Friday, December 26, 2008

Divrei Torah: Chanukah, Mikeitz

The Midrash offers two strikingly different interpretations of pasuk “VaYivaser Ya’akov levado” (32:25), Ya’akov was alone in the camp awaiting his encounter with Eisav. According to one interpretation Ya’akov was alone because he returned for little jugs that had been left behind, small baggage that had been forgotten; according to another interpretation Ya’akov stood alone in symbolic anticipation of the day when G-d’s presence alone will be felt in the world, the day of Redemption. Two opposite extremes of isolation: the idea of being alone in caring for trivial detail and minutia when others have moved on vs. the idea of being alone in seeing the ultimate “big picture” that all else leads to – which one is the truer reflection of Ya’akov’s personality? Rav Kook (Shmu’os haRa’aya) explained that these are not two contradictory images, but are two sides of the same coin. The idea of Redemption is not one of escape from this world into a nirvana of supernatural experience, but rather it is the revelation of G-dliness as present with us in even the smallest and most trivial mundane details of life. It is the same Ya’akov who saw even the smallest jugs left behind as containers of potential spiritual value who stands alone in anticipation and readiness for the ultimate day of Redemption.

The highlight of Chanukah is the final day known as “Zos Chanukah” when we read the parsha of “Zos Chanukas hamizbeiach” (BaMidbar 7:84), “This is the dedication of the altar…” The Midrash (VaYikra Rabbah 21:1) elsewhere draws a connection between the word “zos” and the pasuk “b’zos ani boteiach”, “In this I will place my trust…” Why is trust in G-d highlighted through the word “zos”? The Ba’al Shem Tov explained that almost anything in the world can be referred to as “this.” I can refer to the chair I am sitting on and say I am sitting on “this”, I can refer to my computer and say I am writing on “this”, I can refer to the idea of this vort and say I am thinking about “this.” All these things can be referred to by the same magic word “zos” or “this” because though they may all superficially appear to be very different, they share a common denominator – they all manifest G-d’s presence in the world. Trust in G-d, “B’zos ani boteiach,” is rooted in the fact that there is nothing in the world, whether it is a chair, a computer, or even a little jug, that escapes G-d’s dominion. This G-dly spark found in everything is the little jug of oil, that potential to bring light and good and good into the world, which was found by the Chashmonaim, which was earlier looked for by Ya’akov, and which is the “zos” of “Zos Chanukah” (Sefas Emes Chanukah 5641) which brought redemption in the past and heralds future Redemption.

The Sefas Emes continues that equal to the word “zos” in its potential to refer to everything is the word “kein”. After lighting the menorah the Torah tells us “Va’Ya’as kein Aharon”, “Aharon did it.” No matter what was done, one can say that “it” was done! The reason why is because no matter what was done, every action potentially has some connection to fulfilling Hashem’s plan in this world. The opposite of “kein” is the idea that the world runs mechanistically with no plan and no oversight – “hergel”. The idea of lighting the menorah “ad shetichleh regel min hashuk” is homiletically interpreted to mean that on Chanukah we strengthen our belief in Divine oversight and banish this notion of “hergel” from our philosophical vocabulary.

When the brothers appear before Yosef, as described in Parshas Mikeitz, they protest that they are not spies, “Keinim anachnu lo hayu avadecha meraglim (42:11).” The Sefas Emes explains that we are indeed, "keinim”, we espouse the philosophy of “kein” and “zos”, and reject a world that sees everything as hergel, a world of “meraglim”.

No comments:

Post a Comment