Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat, November 26 & 27  - Parshat VaYeshev

Torah Reading: Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1 - 40:23) 
Candle Lighting  4:12 PM
Shabbat ends 5:15 PM

Making Light

This week’s parshah of “Vayeishev” always coincides with Chanukah (either it is read on the first Shabbat of Chanukah, or it is read on the Shabbat preceding Chanukah, as is the case this year). This fact that these two events intersect dictates that there is a thematic connection between them.

Before we examine the connection between these two apparently disparate themes, we ought to examine the basis for this assertion that they are indeed connected.

At first glance, this claim—made by none other than the great Shaloh, the seventeenth century great talmudist, kabbalist and moralist—appears far-fetched. How can the Biblical account of Joseph and his brothers that occurred 3,500 years ago have any connection with the story of Chanukah that occurred about 2,200 years ago? Isn’t the fact that these two events happen to coincide, just that—a coincidence?

The answer to this question can be found in the light (pun intended) of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov and Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi (whose anniversary of liberation from Czarist imprisonment we celebrate this Friday and Shabbat) concerning the principle of Hashgacha Pratit-Divine Providence over each and every detail of creation.

Since the world cannot possibly exist without the continuous involvement of G‑d’s creative powers, there is nothing in this world that can possibly escape G‑d’s attention and concern. And while G‑d does not need to be concerned with anything big or small, He chose otherwise. To say that it is beneath His dignity to want to be concerned with the petty details of our lives is in and of itself the greatest insult to G‑d, because that places limits on Him. It assumes that “big” does affect Him because He is big. To say that G‑d is big is no less a diminution of His true elusive greatness as much as saying that He is small.

In short, G‑d chose to be involved in every aspect of creation, though we do not always see His involvement. G‑d also chooses to hide is presence from us and it takes great effort on our part to shed some light on the true nature of existence and the all pervasive role G‑d plays in it.

This process of uncovering the G‑dly involvement in creation is what Chanukah is all about. Chanukah is about light. Every miracle—and especially the miracle of Chanukah—is intended to shed light on our perception of reality; to show us that G‑d is indeed involved.

Torah is also called “Torah Or”-the Torah of Light, because Torah, as G‑d’s wisdom, does not “suffer” from the same opaqueness that characterizes nature.

Whenever two events coincide there must be a connection between them because, as was stated, everything in this world is under G‑d constant supervision. Nothing happens by chance.

If this is true with respect to worldly matters, which generally obscure their true nature, it is certainly true with respect to matters that involve Torah and with matters that relate to Chanukah—both of which are identified with the concept of light. How much more so when the two matters that intersect are the Torah portion and Chanukah!

At this point we must try to understand the connection between the two: Chanukah and our parshah.

The first obvious connection is the theme of Chanukah that quality outranks quantity. The insignificant and ill trained forces under the direction of Yehudah HaMacabbee defeat the overwhelmingly superior forces of the Syrian-Greek Empire. The lone cruse of pure oil lasts way beyond its quantitative limits. So too, in our parshah, Joseph stands alone in his rivalry with his brothers. Joseph then single-handedly saves the world from famine.

But there is also another connection between the two themes of the parshah and Chanukah:

 It is the theme of Redemption.

The miracle of Chanukah, our Sages tell us, was not just about oil lasting beyond its expected time. This oil—the only flask of oil that they could find that was untouched by the heathen Syrian-Greek oppressors—and the light it generated, represents the original light that G‑d created one day one of creation and subsequently concealed—to be restored in the future Messianic Age.

Likewise this week’s parsha—in addition to the rivalry between Joseph and his brothers—contains the narrative of Judah, his relationship with his daughter-in-law Tamar and the birth of their son Peretz, who is the ancestor of King David, the Davidic dynasty and Moshiach himself.

While Chanukah is a portent of the light that will be experienced in the future Messianic Age, the Judah/Tamar/Peretz narrative sets the stage for the person who will initiate the Messianic Age.

Maimonides’ writes that our belief in Moshiach is both a belief in a Messianic Age as well as a belief in a human leader who will lead us into that age. Thus, the intersection of Chanukah with parshat Vayeishev points to the interdependence of the two components of the Redemption: Moshiach and the introduction of the hidden light.

In truth, even the first lesson mentioned above—victory of quality over quantity—is also related to the Messianic Age. This is based on the teachings of the Talmud and Maimonides that even one Mitzvah can tip the scales in favor of salvation for the entire world. No matter how formidable and daunting the darkness can be, one candle can dispel it. We do not need monumental projects to bring the Redemption; every Mitzvah counts, and counts significantly.   

Moshiach Matters 

As we look forward to the bliss of the Messianic Redemption, we must prepare for that new revelation even as we had to prepare for the revelation at Sinai which we commemorate on Shavuot. We must overcome all differences that may lead to dissension and divisiveness, to become as "one man, with one mind" by concentrating on that which unites us, on the common denominator we all share. Peace and harmony among ourselves is assured to hasten the universal and everlasting peace of the Messianic era. (From Living with Mashiach by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet)
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