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In the sefer Birchas Av, the author, Harav Avraham Piksler Ztl, notes that in rabbinic literature we encounter seven great people, namely the seven spiritual guests that we invite to our Succah on the seven days of Succos. They are: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aaron, Dovid and Yosef. We also have eight major holidays. They are: Pesach, Shavuos, Succos, Shminie Atzeres, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Hakipurim, Chanukah and Purim. Rav Piksler suggests that these seven spiritual giants correspond to the eight holidays. Based on posukim, Rav Piksler first goes on to show, how all the holidays with the exception of Chanukah and Purim correspond to all of the great personas with the exception of Yosef.
By process of elimination we are left with one great person and two holidays, namely Yosef, Chanukah and Purim. This implies that Yosef corresponds to the two holidays Chanukah and Purim. We may ask, is this not disproportionate for one person to correspond to two holidays? Rav Piksler answers that in truth Yosef had two sons, Efraim and Menashe, and it is they who specifically correspond to the two holidays.
Let us expand on this idea. We know from chazal that Efraim would spend his day toiling in Torah study. Efraim thus fits perfectly with Chanukah where the miracle occurred through the Menorah, which is a symbol of Torah. We also know from chazal that Menashe in addition to being a talmud chacham, assisted his father with government affairs. Menashe, thus fits perfectly with Purim where the miracle occurred through Mordechai who was also an active participant in government.
It is interesting to note that Efraim and Menashe were the first Jewish children to grow up in galus. Likewise, the holiday of Chanukah and Purim are the only holidays that took place in a galus setting. Purim took place during the galus between the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash and the rebuilding of the second. Although Chanukah took place during the era of the second Beis Hamikdash, it was at a time when the Beis Hamikdash was thoroughly contaminated and used as a house of idol worship and was thus in a symbolic sense was a true setting of galus.
Going a step further, let us note that Menasha was older than Efraim. Likewise in the timeline of history, Purim, the Yom Tov that correspond to Menashe came before Chanukah, the yom tov that corresponds to Efraim. The miracle of Purim occurred before the construction of the second Beis Hamikdash whereas the miracle of Chanukah occurred during the era of the second Beis Hamikdash. In addition, the posuk also records Yosefs statement However his younger brother (Efraim) will be greater then he (Menashe). This is true in respect to the two holidays as well. Chanukah, Efraims holiday, although younger in that it occurred later in time, was a greater miracle in that it was above the laws of nature, whereas the miracle of Purim took place within the framework of nature.
We thus see that Chanukah is the holiday of Efraim. It is interesting that in the Torah there is no explicit mention of Efraims actions or deeds. The Torah merely describes his birth and the fact that he received blessings from his grandfather Yaakov. Efraim appears to be nondescript. However, chazal do uncover a statement that Efraim made. In parshas Vayechi when Yaakov became ill the posuk states (Bereishis 48:1) He said to Yosef, behold your father is ill. Here, Rashi asks who was this mysterious person who told Yosef that his father was sick. The midrashim offer many opinions as to exactly who the informer was. Certainly, the most popular opinion is that of the tanchuma as it is the only opinion quoted by Rashi. The tanchuma writes that it was Efraim who studied Torah by the side of his grandfather who brought the bad new to his father Yosef.
Thus the words Behold, your father is sick is in truth according to the tanchuma a quote from Efraim. It is interesting to note that another fascinating Midrash elucidates these same words. The Midrash (Pirkei DiRebbi Elazer) says that until the time of Yaakov no one ever sensed that they were approaching death. Death was sudden. Although people did age and look old they never got sick before their death. Indeed, Yitzchak, Yaakovs father expressed this phenomenon with the statement (Bereishis 27: 2) Behold I am now old and do not know the day of my death. Yaakov contemplated this reality and realized that it was not an ideal. If a person would first get sick and sense that his end is near, he would have an opportunity to make final preparations for himself and his family before leaving this world. Yaakov prayed to Hashem regarding this matter and Hashem was pleased with his request. Hashem responded to Yaakov by saying that you have requested a good thing and I will start with you. Therefore the posuk says here and behold Yaakov was sick. The word behold connotes novelty. Indeed it was, for Yaakov was the first to get sick.
The underlying message of the words behold your father is ill is an acute awareness that time is short or that time is running out. No matter how old a person is, as long as he is healthy, he cannot truly sense the reality that time is running out. Only when one is sick and feels that death is near does a person clearly perceive the reality that indeed time is truly running out. Let us now underscore that based on the aforementioned tanchuma it was Efraim who publicized this novelty to his father Yosef and the world. Thus Efraim also has a strong connection with this message.
By combining all of the above we can focus in on a powerful theme and message hidden in Chanukah. Chanukah is the holiday of Efraim. Efraim is a symbol for the notion that time is short. Indeed, the miracle of Chanukah expresses this same idea. When the chashmonoyim entered the Beis Hamikdash they found only enough oil to burn for a single day. They had an acute awareness that with the limited resources they had, time would run out. The chashmonoyim truly identified with Efraim who likewise brought about an awareness that time was running out for Yaakov. Yet the miracle of Chanukah shows us that when we do bring ourselves to the awareness that life is short and time is running out but nevertheless attempt to do the best we can with what we have then Hashem will respond by suspending time and grant us the opportunity to accomplish far more then we ever thought possible.
May we merit to identify with this yom tov of Chanukah and one day look back at our accomplishments in our limited time on this world and say that they were nothing less than miraculous.