DECEMBER 18, 1998 VOL 2, ISSUE 10 29 KISLEV 5759
Chabad of Northern Beverly Hills, 409 Foothill Road . Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Rabbi Yosef Shusterman 310/271-9063
The Torah portion of Mikeitz relates how Yosef distributed food to the starving people of the "entire earth" during a time of famine. He was able to do so because in the preceding years of plenty, "he placed food in the cities; the food growing around each city he placed inside it." At first glance we may conclude that he placed food inside the city next to which it grew. But this conclusion raises the following difficulties: Why does the verse have to emphasize that Yosef placed the food in the nearest city; would we think he had transported it to a more distant one?! Moreover, why does the Torah find it necessary to tell us where he placed the food?
Rashi answers by explaining that "the food growing around each city he placed inside it" means the following: "Each kind of soil is best suited for certain types of produce, therefore earth from the area [where the produce was grown] was placed together with the produce, keeping the food from rotting." Thus, "he placed inside it" refers not to placing food inside the city next to which it grew, but rather to preserving the food by placing soil from the area in which it grew together with the produce itself - "inside it."
There is a lesson in this Rashi: A Jew's principal "produce" consists of the Torah he learns and the mitzvos he performs. When a Jew amasses a huge amount of "produce," he must know that in order for it to be "preserved," he must surround it with "earth from that place." "Earth" symbolizes self-abnegation, as we say at the conclusion of the Amidah: "Let my soul be [so humble that it is] as earth to all." This feeling of humility and self-effacement makes possible the actions of the next verse: "Open my heart to Your Torah, and let my soul eagerly pursue Your commandments."
There is an additional lesson alluded to by Rashi: the "earth" must be from the place in which the produce grew. This means to say that a person's humility must be "in place." Being so humble as to be defenseless before the blandishments of one's evil inclination, or being so servile that one is stepped upon by all - not least by one's own evil inclination - is described as misplaced humility. In this regard, a person must be "fierce as a leopard and courageous as a lion" - a statement found at the very beginning of the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, and thus crucial to its fulfillment.
With regard to Torah and mitzvos as well, if one is so meek that he avoids leaving his familiar surroundings to spread Torah learning for fear that the outside world may have an undue influence on him, his humility too is entirely out of place. On the other hand, being humbled by the fact that the Torah is G-d's Word, and as such so completely transcends comprehension that in order for a created being to succeed in his studies he must constantly be aware of the Giver of Torah - that is humility that is "in place." Here the Torah teaches us yet another vital lesson: Yosef sustained the "entire earth" during the time of famine. This means that in a time of spiritual famine - a period of ignorance of Torah and things Jewish - it is incumbent upon each and every Jew (every Jew being spiritually termed "Yosef") to provide even those outside his immediate surroundings with spiritual sustenance.
Here Rashi teaches us that the spiritual food which one gives a fellow Jew must be of a permanent nature ("keeping the food from rotting"); he must see to it that the lessons will sustain the recipient all the days of his life.(From: Wellspring, Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXV, pp. 220-226.)
"And Yosef called the name of the first-born Menasheh; for G-d has made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house." (41:51) QUESTION: Why was Yosef grateful for forgetting his father's house? ANSWER: A visitor once entered a presumably kosher restaurant. Unimpressed with the religiosity of the personnel, he began to inquire about the kashrut standards. The proprietor confidently pointed to a picture on the wall, of a Jew with a long beard and peiyot. He said to the visitor: "You see that man up there? He was my father!" The visitor replied: "If you were hanging on the wall, and your father was behind the counter, I would not ask
any questions. But since your father is hanging on the wall, and you are
behind the counter, I have good reason to question the kashrut."
There are many whose only attachment to Yiddishkeit is through nostalgia. They remember their mother's candle lighting, they recall their father's long beard and peyot, they reminisce about their parents' Shabbat table. They proudly tell their children about it, but unfortunately, they do not emulate or practice this way of life. Living among the Egyptians, Yosef was in danger of becoming totally assimilated and adapting to the social life of the upper class. Fortunately, he remained tenacious in his Torah observance. Thus, it was unnecessary for him to nostalgically tell his children about his parents' observance. He conducted his home life in exactly the same way as his father had done and was able to "forget" his father's house and show his family his own home as a living example.(From: Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky)
The Obligation to Illuminate the World : ...Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, recalls the victory -- more than 2100 years ago -- of a militarily weak but spiritually strong Jewish people over the mighty forces of a ruthless enemy that had overrun the Holy Land and threatened to engulf the land and its people in darkness. The miraculous victory -- culminating with the rededication of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem and the rekindling of the Menorah which had been desecrated and extinguished by the enemy -- has been celebrated annually ever since during these eight days of Chanukah, especially by lighting the Chanukah Menorah, also as a symbol and message of the triumph of freedom over oppression, of spirit over matter, of light over darkness. It is a timely and reassuring message, for the forces of darkness are ever present. Moreover, the danger does not come exclusively from outside; it often lurks close to home, in the form of insidious erosion of time-honored values and principles that are the foundation of any decent human society. Needless to say, darkness is not chased away by brooms and sticks, but by illumination. Our Sages said, "A little light expels a lot of darkness."
The Chanukah Light reminds us in a most obvious way that illumination begins at home, within oneself and one's family, by increasing and intensifying the light of the Torah and Mitzvot in the everyday experience, even as the Chanukah Lights are kindled in growing numbers from day to day. But though it begins at home, it does not stop there. Such is the nature of light that when one kindles a light for one's own benefit, it benefits also all who are in the vicinity. Indeed, the Chanukah Lights are expressly meant to illuminate the "outside," symbolically alluding to the duty to bring light also to those who, for one reason or another, still walk in darkness. What is true of the individual is true of a nation, especially this great United States, united under G-d, and generously blessed by G-d with material as well as spiritual riches. It is surely the duty and privilege of this Nation to promote all the forces of light both at home and abroad, and in a steadily growing measure...(Excerpt of a letter by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, www.chanuka98.com)
There are allusions in the Torah to Chanukah, though the events leading up to the festival occurred much later: "In the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the earth... and G-d said, 'Let there be light...'." Light--ohr--is the 25th word in the Torah. The re-dedication of the Holy Temple and the re-lighting of the Menorah took place on the 25th of the month of Kislev. When the Jews traveled through the Sinai desert, they stopped 42 times. The 25th place where they encamped was Hasmona. Mattityahu, the head of the Hasmonai family, led the revolt against the Greeks. The Sanctuary in the desert was completed on the 25th of Kislev, eight months after the Exodus from Egypt. But it was not dedicated until three months later. Jewish teachings explain that the 25th of Kislev was set aside for the future re-dedication of the Holy Temple by the Maccabees.(Taken from Chabad in Cyberspace)
One must at times do more than they can possibly do. For each mortal is endowed with a G-dly soul, and G-d transcends mortal constraints.
The campaign of the Greeks was aimed to "make them forget your Torah and violate the decrees of your will" (p.59); as the Midrash (Bereishit Raba 16) puts it, (the Greeks demanded) "Write…that you have no share in the g-d of Israel." It was a war against G-d. Let them study Torah, the Greeks Implied. Let them practice the justice-mitzvot and the "testimonial" observances. But they must not mention that the Torah is G-d's Torah and the mitzvot are the decrees of His will. Torah and mitzvot must be severed from
G-dliness.(From Rebbe's Hayom Yom, Tevet 2)