December 16th, 2017

28th of Kislev 5778


Constantly Advancing – the way to go

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"[When] Yosef saw Benjamin with them, he said to the overseer of his house, "Bring the men into the house and [give orders] to slaughter an animal and to prepare, for the men will eat with me at lunch." (Bereishit 43:16)

Parashat Miketz is read every year during Chanukah, and we find that there is a hint to Chanukah in Parashat Miketz, which states, "and [give orders] to slaughter an animal and to prepare," which Hebrew letters (וטבח טבוח והכן) contain the word Chanukah (חנוכה). This is an amazing allusion to Chanukah in the Torah. In any event, we need to contemplate the connection between Chanukah and Parashat Miketz.

As we know, we light the menorah on Chanukah, adding another candle each day to the candles that we lit the previous day, as Hillel taught (Shabbat 21b). Chazal say that this custom was established in all the Jewish communities because it teaches us to constantly advance and grow (מוסיף והולך). It signifies that the service of Hashem is not constituted of a single one-time self-improvement, but one should serve Hashem each day, whereas on each progressive day he enhances his previous service of each passing day. The implication of Chazal is that a person must accept upon himself each day and every period in his life a small resolution, and when he achieves success in implementing it, he should progress further and accept upon himself another resolution. Of course, he must persevere and continue implementing his previous resolution as he advances, and in this way, by constantly growing, he can reach elevated lofty spiritual heights.

Yosef the Tzaddik was in a foreign land far from his father's house, which generated a holy atmosphere. While Yosef was in Egypt, a land of impurity and lewdness, he was faced with harsh and difficult trials, especially with Potifar's wife, who tried to make him sin with her and seduce him. But despite being so far from home, Yosef bravely withstood his difficult trials that came upon him. Moreover, when Yosef was appointed as the ruler over the land of Egypt, he did not become arrogant, but referred all his greatness to Hashem's Divine Providence and told all around him, "I fear G-d" (Bereishit 42:18).

The Torah says that Yosef had handsome features and a beautiful complexion, and yet Yosef was not conceited about his beauty, but guarded himself meticulously from sinning. We need to understand, from where Yosef drew his strength to remain righteous and not deteriorate spiritually, despite all the impurity and lewdness that surrounded him.

We may explain the source of Yosef's strength and devotion to Hashem according to what is stated, "because he was a son of his old age" (Bereishit 37:3) and Rashi explains this to signify, according to the interpretation of Targum Onkelos " for he was a wise son to him. Whatever he had learned from Shem and Ever he gave over to him." Yakov transmitted and taught his son Yosef the entire Torah that he had learned at the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. Thus, Yosef was a master of the Torah, and when one is fortified with the Torah, it is possible to withstand all trials and tribulations; even the most difficult and harshest ones.

The Rambam writes in Hilchot Da'ot (6:1) that it is the nature of a person to be drawn after his environment; in their views and behavior. But this is only true if he is not engaged with the words of the Torah and engaged in its study thereof. When his mind and heart is engrossed in the words of the Torah, and they serve him as a guiding light, this ultimately protects and saves him from sin (Sotah 21a). Yosef carried on proudly the legacy of his father Yakov and remained strong to his commitment to Torah. In this manner he was able to surmount all difficulties that he encountered in the foreign impure land.  

Thus, we can understand the words of Yosef, "and [give orders] to slaughter an animal and to prepare," (וטבח טבוח והכן), implying that in order to slaughter the Yetzer Hara and remove its influence, it is not enough to overcome him only once, since the ways of the Yetzer Hara is to renew itself each day with different strategies to trip up people. Therefore, a person must deal with the Yetzer Hara as is our custom on Chanukah, meaning to "progressively increase," by beating the Yetzer Hara time after time, and only in this way he can conquer it and remove its influence from him. This lesson we learn from Yosef the Tzaddik, who conquered his Yetzer Hara and beat him without mercy time after time. This is why the pasuk states the word טבח twice. It teaches us that one must constantly fight the Yetzer Hara all the time by adhering to the Torah and continue advancing in its studies at all times. This is the connection to the Chanukah candles, which we light increasing progressively.

Walking in Their Ways

Publicizing the miracle

I would like to convey what Chazal say that the lighting of the Chanukah candles to publicize the miracle is not only for people passing by outside, but mainly to become aware of the miracle for himself. One should contemplate the candles and learn from them to constantly progress and advance in his service of Hashem, as we learn from the ruling of Beit Hillel. Just as regarding the candles there is an additional candle lit each day, so too a person should add to the light of the Torah in his heart and serve Hashem with renewed vigor each day, because ultimately this is the obligation of man in this world – to advance constantly in sanctity and purity, as it is stated "ma'alin bakodesh" (implying that one should constantly rise to greater heights in matters of sanctity), and the word "ma'alin" also signifies toil and hard work (as in "amal" – toil).

Not only do the Chanukah candles publicize the miracles that Hashem has done for us, but also the incredible stories about wondrous miracles told about tzaddikim, who rest in peace; they too publicize Hashem's great Name in the world, and consequently listeners become strengthened in their commitment to the service of Hashem.

At the hillula of tzaddikim which is held every year in Morocco in honor of the holy forefather, Rabbeinu Chaim Pinto, ztk"l, zya"a, stories are heard about wondrous miracles from the participants, and the thousands of people attending become elevated and strengthened in their faith in Hashem, and in tzaddikim who serve Hashem. Consequently, they strengthen their commitment to Torah and mitzvot. Among those that joined the hillula was a couple, who came from far away, and they requested to relate the miracle that had been done for them before the entire crowd. With great excitement and tears, the husband told the assembled people their moving story:

Until a few years ago, we were very far from observing Torah and mitzvot, but when we began to join the hilulla here in Morocco, the spark of Judaism was already kindled in our hearts. Because of our participation in this holy event, we slowly got on the right path until we had done complete teshuvah together with our children.

In the course of last year, my wife conceived, to our delight, and we anticipated the imminent birth. However, after a short while, our joy was replaced by grief and sorrow, when my wife got sick and was diagnosed with cancer, Rachmana litzlan. We were anguished and pained and feared for the worst… but my wife, whose faith is deeply rooted in her heart, did not despair from Hashem's Mercy.

One day, she stood in the corner of the house in heart-rending prayer, pouring her heart out to the Creator of the Universe, and she begged that the merits of the tzaddik Rabbeinu Chaim Pinto, zya"a, should stand in her stead to be healed from her illness. Tears flowed freely from her eyes unchecked and she whispered: Rabbeinu, you know that since we joined in your hillula, we did complete teshuvah and returned to our roots. I beg of you, pray for us in front of the Heavenly Throne, and we will strengthen ourselves, with the help of G-d, even more in the observance of Torah and mitzvot…

When she finished her prayer, our faith was strengthened even more in the tzaddik, zya"a, who would surely arouse Heavenly Mercy for us, and Hashem would hasten to cure my wife. And so it was. A few days later, the doctors performed another test and were shocked. My wife was completely healthy! This sanctified Heaven greatly, and we came here to thank Hashem and publicize the miracle.

This is what the husband related to the large crowd gathered at the hillula. Everyone was moved by the incredible story, and by the power of simple faith that can bring salvation for any trouble.

The Haftarah

The haftarah of the week: "Sing and rejoice" (Zechariah 2-4)

The connection to the parashah: The haftarah discusses the Menorah that the prophet Zechariah saw, commemorative of the Chanukah candles which we currently light.

Guard Your Tongue

Not to take action

The entire point of exercising caution, when we suspect that the lashon hara we heard may be true, is only for the purpose of protecting ourselves. But one may not, G-d forbid, take any action or cause any harm because of what we heard. One is even forbidden to only hate him in his heart for this, which is also a Torah prohibition.


Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

The days of Chanukah serve as armament against the Yetzer Hara

When Chanukah falls on Shabbat, we do not postpone it because of Shabbat, which is not the case on Purim, since we do postpone it because of the sanctity of Shabbat, as we find that we are prohibited to read the Megillah on Shabbat. We need to contemplate and understand why the holiday of Chanukah may take place on Shabbat, as opposed to the holiday of Purim which gets postponed if it falls on Shabbat.

We may explain this according to what the author of the Mishnah Berurah (670, paragraph 106) writes that there is a fundamental difference between Chanukah and Purim. As we know, the objective of the Greeks was to desecrate the holy soul of the Jews, but they did not intend to harm them physically, whereas wicked Haman sought to destroy the Jewish nation physically. In light of the difference between these two dark periods, there is also a difference in the way we express our gratitude over the salvation; since during Chanukah, there was a threat to the Jewish soul, we give thanks in a spiritual way of praising Hashem and spreading the light of faith by lighting the Chanukah candles. On the other hand, during the days of Purim, when there was a decree to physically annihilate the Jews, but we were liberated, we express our thanks to Hashem with physical acts of eating lavish feasts and drinking wine, which bring physical pleasure.

Since Chanuah is a holiday which we observe in spiritual manner of praise and thanksgiving, it is not postponed because of Shabbat, since also Shabbat is a spiritual day which sanctifies and enhances the soul. The spiritual level of Shabbat is so great, that even the study of Torah on Shabbat is on a thousand times greater level than the Torah of the weekday (Ben Ish Chai introduction to Shemot year 2). On the other hand, on the holiday of Purim we customarily feast, delighting our physical senses. Since it is not honorable for the holy Shabbat to place emphasis on the physical body, we postpone the holiday of Purim if it falls on Shabbat.

Therefore, Chazal arranged that the Purim feast should not transpire on Shabbat, since Shabbat is of entirely spiritual essence, and even the foods eaten on Shabbat is intended to delight the neshamah yetairah, which we acquire on Shabbat. Who can guarantee that the lavish feasts and abundance of wine consumed on Purim, which are meant to please the physical body, will not ultimately defile the holiness of Shabbat and decrease its sanctity? Moreover, light-headed consumption of wine may cause a "turnabout" by profaning the holy Shabbat, G-d forbid.

Current Events : Hanukkah

Men of insight established eight days

During these days of thanksgiving and praise to the Creator of the Universe, our Rabbis established the eight days of Chanukah as days when our mouths are filled with song and praise for the miracles and wonders that were wrought for our forefathers in those days at this time.

In this issue we will address the famous question of the Maran Beit Yosef [Orach Chaim, siman 670] asking why eight days were established to commemorate the miracle of the lights. After all, there was enough oil in the flask to burn for one night. Thus, the miracle only took place on the seven remaining nights, until more oil was obtained.

There are hundreds of reasons given for this, encompassing all aspects of the Torah, but because of the limited space, we will only list some of them:

The "Me'iri" explains that the first day was established as a holiday because of the victory in the war. On the 25th day, they rested from their battles. It is similar to the holiday that was established on Purim on the day that they rested from fighting their enemies, and the other seven days commemorate the miracle of the lights.

The sefer Eshkol brings that the very fact that they found a flask of pure oil that was sealed with the signature of the Kohen Gadol was in itself a miracle. Thus the first day also commemorates a miracle.

The Beit Yosef himself cites a few answers to his question:

A. The oil from the single flask that was found was divided into eight portions, and each night one eighth of the necessary amount of oil was placed in the Menorah, but yet it burned throughout the night until the morning. Thus, each night a miracle occurred.

B. Furthermore, after oil was poured into the Menorah, the flask remained as full as it had been originally. Therefore, the miracle was evident even on the first night.

C. Another explanation is that on the first night all the oil was poured into the Menorah cups, and they burned the entire night. However, in the morning the cups were found still full of oil. This miracle occurred every night for eight nights.

The "Birchei Yosef" explains in the name of the "Shiltei Giborim" that the Greeks decreed a ban on Circumcision, and this decree was the most difficult decree of all, because it violated the covenant with Hashem. And when the Chashmona'im began to overpower the Greeks, everyone rejoiced over the renewal of the covenant of the Circumcision, which is performed at the eighth day after birth. Thus the eight days of Chanukah commemorate the renewal of the covenant of the Circumcision, performed on the eighth day.

Rabbi Yehudah Zvi Brandwein explains the message of the letters of the word Chanukah as brought in the sefer "Avudraham" that the word Chanukah (חנוכה) is an acronym for the following: ח' (which has a numerical value of 8) represents the eight candles, and the other letters allude to: והלכה כבית הלל (the law is according to Beit Hillel). This refers to the dispute between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai regarding the lighting of the candles. Beit Hillel says that one should progressively increase the lights, by starting with one candle on the first day and finishing with all eight candles on the eighth day, since one should always rise higher in matters of sanctity. And Beit Shammai says that on the first day all eight candles should be lit, and thereafter they should be decreased progressively, just like the offerings of the bulls on the festival of Succot.

We may explain that each one follows his unique path, as the Gemara in Shabbat brings regarding the convert who wanted to learn the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel told him, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof." This signifies that he told him to begin observing the mitzvah of "love your fellow as yourself," which is a fundamental principle of the Torah, and afterwards progress and learn how to apply the entire Torah according to this principle. But Shammai repulsed him with the builder's cubit which was in his hand, signifying that the Torah and mitzvot are like an entire building, and one cannot learn the whole thing while standing on one foot. One must dedicate himself to learn the entire Torah, but he is not obligated to finish it all, and with that he repulsed him with a builder's cubit.  

The Pri Tzaddik brings that the Greeks wanted to uproot from the Jews their belief that Hashem supervises the world with Divine Providence, and to view the world as a natural order, which runs randomly by chance. There were many Jews who were drawn to their way of life, but when they saw the supernatural miracle, against all the laws of nature, they plainly saw how everything is orchestrated by Divine Providence. Even when the world runs in a seemingly natural way, also then it is Hashem Who is orchestrating all events. This is why we recite in the piyutim of Chanukah "Men of insight – eight days established for song and jubilation," implying that since they were men of insight, they realized from the miracle of the lights, that all of nature is really orchestrated by Hashem and therefore miraculous. Thus the oil, which burns according to the laws of nature, is also a manifestation of Hashem's Divine Providence, and in truth, even on the first day when it burned, it was a miracle as well.

Food for Thought

Is there any truth to dreams?

We usually relate to dreams not as something real; as being without substance, as it is said, "Dreams speak falsely."

The sefer "Derech Sichah" brings that once a Jew asked the author of "Kehillot Yakov" why it is stated "Dreams speak falsely," since he dreamed that his brother died, and shortly after it became clear that it was true, since that night his brother died.

He explained to him that this can be compared to a liar. It is not true that a liar never utters truth, since when he is hungry and he says that he wants to eat, he is really speaking truth. But when we call someone a liar we mean that the person generally lies, and not that everything he says is false.

In this matter too of "dreams speak falsely," it means that we cannot rely on them, but certainly it is possible that they may be true sometimes!

Men of Faith

Chazal warn, “Be careful with the children of the poor, because from them Torah will emerge.” Rabbi Chaim would constantly repeat these words, not only uttering them, but truly living by them. He would always be found in the company of the poor and needy. He preferred sitting among them rather than sitting amidst the rich and prominent. He constantly offered his assistance to the poor people in every matter.

Every day, he would go visit poor families, who ate only vegetables or bread accompanied by a cup of beer. He would dine with them, partaking of their simple meals, in order to demonstrate that he preferred their meager portions to the delicacies and choice meat of the wealthy.

At the end of his visit, Rabbi Chaim would customarily bless the family members, especially the head of the household, and offer words of encouragement, declaring that he enjoyed his meals with them more than the banquets of the more affluent people. He would also add that fear of Heaven is acquired specifically through suffering, poverty, and pain. Moreover, it is known that precisely from poor people, great Torah scholars emerge, as is told about the Tanna, Rabbi Yehuda bar Ila’i, that six of his students would share one tallit.

Rabbeinu adds, “Many people have told me that this was his custom; to always eat among the poor people, sitting on the floor as they did.”


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