Monday, December 14, 2009

Miketz - Chanukah

The Unknown Hero

by Rabbi Gustavo Surazski

Although Passover is regarded as the festival of questions, Chanukah has also earned a question of its own - the famous question known as "the Bet Yosef's question" which seems rather simple at first...

Chanukah is an 8-day festival in honor of the miracle of the jug of oil, which was supposed to last for only one day but burned for eight. But according to this, the miracle occurred for only seven days since there was enough oil for the first day. So one of the eight candles in fact lit up normally and therefore doesn't symbolize any miracle whatsoever! If so, why are we supposed to light candles for eight days on Chanukah? Perhaps Chanukah should really be a 7-day festival instead?

Many solutions have been offered to this puzzle and it is impossible to mention all of them. The "Bet Yosef" himself offers three answers in his book:

. The jug of oil was divided into 8 parts, each for one day. The miracle occurred because each eighth part was enough to burn for one day.
. On the first night the menorah was filled with all of the oil in the jug. The miracle occurred on the first night after the menorah which had burned all night long filled up with oil again, and yet again on each subsequent night.
. Each night, immediately after the menorah was filled with oil, the jug filled up again.

(We should note that, according to the last two answers, the question should then apply to the eighth day, when there was enough oil to light the menorah, and therefore no real miracle occurred).

One of the most brilliant answers I have heard on this subject is a new interpretation by the late Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor HaCohen Z"L. He claimed that this candle was lit in honor of the great priest who did not despair at the time of the desecration of the Temple by the Greeks and hid the jug of oil, fully expecting that the Temple would one day be rebuilt. This "cocktail" of foresight, hope and faith within this one man was a miracle in itself. He deserves an extra candle...

Many people think that the words "dream" and "vision" are interchangeable. But this is not the case at all. To dream and to be a visionary are not necessarily the same thing.

At the beginning of Parashat Vayeshev Joseph has a dream and builds his entire world (or rather, those parts of it under his control) around his vision. Pharoah, in contrast, also has a dream, but he awakens, falls asleep again and continues to dream...with cows.

He also dreams, we all dream, but he doesn't know what to do about his dream. He needs someone to interpret it for him and advise him what to do.

In Joseph's case it is different, The Torah describes him using two different words: he is a man of discernment (Navon) and a man of wisdom (Chacham). These words are also not interchangeable.

A man of discernment is one who can find an answer to any question. Ruling an empire like the Egyptian one during those years of famine requires great intelligence. Even a dreamer can be a clever man.

But wisdom is something entirely different. A wise man is one who does not only make the correct analysis, but also knows how to apply it correctly! It is true that Joseph was a man of discernment, but it was his wisdom and not only his discernment that saved Egypt. .
In the same way it can be said that it is true that a miracle occurred on Chanukah; but this miracle was not created from nothing. Behind this miracle is the unknown hero of the festival of Chanukah: that High Priest who happened to dream that the day would come when the Greeks would be banished from the Temple together with all of their gods. But it also occurred to him to save and hide the jug of oil, so that those who would follow after him could rekindle the menorah when the Temple was rebuilt.

That is the difference between a dreamer and a visionary.

Previous Drashot

Miketz (Chanukah) 5766 - Body and Spirit