Yosef before his passing. Yaakov refers to Yosef an ox, the leader of the kosher animals. But why an ox?
An ox works hard, has the strength to do what other animals cannot do, does a lot for others by virtue of plowing the fields and providing sustenance, and doesn’t ask much in return. It just needs some grass. Yosef tried to be in service of his brothers, though when this didn’t work out, he kept serving them in other roundabout ways. When he lived with Potiphar, he served him too; he did the same as the second-in-command in Egypt. He was a man of honor placing himself in service of others. He was focused outward and not looking for anything in return.
The more you serve others, the more important you become to those people. If you see something on the floor at shul, picking it up is not carrying yourself as a nobody. To the contrary, you are doing what’s right in service of a need. You don’t care if other people look at you oddly and wonder why you’d pick something off the ground.
Alternatively, the lion is the leader of the non-kosher animals. A lion has subjects and yet a lion uses those around him in service of himself. This depicts a different type of leader; one who uses his authoritative role and “leadership” to further him or herself and lord over others.
In life, we can look to others to serve us or we can look to others to serve them. Yosef knew how to lead. For us today, it’s the same. We choose our attitude for life. Choose the honorable road.
Rabbi Yisroel Majeski Beyond Your Limit
The oft-cited question of the Beis Yosef as to why we celebrate the miracle of Chanukah to be eight days, when in reality the first day was not a miracle, is in fact answered by the Beis Yosef himself in three ways. Firstly, on the first day, after pouring oil out of the jar, it miraculously became refilled. Secondly, on each morning, the menorah candelabra itself became miraculously refilled with oil. Lastly, they divided the oil into eight parts and used only one-eighth each night, which burned the entire night.
The question on the third and final answer of the Beis Yosef is how the Jews could have relied on a miracle altogether? On the first night, the Jews should have lit the menorah with the entire amount of oil they had. How could they have only filled it up an eighth and rely on a miracle? Our Sages are clear in many places throughout the Talmud that we “do not rely on a miracle.”
The Gemara (Berachos 20a) states that Rav Papa approached Abaye and asked why was it that the earlier generations experienced miracles, whereas they (the generation of Rav Papa and Abaye) did not experience miracles? It can’t be, continued Rav Papa, that they were greater in their Torah scholarship than we, for we have greater Torah scholarship now than they had then. Abaye explained: “In the previous generations, the Jews were moser nefesh and would give up their lives for the purpose of Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name) through their observance of Torah and mitzvos. However, in our generation, we are not moser nefesh for reasons of Kiddush Hashem.”
When we do experience miracles? When we give up of ourselves. When we push to the limit, then Hashem performs miracles for us. When Klal Yisroel returned from the war where they were moser nefesh with but a few people, they poured in a small amount of oil and thereby relied on a miracle because they were certain there would be a miracle. Given their self-sacrifice, they knew what Hashem would do for them.
We all want miracles in our life, but how do we elicit them? Find an area in your life where you can push yourself, where you can go beyond your limits. Once you do so, Hashem says, “I’ll take over from here and do the same for you.”
Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l was such an example. Whatever minimal physical energy he had left, given his Parkinson’s, he poured into Torah learning and support of the Mir yeshiva. He gave as much as he could and merited to raise millions of dollars for the yeshiva and build a towering epicenter of Torah scholarship.
Someone once approached Rav Chaim Kamil, rebbe of Rav Nosson Tzvi, and said that he must encourage Rav Nosson Tzvi to slow down for his health’s sake and well-being. Rav Chaim Kamil replied, “If a multi-billionaire would give you a blank check, how much would you fill in? It’s limitless. Rav Nosson Tzvi is a blank check. He lives without limits, with unrelenting mesirus nefesh, and there’s no stopping his willpower and dedication.”
When we push ourselves – whether it be in tefillah¸ chesed, kibbud av v’em or anything else – even just over the days of Chanukah, Hashem takes note of it and performs miracles in our lives.
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