Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Vayeishev - Hanuka
Rabbi Mansour 2010
Shabbat Morning class
The holiness of the entire week is drawn from the Shabbat Kodesh. The holiday
of Hanukah arrives this week, and therefore the holiness of Hanukah begins from this
Shabbat. The same goes for all of the holidays, their holiness is found on the Shabbat
There is a strong connection between the topic of this week’s Parasha, and the
holiday of Hanukah. The Parasha begins with the affection that Yaakov showed for his
son Yosef, and continues with the sale of Yosef and the trials and tests that Yosef
faced in Egypt.
The Pasuk says; " ???? ?? ???? ???? ??? "-"Yosef was 17 years old". What is the
significance of telling us the age of Yosef at this time?? What message is the Torah
conveying to us by giving his age?
The explanation is that by giving us the age of Yosef before he was sold to
Egypt, the Torah is showing us that there were lessons of Torah that Yaakov taught
Yosef. These lessons were crucial to Yosef’s spiritual survival in the debased Egyptian
How can we see this from Yosef’s age? Rashi tells us in last week’s Parasha that
Yaakov Avinu studied in Yeshivat Shem VaEver for 14 years before he went to the
house of Lavan. This was after 63 years of learning Torah in the house of Yishak
Avinu! What was the necessity of learning an additional 14 years by Shem and Ever?!
The Torah that Yaakov learned there was the Torah of Galut. It was the Torah that
taught him how to endure the spiritual attacks of Lavan, and how to fortify himself for
his exile. Shem and Ever were the perfect teachers for this Torah. Shem experienced
the great flood. He endured through a generation that was totally corrupt. His grandson
Ever, lived in the time of the tower of Bavel where the entire world went against
Hashem, but Ever opposed them all and stayed true to Hashem. He was called Ever
which means "other side", to show that the entire generation was on one side (against
Hashem) and he was on the other.
Shem and Ever taught this Torah to Yaakov. It took them 14 years to give it over
to him in its entirety. It was this Torah, and these lessons that Yaakov gave over to his
son Yosef. Yaakov realized with his Ruach Hakadosh that Yosef would need this
Torah in order to survive the impurities of his exile in Egypt. It says that a father should
begin teaching his son Torah at the age of 3 years old. He should begin training him to
say " ???? ??? ??? ??? ". Yaakov began teaching his son Yosef this Torah of Galut (exile)
at the age of 3 years old. As mentioned, this Torah takes 14 years to learn. This would
make Yosef 17 years old when Yaakov completed teaching it (3+14=17). This is why
the Torah gives us the age of Yosef; it is hinting to us that Yaakov taught him the same
Torah of Galut that he himself had learnt by Shem and Ever for 14 years!
The main test that Yosef faced in Egypt was the test of the wife of Potiphar. He
was approached by her daily and he was alone, young, and handsome. This was a
tremendous test for Yosef, in which he battled mightily with his Yeser Hara. The Pasuk
says " ???? ????? ??? "-"and it was the day". Rashi explains that on that day Yosef was
ready to finally relinquish to his Yeser Hara. He was prepared to commit the act, .?''?
Just as he was about to sin, he perceived the image of his father and this strengthened
him to control himself and resist the temptation. This took "superhuman" strength on
Yosef’s part, and it caused a massive spiritual reaction.
Yosef’s resistance from sinning caused a wave of resistance on behalf of the
entire Jewish nation for all generations. He imbedded in us this ability to withstand
temptation and to remain pure and faithful. It was to the credit of Yosef that the Jews
were called ???? ?-? , and were pure from any intermarriage at the time of the exodus of
Egypt. " ?? ???? ?? "-the sea "split for the one who ran". The Sea split in honor of Yosef,
and in honor of the purity of the Jews that were free from any intermarriage on account
What gave Yosef the strength to pass this test? It was the teachings of Yaakov
for those 14 years. It was all for that pivotal moment! That was the moment that
defined Yosef, and enabled him to cause a mass resistance on behalf of the Jews to
the temptations of the Goyim. This enabled the Jews to be redeemed from Egypt, and
saved us as a nation! When Yosef saw his father’s image, it was as if his father was
imploring him "this is the moment we prepared for"!!
It is to Yaakov’s credit that Yosef passed the test, and therefore to his credit that
the Jews were saved from Egypt. The Midrash says that Yaakov Avinu was there to
witness the entire redemption from Egypt including the splitting of the sea. The Pasuk
says " ???? ????? ?? ??? ?????? "-"the Jews saw the great hand" it should have said ?????
(in plural). It said ???? (singular) because it is referring to Yaakov Avinu who is also
called Yisrael. He was there to witness all the miracles. The Pasuk says "???? ????? ??
??? ??????" –that Yaakov saw the great "hand", the word ?? equals 14. The Pasuk hints
to us that Yaakov merited seeing the exodus - and we merited the exodus - because
of the 14 years that he taught Yosef.
The Pasuk in ?? ???? says " ????? ?' ????? ??? "-"your right hand –Hashem- is
glorious in power". The word ?? equals 28. The Pasuk - in singing the praises of
Hashem - shows us that in the merit of the 14 years that Yaakov studied in Shem
VaEver, and his 14 years of teaching that Torah to Yosef (14+14=28) enabled us to
merit this miraculous redemption by staying pure like Yosef.
In Parashat Veyehi the brothers expressed remorse to Yosef, and begged forgiveness
for having sold him. Yosef explained to the brothers that as a result of being sold, he
was able to be faced with the test that he overcame, and as mentioned, this saved the
Jewish nation from assimilation! The Pasuk says:
"???? ????? ??? ??? ????? ???? ????? ???? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ??"
"You thought evil against me, but Hashem meant it as good, to bring to pass, as it is
this day, to save a great nation".
Yosef was hinting to the moment of history when he said: ???? ??? - the same
words that the Pasuk said which spoke of the day Yosef overcame his Yeser Hara. ????
????? ??? ! Yosef was explaining to the brothers, because you sold me I was faced with
the test that I passed and as a result, I saved the entire Jewish nation !?????? ?? ??
The Megaleh Amukot explains that as long as the Jews are pure, and stay away
from assimilation the sin of the brothers’ sale of Yosef is "overlooked". "All’s well that
ends well". Their sin ended up being a source of purity and holiness through Yosef
passing his test. If they had not sold Yosef, he would have never faced this test, and
we would not have reaped the benefits. As soon as the Jews forfeit this holiness and
begin intermarriage ?''? , the sin is "brought back to the table", because there is no
longer the "happy ending" as there was in Yosef’s time.
This leads us to the connection between our Parasha which speaks of Yosef and
his test, and the holiday of Hanukah.
The main objective of the Greeks in the times of Hanukah was to get the Jews to
merge with them. They did not want to kill us, they only wanted us to be like them, and
intermarry with them which would destroy us spiritually. They were trying to break the
imaginary fence created by Yosef Hasadik, and thereby reawaken the sin of the
The first thing the Greeks did after they breached the walls of the holy temple
was to touch, and defile all of the oil that was found. Why would they want to defile all
of the oil? What is so special about oil that they rushed to make it impure?? Oil
represents separation; it is the only liquid that does not in any way coexist with another
liquid. When we pour oil and water in the same vessel, the oil always rises to the top
and separates from the water. The Greeks tried to defile and nullify this barrier that the
The Greeks made a strange decree; they commanded that the Jews inscribe on
a horn of an ox "we have no portion in the G-d of Israel". Why would they want this
written on the horn of an ox?! The ox represents Yosef, as it says (in Parashat Vezot
Haberacha in reference to Yosef); " ???? ???? ??? ?? " (the firstling of an ox, beauty is
his). They wanted the Jews to write this on the horn of an ox- that stands for Yosef - to
try and break the barriers that Yosef set when he passed his test.
They were almost successful. The Jews began to act like the Greeks. They
began to attend their events, and participate in their sports. The Greeks would appear
naked in their activities, and the Jews would copy. They wanted to blend in so badly
that they even performed procedures to cover their Brit Kodesh. However in the end, a
small group of feeble Jews known as the ????? fought back, and saved the Jews from
total spiritual annihilation. ???? stands for ' ?? ???? ????? ? -they were not mighty men as
depicted in the children’s books, they were physically weak as it says "?????? ???
?????" (mighty in the hands of the weak).
How did the ????? have the strength to thwart the attempt of the Greeks to
assimilate us? It was through the power of Yosef Hasadik. The powerful impact
of separation that Yosef had when he passed his test broke through the attempts of the
Greeks to stop it. The numerical value of ??????? the king of the Greeks is 156. This is
also the numerical value of the words ??? ??? (king of the Greeks) 156. The numerical
value of ???? is also 156. This shows that it was Yosef who nullified the attempts of
??????? ??? ??? , and enabled the Jews to withstand the test of assimilating with the
Greeks! We allude to this in the ?? ?????? prayer in the Amidah. We say "????? ?????
?????" -"they breached walls of our tower". These walls are the imaginary walls of
holiness that separated us and them. In the end, the power of Yosef stood for us as we
say: " ???? ????? ????? ????? ????? ??? "-"you made a great salvation and deliverance
as it is to this day". We mention these words ????? ??? again, the exact words used by
the test of Yosef with Potiphar’s wife " !"???? ????? ???
Yosef was thrown in jail (by the husband of Potiphar), on account of his passing
his test, and the Torah call this jail a ??? . We see that as a result of passing the test he
was thrown in a ??? , this is like the ??? that Yosef was originally thrown into by his
brothers which contained snakes and scorpions. Miraculously Yosef was not harmed
by the poisonous snakes and scorpions. Why did Hashem make this miracle (of saving
Yosef from snakes and scorpions), that no one but Yosef knew about?! The
explanation is, that sometimes the prophets do an action to symbolize a prophecy.
With the action, they make the prophecy "literal". Here too, Yosef being saved from the
snakes and scorpions symbolized his being saved from the snakes and scorpions of
Egypt! It was a literal act that pertained to the future. These snakes and scorpions
were the Satan in the form of the tests that Yosef faced in Egypt, especially the test of
the wife of Potiphar.
This explains the connection between two Gemarot in the Gemarah Shabbat. The
Gemarah says that in the pit of Yosef were snakes and scorpions. Immediately
afterwards the Gemarah says that we must light the Hanukah Menorah below 20 .????
What connects these two ideas? One explanation is that the brothers were not able to
see the snakes and scorpions in the pit (this is obvious, for if they were able to see
them, and then see Yosef being saved from them, they would realize that he was a
Sadik and never would have sold him!). The pit of Yosef was 20 ???? deep, we see
from here that the eye can only see clearly up until 20 ???? , therefore we must light the
Menorah below 20 so that it may be seen by all. Another understanding between the
connection of the two Gemarot, is what has been explained regarding the connection
between Yosef and Hanukah. The selling of Yosef - which led to his test - enabled us
to ultimately merit the miracle of Hanukah, and light the Menorah! Yosef passed his
test through ????? ?????? (guarding his eyes). The women would try and make Yosef
look up at them, but Yosef would not raise his eyes. We therefore light the Menorah in
a visible place (under 20 ???? ) where all can see. In the merit of Yosef’s purity of eyes,
we merit a Misvah that can be seen by all eyes!
Where did Yosef get the strength to control himself with the wife of Potiphar, and
thereby merit imbuing the Jews with holiness to separate themselves from the Goyim,
thus saving them at the time of Hanukah?? It was from Yaakov Avinu, as mentioned
Yaakov taught Yosef and fortified him for his exile. When the moment came that Yosef
needed to control himself, Yaakov appeared to him and saved him. The Gemarah in
Shabbat (Daf 36) says that at that moment of Yosef’s test, Yaakov appeared to him
????? -"in the window". Yosef perceived his father’s image in the window, and this saved
him. Why the window?? The word ???? stands for Hanukah. The middle letters are ??
which is numerically 36. We light a total of 36 candles throughout the holiday of
Hanukah (excluding the Shamash). The outer letters are ?-? which stands for -?? ?????
This is why we light the Menorah by a window! We remember that it was
because Yaakov appeared to Yosef in the window, that we merited this miracle of
Hanukah! We light oil with a little bit of water on the bottom to show this separation and
commemorate being saved from the Greeks, who tried to nullify the holiness and
separation represented by oil!
We read this Parasha around the time of Hanukah because it is the Parasha that
speaks of Yaakov and Yosef and the story of his test, which gave us our salvation.
Ezra Hasofer gave a powerful speech to the people of his generation, imploring
them to divorce their non Jewish wives. The anniversary of this speech is this week’s
Parasha. Ezra waited for this time in order to "tap into" the holiness of separation
created by Yosef. Through this speech he was successful in purifying the nation from
When we light the Menorah we should concentrate on this holiness. We should
remember that we are special and different from the other nations. Our dress,
behavior, and general conduct must be different from the Goyim. We are like the oil
that must not and cannot mix with others. "If the Jews do not make Kiddush, the Goyim
will make Havdalah". If we do not separate and be ???? (sanctify) ourselves, and
instead try and be like the Goyim, they well make ????? (separation) and separate us
from them, with force ?''? ! We must remember who we are, and how great our nation is.
This is what the holiday of Hanukah represents.
It is not by chance that this is the most "commercialized" holiday, and the Goyim
are very familiar with our Menorah lighting. They try and merge their holiday with ours,
but this is the exact opposite of what this holiday means to us! It is only us that are holy
to Hashem and only us that will always be!