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Vayeishav: A Bit of Light Dispels Much Darkness

אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף

“These are the sons of Yakov: Yosef.” (Bereishis 37:2)

Rashi explains this verse with a parable: A flax-merchant came with several camel-loads of flax. A blacksmith who saw the heavy loads of flax wondered aloud: “How will all these loads fit into the silo?” A wise man who stood at the side told him: “One spark from your welding fire will destroy it all.”

At the end of the previous parsha, the Torah lists the knights of Eisav’s nation. Yakov wondered, “How will I be able to overcome them?” So the Torah is telling him, “These are your sons – Yosef.” As it says: “The house of Yakov is a fire and the House of Yosef is a flame and the House of Eisav is straw.” Just like a single spark can destroy an entire silo full of straw, one spark from Yosef will destroy Eisav’s entire nation.

We all know of the famous question of the Bais Yosef, which is actually already found in the Meiri: Why do we celebrate eight days of Chanukah? True, the little flask of oil burned for eight days, but on the first day there was enough oil for the Menorah; there was no miracle involved. For the next seven days the Menorah burned miraculously, so Chanukah should really be only seven days.

We can explain this with the words of praise to Hashem that we say in Al Hanisim: “You gave the many into the hands of the few.” Usually, the more people who fight on a particular side, the more of a chance they have of winning. With the Macabees, a handful of fighters miraculously overpowered a mighty army that was many times their size. The Greeks are compared to darkness, as our sages said: “Darkness is Yavan (Greece).” The Macabees came with the power of light, the light of Torah, and we know of the principle that “a bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.” As Rashi explained, one spark from the bearers of Torah light destroyed the entire load of straw.

Chassidic masters have taught: You cannot dispel darkness with a broom. As much as you’d sweep the room, you won’t clear away the darkness. The only way to dispel darkness is to light a candle. When you light even a tiny flame, it spreads light all over the entire room. It doesn’t merely light up the area taken up by the candle, but its light shines brightly and overpowers the darkness all around. Fire has the power to consume things that are far bigger and stronger than its original size. So too, the Macabees came with the power of light, however small they were, and therefore they were able to overcome the forces of Darkness.

Yosef Hatzaddik symbolizes the power of light. Yosef is compared to a flame; although seemingly small, it has the power to destroy and overcome things that are far bigger and mightier.

This is why the Macabees decided that Chanukah would last for eight days. They were demonstrating the power of a little bit of light, which can overcome so much darkness. The tiny flask of oil that was discovered on the first day triggered an astounding miracle that lasted seven more days. The first day is therefore part of the miracle, because it all started with a “spark” that consumed so much darkness.

When lighting the Chanukah Menorah, we follow the ruling of Bais Hillel to add on another candle each day. This ruling is called mosef v’holech – adding and going forward. When Hashem repays a person for his sins, He is very exact with the punishment. But when it comes to paying reward, Hashem is not as exact and adds on more than the person really deserves. This is why the Macabees added another day to Chanukah, to show us that Hashem’s blessings grow and increase, they are mosef v’holech.

Mosef and Yosef have the same root word – meaning “more.” Yosef’s power, the power of the flame, has the ability to grow and increase, bringing more light every day. May the light of Chanukah dispel the darkness of this long exile, and may the knights of Eisav be consumed by this flame.

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