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Miketz, Chanukah: The Miracle of the First Day Chanukah

The famous question is raised by the Bais Yosef, why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days. Since the Jews had found enough oil to burn for one day, then the miracle was only for seven days, but not on the first day?

Let us first preface an intriguing Midrash: “The flowers have offered their scent- this refers to Reuven, who saved Joseph from the pit. “At our doors are all kinds of sweets- this refers to the Chanukah light.” (Midrash Shir Hashirim) What is the relationship between Reuven and Chanukah?

A beautiful story is told about a chasid who was so impressed by the holy services of the Tzadik Reb Zusha, that he became his supporter. Every Rosh Chodesh, he would visit Reb Zusha and contribute funds for the coming month. This chasid was rewarded with success, and he soon became very wealthy.

Once on Rosh Chodesh when he came to visit, the chasid was disappointed not to find Reb Zusha at home. He was surprised to hear that Reb Zusha had left town, to visit with his master, the Great Maggid, the Rebbe Dov Ber of Mezritch. 

Returning home, his wife said: “Obviously, Reb Zusha’s Rebbe is even greater than he. You will be even more successful by connecting with the greater Rebbe instead.”

The chasid stopped helping Reb Zusha, and gave his money instead to the Maggid Reb Ber.

Very soon, the chasid’s fortune took a turn for the worse, and he lost all his wealth. Sensing that this was related to his abandoning of Reb Zusha, he went to apologize, blaming it on his wife’s suggestion, and asked Reb Zusha’s forgiveness.

Reb Zusha humbly replied: “G-d forbid, I have nothing against you. On the contrary, I can’t thank you enough for your kindness in the past.... But let me explain your mistake. Heaven treats us in the same way that we treat others. When you supported me although I am not deserving, G-d gave you even if you were not fully worthy. But when you began to discriminate, choosing only the most worthy, disregarding a lesser person, G-d, too began to question whether you really deserve your wealth.”

This is a general lesson. What a great accomplishment it is to study Torah and observe its mitzvos even when one is not honored or rewarded for his Torah scholarship and observance. The real challenge is to study Torah when it is unpopular, as before the Chanukah miracle, when the Greeks killed anyone caught studying or observing Torah.

It takes great courage and sacrifice to observe Torah and Mitzvos when it is unpopular to do so. This is why converts will not be accepted when Moshiach comes. A convert’s sincerity is confirmed only when choosing Judaism in the difficulty of the Exile.

The same was true with Reuven and Joseph. Surely, everyone wanted to associate with Joseph and gain his favor after he became the viceroy of Egypt. But Reuven extended himself to Joseph long before, at a time when Joseph was despised as an idle dreamer.

Refusing to follow Judah’s leadership, Reuven saved Joseph, knowing that G-d dislikes the high and mighty, for “G-d searches out the persecuted.” With his daring act, Reuven emulated G-d “Who dwells close to the lowly and broken-hearted.”

The first day of Chanukahh is a great miracle to itself. The Maccabees defended Judaism during very harsh times, when G-d and the holy Temple were being desecrated, and the Hellenists oppressed and humiliated Torah-true Jews.

But the few loyal Jews remained steadfast, caring only for G-d’s honor and not for their own. Despite overwhelming darkness, they remained faithful to G-d and his Torah.

The Greeks had defiled everything with their impurity, and had almost eradicated Judaism. Yet there still remained one cruse of purity. Despite the frightening odds, the Torah light continued to burn within Jewish hearts. The Miracle of the First Day shows G-d’s awesome wonders, Whose Light shines forth even in the worst darkness.

The First Chanukahh Light reflects Reuven’s saving of Joseph. “The flowers offered their scent - is Reuven who saved Joseph when he was at his lowest. “At our doors are all sweets is the one cruse of oil remaining within Jewish hearts throughout the darkness.

We kindle the Chanukah Menorah within 10 tefachim to the ground, to show that G-d dwells with the lowly and humble, rather than with arrogant people who pretend to be high and above.

May G-d give us the strength to study Torah and serve G-d with peace of mind, and all good blessings, Umein.

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