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Mikeitz: The Lesson 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 was standing on the river.”

The commentators point out that this verse hints at Chanukah, which always coincides with this parsha. The word shnasayim (two) stands for the Hebrew words that mean: “On the left side the candles should be lit; on the right is the mezuzah.”

What is the connection between the mitzvah of mezuzah and Chanukah? Why do the sages emphasize the seemingly incidental fact that the menorah is placed across from the mezuzah?

We are all familiar with the famous question of the Bais Yosef, who asks why there are eight days of Chanukah. The Chashmonaim had enough oil to light the menorah for one day, but it burned for eight days. This means that for seven days it burned through a miracle. If so, the Yom Tov should be for seven days.

The Rambam writes about the fast days that commemorate various misfortunes that befell our people: “Why do we have to fast due to things that happened thousands of years ago? The main purpose of the fast is not about the past but it is intended to awaken us to do tshuva and repent. This is the real reason why we are required to fast.”

We can assume that the same applies to the Yomim Tovim as well. When our sages designated seven days of praising Hashem for the miracles He performed in the times of the Maccabim, the purpose wasn’t only to celebrate our past victories. The real meaning of the Yom Tov is to light up our souls with love and thanksgiving to Hashem. The purpose of the holiday is to fill ourselves with kedusha and reinforce our commitment to living a life of Torah.

This may well be why the sages determined that Chanukah should last for eight days, instead of seven. The first seven days are to thank Hashem for the miracles He performed in the past, and another day is added to show that this is not all that Chanukah is about. Chanukah is about taking this inspiration a step further and living our lives with this heavenly light. The last day of Chanukah is called Zos Chanukah, which means “this is Chanukah.” This, indeed, is the true purpose of Chanukah. The lesson of the eighth day, which shows us that Chanukah is not just about praising Hashem for past miracles, is the real lesson of this light-filled Yom Tov.

The mitzvah of mezuzah symbolizes a strong connection with Hashem. Rebbe Eisik of Ziditchov once said during an engagement celebration: “In the engagement contract the young couple signs that ‘They will not withdraw, lo zeh m’zu v’lo zu m’zeh - not he from her nor she from him.’ We see the word mezuzah in this declaration. Just as the chosson and kallah are bound to each other, so too we are bound to Hashem with the mitzvah of mezuzah.”

The above-mentioned verse in Mikeitz says: “And it was at the end…” As the beautiful Yom Tov Chanukah approaches its end, we should look at the hidden message in the next word of the verse: shnasayim - on the left side the candles should be lit; on the right is the mezuzah. The left side symbolizes weakness and distance. Even if we are spiritually weak and distanced from Hashem, the candles should be lit, and it should be lit with the intention of filling ourselves with Hashem’s light, now and for the future. Chanukah is not just for praising Hashem about past miracles, but it should be used to come towards the right, towards the mezuzah, which symbolizes our connection to Hashem which lasts forever.

“And Pharaoh dreamed; behold he stood on the river.” The word yaor – river, as used in this verse, has the same root as the word ohr- light. Our entire lives are but a dream; our physical existence is merely an apparition that evaporates in the blink of an eye. The only things that last are mitzvos and other spiritual endeavors. He stood on the river – the only things that stand forever are those things that bring light to the world.

In the merit of coming closer to Hashem and filling ourselves with His light, may all Jews be helped with whatever yeshuos and refuos the need. And may we merit greeting Moshiach speedily, in our days, Amein.

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