Mikeitz - Chanukah
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It is noteworthy that parshas Mikeitz always falls out on Chanukah. We may ask what is the connection between parshas Mikeitz and Chanukah?
In this weeks parsha we learn about Pharaoh’s two dreams. In his first dream he saw seven fat healthy cows and seven emaciated cows. The seven emaciated cows swallowed the seven fat cows and remained thin as before. In his second dream he saw seven healthy stalks of grain and seven thin withered stalks of grain. The withered stalks swallowed the thick healthy ones but remained thin and withered as before. The parsha goes on to tell us that none of Pharaoh’s wise dream interpreters were able to provide an interpretation that was to his liking. It was only Yosef who succeeded in correctly interpreting his dreams.
Rabeinu Bachya asks why was it so difficult for Pharaoh’s dream interpreters to correctly interpret the dream? They were known to be the greatest experts in these matters. The dreams do not appear to be all that difficult to interpret. Rabbeinu Bachya answers that Hashem purposely denied them the wisdom of interpreting the dream. All wisdom comes from Hashem. The ability to understand even what seems to be a trivial simple concept is also a gift from Hashem. Here, Hashem chose to deny them the gift of wisdom so that Yosef would come forward and provide the correct interpretation.
In the sefer Davshah Shel Torah the author suggests a novel answer. The culture of Egypt was one of paganism. The Egyptians denied the existence of Hashem. However they were no fools. The Egyptians excelled in the study of logic and natural law. Indeed we see that Pharaoh had at his disposal the wisest of men. According to the rules of logic and reasoning it is impossible for the weak to overpower the strong or for the few to overpower the many. The wise men of Egypt were thus baffled by Pharaoh’s dream. In his dream the weak, thin, emaciated cows overpowered the fat healthy cows even to the degree that there was no remembrance of the powerful fat healthy cows. The same is true with regard to the second dream. The expert dream interpreters were forced to come up with a poor interpretation to make sense of this bizarre phenomenon.
Yosef, on the other hand, introduced his interpretation by asserting that the interpretation of dreams was beyond him. Instead it is Hashem who will provide the interpretation for Pharaoh. Yosef hinted that his rules of logic and reasoning drastically differ from that of the Egyptians. Yosef explained that it is only impossible for the weak and few to overpower the strong and the many when one relies on pure logic and reasoning that does not include belief in Hashem. However, when one believes in Hashem then one’s approach to wisdom dramatically changes. The actions of Hashem are not bound by the reasoning of man. As it says in the posuk “My thoughts are not like your thoughts and my ways are not like your ways” (Yeshayah 55:8).
Yosef explained that Hashem has showed Pharaoh what He plans to do. However when Hashem acts, the weak and few may overcome the strong and many. In this light Yosef went on to explain the obvious interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. Hashem plans to bring years of plenty and them swallow up the good of those years with a devastating famine. Yosef did not only interpret the dreams of Pharaoh but more importantly he introduced Pharaoh to a whole new way of thinking.
Pharaoh admitted that Yosef was correct and thus praised him not only for his interpretation but for his new approach to logic and reasoning. Pharaoh declared “There is no one so discerning and wise as you” (Bereishis 41:39).
We may note that this idea is precisely the theme of Chanukah. During the difficult era that preceded the miracle of Chanukah, the world was subjected to the influence of the Syrian Greeks. The Syrian Greeks introduced what Chazal call Chacmas Yivanins. i.e., Greek wisdom. The commentators offer different interpretations as to the exact nature of this great wisdom, however, all agree that it was an extremely sophisticated understanding of the world which denied the existence of Hashem. They followed in the ways of the Egyptians who relied on their perfect logic and reasoning and also denied the existence of Hashem. The miracle of Chanukah was a revelation to the world that they were wrong. As we say in al haneisim “The mighty fell to the weak, the many to the few.”
In conclusion we may suggest that the miracle of Chanukah is a reenactment of what Pharaoh told Yosef, “There is no one that is so discerning and wise like you.” Yosef’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and the miracle of Chanukah showed the world that true wisdom lies with the Jews who understand that “the foundation of wisdom is fear of Hashem.”
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002