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Beit Hamidrash

Chanukah and Perashat Vyeshev

By: הרב חגי רביב

A short article that showes the connection between Chanukah and the Parashah!

Parashat Vayeshev begins with a textual difficulty which the Parshanim deal with at length. The Pasuk at the beginning of Parash Vayeshev says:

:"אלה תולדות יעקב יוסף בן שבע עשרה שנה היה רועה את אחיו בצאן"

The word "תולדות" as it is usually translated in the bible, the generation or descendants of, introduces a listing of people and their progeny. This explanation does not fit within the context of the beginning of our Parsha. The Torah is not about to list Yaakov and his children.After all this was already discussed last week. If so, how are we using the word תולדות at the beginning of the Parasha?

The Rashbam tries to broaden our definition and use of the word "תולדות". He explains that although we do not immediately list Yaakov and his descendants the focus of the Parasha which will be discussed  later is the children of Yehuda and Tamar as well as Yosef and Osnat. The Problem with this Rashbam is that he seems to overlook what seems to be the main focus of the beginning of the Parasha, the episode of Yosef and his brothers which will eventually bring the Jewish people into slavery in Egypt.

The Ibn Ezra and the Sforno translate the word "תולדות" as episodes. While this may be a fitting introduction to our Parasha, there is what to ask on this explanation as well. Why here of all places do we need an introduction. There have been many incidents and affairs that have involved the Avot over the last weeks why only now do we need this preface?

Perhaps we can explain for the Ibn Ezra that there is something particularly unique about the events dealing with Yosef and his brothers. There are two perspectives to consider as we reach this story. There is the perspective of the informed reader who is already familiar with the story. The reader can appreciate how each and every link in the chain of events took place in order to lure Yaakov and his sons into Galut. The reader can recognize the actions that were necessary for a family to become a nation. The reader always has in the back of his or her mind the Pasuk of, "ונראה מה יהיו חלומותיו" we will see what will come of his dreams. As well, the reader can comprehend Rashi's chilling words, "רוח הקודש אומרת כן. נראה דבר מי יקום או שלכם או שלי" this was said Ruach Hakodesh, Hashem said the brothers would see just whose will would prevail.

However, there is another perspective to be considered. There is the perspective of the members of a family who deal with episodes of pain, tragedy, fear, redemption, and hope. Yaakov and his sons could not see the big picture as they traversed through these events. Yosef and his brothers could not determine that these events would turn their small family into a nation.

The Torah wants us to approach this story, these episodes, with both perspectives. We must read these Parshiyot from the perspective of those involved. However, it is important that we view these events from the viewpoint of the reader who can see the big picture. The ability of Yosef to achieve his dreams or to build a home after sitting in jail can inly be truly valued when we look at the entire story from start to finish. From this vantage point we see that these were not just independent episodes or events. As Rashi says               "ואביו שמר את הדבר - היה ממתין ומצפה מתי יבוא"  when Yaakov heard the dreams of Yosef he anxiously awaited the day that they would come true.

These two perspectives are important for Chanukah as well. The Maharal explains that the miracle of the oil was merely executed to remind us that the military victory too was miraculous and from the Hashem. The military victory could have easily been celebrated as just a brilliant military strategy and valiant fighting. However, the military victory only took place because Hashem allowed it to happen. Similar to Yaakov and his sons, Yehuda and the Maccabim recognized that the miracles of Chanuka were not random chronological episodes and events.

As the descendants of Yaakov and his sons as well as Yehuda and the Maccabim, it is our challenge to try and see past the seemingly incidents and individual episodes. We must be cognizant that we are the characters in the ongoing story of the building am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, It is only through this perspective that we will find the ability to continue in reaching our goals.