Vayeishev - Chanukah
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And it was on that day that he entered the house to do his work. And not one of the men of the household was there in the house. And she caught hold of him by his garment saying “Lie with me!” but he left his garment in her hand and fled and went outside (Bereishis 39:11,12).
In this week’s parsha we learn about Yosef’s great trial. Chazal tell us that Yosef was seriously considering committing this grave sin when suddenly the image of his father appeared in the window and said “Yosef, your brothers are destined to be inscribed on the stones of the Kohen Gadal’s breastplate and you are also destined to be among them. However, if you defile yourself, your name will be erased” (Sotah 36a). It was this vision that gave Yosef the moral strength to resist and flee.
It is noteworthy that the posuk introduces this event with the words “and it was on that day.” This expression connotes that it was a unique day. Indeed, Rashi explains that it was an Egyptian pagan holiday. On this holiday it was the custom for all to go to the pagan temple. The wife of Potiphar pretended to be ill so that she could be alone with Yosef.
Rav Moshe Wolfson in his sefer Emunas Eatechah suggests that this event took place on the first day of Chanukah. (See there for a fascinating elaboration.) He explains that this is hinted to in the Hebrew word the Torah chose for the expression “that day,” i.e., “KiHayom” This word may be broken into two parts “chafh hei yom,” i.e., “the twenty fifth day.” Throughout Chazal, Chanukah is known as “the twenty fifth day,” namely, the twenty fifth day of Kislev.
We may ask what significance is there in this specific that Yosef nearly committed this grave sin? Why this day more than any other?
The commentators tell us that Yaakov died on the first day of Succos. It is significant that Yaakov died on Succos for the Holiday of Succos is closely associated with Yaakov. The posuk also tells us that the Egyptians mourned for Yaakov exactly seventy days (Bereishis 50:3). The commentators note that there are exactly seventy days between the first day of Succos and Chanukah. Considering this we may suggest that just as the Egyptians stopped mourning for Yaakov on Chanukah likewise the spiritual influence of Yaakov begins to wear off on Chanukah.
Yosef was the spiritual product of Yaakov. However on the twenty fifth day of Kislev the spiritual influence of Yaakov began to wear off and thus it was a time that Yosef was spiritually weak.
It is noteworthy that Chazal mention that the image of Yaakov appeared to Yosef in the window. On Chanukah we also find significance in a window. The Shulcahn Aruch tells us that ideally we should place the Menorah on the left side of the door. However the Mishnah Berurah in name of the Magen Avraham writes that when it is difficult to place the menorah at the left side of the door we may place it in the window (Orach Chaim 771:7:38). Indeed, this is the prevalent custom.
Perhaps we may suggest that our observance of Chaukah represents a reenactment of the trial of Yosef. On the twenty fifth day of Kislev we experience the same weakness Yosef experienced. This is especially so because the twenty fifth day of Kislev is exactly seventy days since Succos. Succos is the holiday of Yaakov. Just as the mourning period of Yaakov ended on the twenty fifth day of Kislev, likewise our connection to Yaakov is weakened on this day. The pressures and contamination of our secular environment are so prevelent and we may G-d forbid lose our sensitivity to the severity of sin.
However, suddenly we look up and the image of Yaakov appears to us in the window. The image of Yaakov is nothing other then the light of the Chanukah candles that are placed in the window. The Chanukah candles symbolically represents the likeness of Yaakov. Yaakov suffered much throughout his life, but through the suffering he achieved purity. The same is true with regard to olive oil, the fuel for our Chanukah candles. The olives must be crushed in order to produce the pure oil that will produce the holy light.
When we look at the menorah in the window we recharge the spiritual inspiration of Succos which is the holiday of Yaakov.
The commentators note that Yaakov prevented Yosef from sinning by mentioning what he has to lose if he sins. We would have thought that Yaakov would simply remind Yosef that this act is forbidden. Yet we see that this would not have been enough to prevent Yosef from sinning. Yaakov needed to mention a future event to inspire Yosef not to sin.
If we are correct in suggesting that the light of the menorah is symbolic of the Yaakov’s image, then we may derive that the spiritual inspiration of Chanukah stems from our inspiration of the future just as Yaakov inspired Yosef with the future. Most of our holidays focus on fulfilling the commandments of the Torah or focusing on past events. Chaukah is different. Although we certainly commemorate the miracle of Chanukah our focus is to seek inspiration from the spiritual good that awaits us in the future.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5762/2002