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Mikeitz, Shabbos Chanukah: An End to All Darkness

וירא יוסף אתם את בנימין ויאמר לאשר על ביתו הבא את אנשים הביתה וטבח וטבח והכן כי אתי יאכלו האנשים בצהרים.

“And Yosef saw with them Binyomin, so he said to his house manager, ‘bring these men into my home and slaughter for them a slaughtering, and prepare it, for with me these men will dine this afternoon.’”(Bereishis 43:16)

Our Seforim tell us that this verse hints at the Yom Tov Chanukah. The letter ח from “tevach” together with the word “v’hachen” spell the word Chanukah.

It is interesting that Chanukah is hinted at in this verse which discusses the feast Yosef prepared for his brothers. On Chanukah, there is no special mitzvah to feast, the way we have a mitzvah to feast on Purim or on the other Yomim Tovim. The Shulchan Aruch (O. Ch. 670:2) rules that feasting on Chanukah is a reshus – not obligatory. If so, why does the Torah hint at Chanukah when discussing a feast?

There is also the famous question of the Bais Yosef, as to why there are eight days of Chanukah when the miracle only occurred on seven days. After all, there was enough oil for the Menorah to burn for one day.

We must also try to understand from where the Chashmonaim took the strength to overcome the mighty Syrian-Greek army, when they were so few and weak compared to their powerful enemy.

Perhaps we can explain this as follows: One of the first decrees issued by the Greeks was to forbid keeping Shabbos. The G-d-fearing Jews risked their lives to keep Shabbos, and many of them were killed because of their refusal to violate Shabbos even on pain of death. Therefore the holy Shabbos stood up for the righteous and gave them the strength to overpower their enemies. “When Shabbos comes, relaxation arrives” (Rashi, Bereishis 2:2). Because the Jews welcomed Shabbos with mesiras nefesh, they merited to have Shabbos come before Hashem and plead for the Jews, until they ultimately merited the arrival of relaxation and peace.

Since the Jews drew their strength from Shabbos, therefore there is a special obligation to feast on Shabbos Chanukah. On every Shabbos there is a mitzvah to eat three meals, but on Shabbos Chanukah one is actually obligated to go to even greater lengths to ensure there is a plentiful meal. We see in the zemer composed by the Ibn Ezra, that although normally one should abide by the dictum of the Gemara to “make the Shabbos day like a weekday” in order not to take charity, on Shabbos Chanukah one should “sell and work and pawn” in order to be able to buy food for a special Shabbos Chanukah feast.

Now we can understand why the Torah hints at Chanukah in a verse that discusses a special feast, because it refers specifically to Shabbos Chanukah, which was the key merit the Jews had to be able to overcome the Greeks.

To commemorate the role that Shabbos played in our salvation, the sages added another day of Yom Tov; this is one reason why we have eight days of Chanukah.


ויהי מקץ שנתים ימים ופרעה חולם והנה עומד על היאור.

“And it was at the end of the two years, and Pharaoh dreamed: behold he stood on the river.” (Bereishis 41:1)

Rashi stresses on the word “mikeitz,” that this was at the end of a time-period. The Midrash says about this (Bereishis Rabbah 89:1): “He placed an end to darkness.” Although Hashem created darkness, He created an end to it.

Once again, the famous question asked by the Bais Yosef comes to mind: Why do we celebrate eight days of Chanukah when the oil burned miraculously only for seven days?

We can tie all of this together as follows: The Bnei Yissoschor writes that on Chanukah the Hidden Light is revealed. Chanukah neutralizes all forms of spiritual and physical darkness. There are fifty gates of wisdom in this world. The fiftieth gate is the Hidden Light, the eternal and all-encompassing Light. This light is revealed to us on Chanukah.

In the above-mentioned verse, the words: חלם והנה (dreamed, behold) have the numerical value of Chanukah, plus additional fifty five, symbolizing the fiftieth gate of wisdom - the Hidden Light, which is revealed on Chanukah. The remaining five symbolizes the five attributes of Chesed (kindness) and the five attributes of Gevurah (strength).

Pharaoh dreamed about a terrible famine that was about to hit the entire region, a period of great darkness. In his dream, he saw seven cows and seven more cows, and seven stalks of grain and then seven more stalks of grain. Seven multiplied by seven is 49, symbolizing the 49 gates that lead up to the fiftieth gate, the Hidden Light, which has the power to dispel the darkness. The verse that describes Pharaoh’s dream hints at Chanukah. This is telling us that “He placed an end to darkness.” In all times of darkness, Hashem may suddenly dispel the gloom and transform the difficulties into blessings.

The Chashmonaim found a small flask of oil. Along with this small flask, they discovered the Hidden Light. And therefore, on the following year, they established the Yom Tov of Chanukah for eight days, because on the following year they once again sensed that the Hidden Light was revealed on these eight days. They added another day as a special celebration of this Hidden Light, which came in addition to the actual miracle of the oil that burned miraculously for seven days.

May the Light of Chanukah dispel all darkness, and may all Jews be helped with the Yeshuos they need. Those who need a refuah should be healed with a complete recovery, and those in need of consolation should merit a complete nechama; and may we all merit greeting Moshiach speedily in our days, Amen.

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