Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The Meaning of Hanukkah
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

כסליו תשע"ז
Yosef & Chanuka: Is there – can there be? – a connection between them? After all, the story of Chanuka takes place long after Yosef is dead & gone. On the surface, there appears to be no link whatsoever that
could link them.

And yet, isn’t it interesting that for all eternity, we will read the story of Yosef during the days of Chanuka! And there is another hint: The Gemara Shabbat has a short discussion of Chanuka, including the law of how high or how low the Chanukiya may be placed. If it is too high or too low – at the bottom of a pit, for example - then others will not see it & there will be no pirsumei Mitzva, publicizing of the Mitzva. Suddenly, straight out of left field (where I sat during the Cubs game in the World Series, but that's another story), in the mitten d’rinum, the rabbis tell us that the pit in which Yosef was thrown had no water, but it did have snakes & scorpions! Are they winking perhaps at us?!

I suggest: Chanuka, in its essence, is the story of the righteous oppressed, the virtuous underdog, overcoming all the odds & emerging victorious. There was precious little oil for the Menora & yet – because it was pure oil – it
somehow stayed alit for 8 days. The victorious Maccabim were hopelessly outgunned by the Syrian-Greeks, but they were pure in their beliefs, staunchly determined to protect the faith or die trying. "Mi La’Hashem, Aylay! – Who is for G-d, let him come to me!" was their stirring battle cry.

Yosef was desperately alone in Egypt, a slave with no power of his own. Rejected by his brothers, maligned by Mrs. Potifar, he is thrown into one pit after another. Yet he does not lose his faith; he proudly identifies as an Ivri;
he refuses to commit crimes of moral turpitude. For this he is called "Yosef ha-tzadik," one of only 2 people in the Torah to earn this exalted title. He will rise to a position of great prominence that defies all logic. He, too. is pure oil, a valiant Maccabi who shakes off adversity & lights the way.

Yosef is the precursor to another hero inextricably tied up with the Bet HaMikdash. That is David, whose life story remarkably parallels Yosef’s. David is also rejected by his brothers, maligned & abandoned by them, forced to fight for his very life. He faces every possible trauma & crisis, but he never gives up or loses faith. "Though I walk in the valley, in the shadow of death, I fear no evil…..I will dwell in Hashem’s house forever," he writes in Psalm 23.

There are, by tradition, not one but two distinct Moshiachs: Moshiach ben Yosef, & Moshiach ben David. They come from different tribes, & each has his own particular task to perform. But they are united in their common resolve to place their trust in G-d & battle on, firm in their belief that they can achieve the seemingly impossible & unite all the branches of their Jewish family. In Israel, their spirit & their light lives on - look deep into the flames of the Chanukiya and you can see it.

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