ויאמר אליהם יוסף ביום השלישי זאת עשו וחיו את האלקים אני ירא
“And Yosef said to them on the third day: This you shall do and you shall live, for I fear the Al-mighty.” (Bereishis 42:18)
ויאמר אליהם ישראל אביהם... זאת עשו קחו מזמרת הארץ...
“And Yisroel, their father, said to them: This you shall do; take from the produce of the land…” (Bereishis 43:11)
We see a striking resemblance between Yosef’s words to his brothers, before he sent them off to bring Binyomin, and Yakov’s words to his sons when instructing them to bring gifts to the Egyptian viceroy upon their return to Egypt. Both use the words “zos asi – this you shall do.” Although father and son were far away from each other, they still spoke with identical words.
What exactly does the word “zos” mean? Simply, it means “this”, but often it means “this” as opposed to something else. The word zos stands for something very important that overrides all other surrounding considerations.
The last day of Chanukah is called Zos Chanuakah, meaning literally: This is Chanukah. It may seem as if we are saying that the last day of Chanukah is the true Chanukah, while the preceding seven days were not part of the real Yom Tov. Otherwise, why would we say of the eighth day that “this is Chanukah”? How do we explain this, when we know that in fact all eight days are part of the same Yom Tov?
The teaching behind the word zos, as it is used in Zos Chanukah and in the two verses above, can be understood with a beautiful little story:
A simple fellow came to the holy Shinover Rav asking for a blessing regarding a personal problem that he was experiencing. The Shinover Rav gave his blessing, but unfortunately, the fellow did not benefit from any miraculous salvation as he had hoped. A short while later, one of the Shinover Rav’s disciples asked for a blessing regarding the exact same problem. Once again, the Rav gave his blessing, and the disciple was helped miraculously. When the simple fellow heard about this, he came to the Rav to complain. “How come he was helped and I wasn’t, when both of us asked for the exact same blessing?” he cried.
The Rav spoke kindly to the man, using a parable to explain what happened: A merchant visited one of his major suppliers and bought loads of merchandise, which he hauled onto his wagon to be taken back home to his warehouse. As he was about to depart, he realized that the wheels of his wagon needed to be greased in order to be able to make a smooth return trip. “Where can I obtain some grease?” he asked his supplier.
“Don’t worry about it,” the supplier generously said. “My servant will be outside in a moment with some grease from my own supply, and he will help you oil the wheels.” Sure enough, a few moments later the supplier’s servant was kneeling beside the wagon, deftly oiling the wheels.
Shortly after the merchant departed, another fellow drove up to the supplier’s warehouse. “I came to purchase some grease for my wagon,” he explained.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have any,” replied the supplier. “Please look for grease in the market square.”
“Hey, I just saw your servant oiling the wheels of that other person’s wagon! How come you sold him grease, but you won’t sell me any?”
The supplier chuckled, quite amused. “That person is one of my best customers. He just bought loads of valuable merchandise, so when I saw that he needed some grease I gladly gave him some from my own supply. But you – you’re not my customer, and I don’t sell grease. I’m sorry, but if all you came here for is grease, you had better look for it somewhere else.”
“Do you understand, my dear Yid?” the Shinover Rav concluded. “Material things are like grease, making our ride in this world less bumpy. But these things are not what we came here for. The other person who came to me for a blessing is a ‘good customer’ of valuable spiritual merchandise. He just needed that blessing in order to have an easier time serving Hashem. In that case, the blessing was fulfilled. But you came just for the grease – just for material things, not because you needed it to help you serve Hashem. All you were interested in was material comfort. But my dear Yid, I don’t sell grease… I sell much more valuable merchandise – the really important things in life. I can offer material blessings as an aside when needed, but those who come only for this type of merchandise are often disappointed…”
If a person stays focused on what is truly valuable, he will never lose himself over a bit of “grease.” Most politics and fighting between individuals, families and communities, revolve around trivial issues, mere “grease.” Those who spend their days in search of valuable merchandise like Torah and mitzvos, do not get involved in petty squabbles.
Yosef’s brothers were jealous, and this led to a long and bitter conflict that caused so much pain to all parties involved. But Yosef’s spirit never succumbed to the suffering he endured. Twenty two years after he was sold into slavery, he tells his brothers: “Zos - this you shall do, because I fear the Al-mighty.” His words implied that “this” – fearing the Al-mighty, is the most important thing. Everything else is trivial in comparison.
Yakov, too, conveyed to his sons what he felt was most important of all: “Zos – this you shall do: take from the produce…” The verse uses the word zimras for “produce.” The word zimras can be interpreted as “song”. Yakov was telling his sons that above everything else, “this” is the most important thing: to sing and praise Hashem, and to stay focused on joyful prayer.
One of the answers to the famous question of the Bais Yosef (as to why Chanukah has eight days instead of seven, since on the first day the Menorah burned naturally due to the oil that was found), is that the small flask of oil was immediately refilled, right after all of the oil was emptied into the Menorah. However, this answer doesn’t resolve the issue, because if we go according to this opinion it would mean that on the eighth day no miracle happened, since the flask was no longer refilled for the next day. Our Rebbes have explained: “True, on the eighth day there was no miracle, but our sages made the eighth day a Yom Tov in its own right, because Zos Chanukah – this is Chanukah! Praising Hashem is the purpose of Chanukah.” After concluding seven days of praising Hashem, we celebrate an extra day to show our gratitude and thanks for the opportunity to sing Hashem’s praises! This is in itself a reason to celebrate.
Yakov and Yosef conveyed this message: “This” is what shall be done – fearing Hashem and singing His praise. If we remember that this is the true purpose of our existence, then all physical hardships will fall by the wayside as we focus on praising Hashem for His goodness, while being grateful for the opportunity to praise Him.