Dream High but Walk Low
Parshas Mekeitz - Chanukah
Dream High but Walk Low
Shelly could not get it off his mind. For days now he had been having repetitive dreams. He knew it meant something, but he could not figure it out. The tangible feeling that something ominous was about to happen propelled Shelly to turn to one of the twenty-four dream interpreters living in Yerushalayim.
However, there were parts of his dream that Shelly was embarrassed about. Sharing them with a professional dream interpreter might reveal that Shelly was actually thinking those thoughts during his waking hours. Therefore, Shelly intentionally changed some of the facts around and hoped for the best.
But this dream interpreter was tops in his field. Detecting a lie, the dream interpreter asked Shelly, "When are you going to tell me the truth?" Eventually, the truth came out and the dream interpreter was able to decipher its meaning and advise Shelly in a way which avoided a major tragedy.
Dreams have fascinated people since time immemorial. Is God communicating with me in my sleep? Are demonic forces playing with my mind? Or, are dreams just a result of something I ate the night before?
Our parsha serves as one of the sources of dreams in the Torah. Pharaoh's heart beat in his chest with trepidation. As the king of the world's super power of the time, he could tell that his dreams had global implications. This is why he rejected the Egyptian dream interpreters who claimed that Pharaoh's dreams carried only personal consequences.
For the life of him, Pharaoh could not figure out what he was being told. Finally, the royal butler told Pharaoh that there was a Hebrew prisoner named Yosef who had interpreted his dream and that of the royal baker perfectly. Maybe Yosef could help his majesty as well.
Yosef was rushed out of jail. Within moments, Yosef stood before Pharaoh clean, shaved, and well dressed. Pharaoh began relating his dreams to Yosef, however, in doing so, he changed some of the facts.
For example, in Pharaoh's first dream, he saw himself standing OVER the river (Gn. 41:1). But when Pharaoh related the dream to Yosef, Pharaoh said that he saw himself standing on the BANK of the river (Gn. 41:17). What is the difference between standing OVER the river as opposed to on the BANK of the river? Why did Pharaoh recount the dream inaccurately? What was Pharaoh hiding?
A Midrash will help reveal what was going on. It says that wicked people stand OVER their gods, whereas by righteous people, God stands over them (Bereishis Rabba, 89:4). The word "stand" can also mean "understand." (See, for example, Gittin, chap. 4, "Hasholeach", pg.43a; Avodah zarah, chap. 1, "lifnei Eidehen", pg. 5b where it says that a person cannot "stand" on Torah until he stumbles in it first, or, a person cannot "stand" on the knowledge of his Rebbi until he learns by him for forty years. In these contexts, the word "stand" means "understand." Isn't it interesting that the word "stand is found within the word "understand?")
Therefore, when the Midrash said that wicked people "stand" over their gods, it means that wicked people "understand" their gods. This is because idolaters worship the natural system. For example, they worship the stars. But, there is a science to the stars. Idolaters are familiar with that science. Therefore, they understand the very stars that they worship. This understanding of their gods leads idolaters to arrogance. They feel that they might know their gods better than the gods know themselves.
However, righteous people never claim to understand Hashem. Hashem is infinite and endless. The righteous realize that they could never understand God's essence. Like it says in Psalms, "God is beyond investigation" (145:3). As righteous people delve into understanding God, they simultaneously realize that there is so much more that has not yet been discovered. The righteous do not "stand" over God, rather, God "stands" over them Shvilei Pinchas).
This reminds me of a story where a Jewish man complained to the Kotzker Rebbe saying, "I don't understand God." The Kotzker responded, "A God that I can understand, I do not need!"
This is why every tractate of Talmud begins on page 2. There is no page 1. Why? This teaches us that after completing the tractate, we have to feel as though we haven't even begun!
Righteous people are always praying, "Open for me the gates of righteousness" (Psa. 118:19). In other words, righteous people feel as though they haven't even begun to understand. They feel as though they are still standing outside. Therefore, they beg Hashem to open the gates of understanding.
Think about it. We are talking about the righteous people over the generations. These are very deep scholars. They accomplished so much. Yet, they claim that, at best, they have only taken a drop out of the ocean. That drop contains a lot within it. But look at the ocean that remains. The righteous do not "stand" over God, God "stands over them. This leads to humility.
Pharaoh complimented Yosef as having the ability to interpret dreams (Gn. 41:15). This compliment was intended to imbue Yosef with a similar arrogance that Pharaoh had. I guess misery loves company.
Yosef rejected the compliment. Yosef said that it is only God who can interpret dreams (Gn. 41:16). When Pharaoh saw that Yosef was humble, he became embarrassed at his own arrogance. Like a monkey who tries to mimic a person, Pharaoh attempted to present himself as a righteous person filled with humility (Zohar, Terumah, pg. 148b).
This is why Pharaoh said that he saw himself standing at the BANK of the river. Pharaoh claimed that he too, like Yosef, could never understand his god. Pharaoh said that he could never stand OVER the Nile, implying an understanding of the god, but rather stood on the Bank of the Nile, suggesting that he has not even "entered the water", meaning, he has not even begun to understand his god. Pharaoh was feigning humility.
In Psalms (81:6) there is a verse which talks about Yosef in Egypt at the time that he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. In that verse, his name is not "Yosef", but "Yehosef." The letter "hey" added to his name indicates Yosef's humility. This is because the letter "hey represents humility. This can be seen in several ways.
First, the letter "hey" is the only letter the does not require any movement of the mouth. The sound of a "hey" is heard just by breathing. Without even trying to pronounce the letter "hey", we are doing so anyway. This teaches us that we are not in control, God is (Zera Kodesh, Vaeschanan).
Moreover, the breath which makes the sound of the letter "hey" is called "hevel." "Hevel" is also used to mean futility (Ecc. 1:2). Once again, the "hey" represents nothingness and humility (Zera Kodesh).
Additionally, there are three spellings to the letter "hey." They are: hey aleph; hey yud; and hey hey. When you take the last letter of these three spellings, it spells the word "ayey" (where). The word "ayey appears in the sentence, "Ayey mikom kivodo" (where is the place of His honor; Kedusha, Mussaf, Shabbos). This means that after serving God for so many years, we still ask, "Where is He?" We still feel like we have not found Him. We still feel like we haven't even begun. Once again, the letter "hey" represents humility (Zera Kodesh).
Furthermore, the shape of the letter "hey" is made up of two other letters. They are, dalet and yud. Each one of these letters represents humility as well. The dalet is spelled, dalet, lamed, tuf. When the vowels are changed, this spells "delet" (door), representing one who feels like he is still standing outside the door and hasn't even entered the gates of understanding. The letter yud is the smallest of the letters. Therefore, it too represents humility (Shvilei Pinchas).
God created the world using the letters "yud" and "hey", teaching us that Hashem wants a world of humility (Menachos, chap. 3, "Hakometz", pg. 29b, Reb Yehuda bar Reb Ilai; Isa. 26:4).
Parenthetically, this explains why God added a letter "hey" to Avraham's name (Gn. 17:5). Prior to that, his name was just "Avram. "Avram" is a name of arrogance because, when broken into two words it spells, "Av Ram" (father of highness). This represents one who thinks that he is on top of the world.
Who gave him that name? Terach his father. It figures. Terach was an idolater. As such he was filled with arrogance because he understood the nature of the very idols that he worshiped. Therefore, he gave his son a name which represented arrogance.
Although Avraham was raised in an arrogant society, he worked on himself to be humble, as he testified about himself, "I am but dust and ash" (Gn. 18:27). Hashem said that the name "Avram" was no longer fitting a man of such humility. Therefore, Hashem added the letter "hey" to his name. The letter "hey" of humility would better define Avraham's nature. The letter "hey" was intentionally place between the letters reish and mem of the name "Avram" (which spells "ram"; high) to break the name of arrogance completely.
This is why if a person calls Avraham "Avram", he transgresses a positive and negative command in the Torah (Berachos, chap. 1, "Mei-ay masai", pg. 13a). This is because God hates arrogance. (By the way, this applies to anybody whose name is Avraham, because all Avrahams were named after the first Avraham. I heard this directly from my Rebbi, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg ZT"L).
This entire teaching is connected to Chanukkah. In the Al Hanissim prayer of Chanukkah, it says that the Greeks tried to make the Jews forget their Torah. This is difficult to understand. How can anybody make anybody forget his knowledge? Yes, a person can become ill and forget things. However, a healthy person who acquired knowledge owns it. How can you make him forget it? The more you tell him not to think about something, the more he thinks about it.
Let us analyze what the Greeks represented. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba, 2:4, Reish Lakish) says that the "darkness" (Gn. 1:2) typifies the Greeks. This is because they "darkened" the eyes of the Jewish people with their harsh decrees. One of those harsh decrees was that the Jews had to write on an ox's horn that they had nothing to do with the God of Israel. What was the darkness of the Greeks? Why did they force us to write that we have nothing to do with the God of Israel specifically on the horn of an ox?
The Greeks believed that the plants governed the events on Earth. The Greeks wanted the Jews to believe in the planets as well, not in Hashem. There is a hint which points at the Greek belief in planets. The Hebrew word for the Greeks is "Yavan." The word Yavan is numerically 66, which is the same exact numerical value of the Hebrew word for planet which is "galgal." This numerical equivalency teaches us that the Yevanim believed in the galgalim (Bnei Yissaschar, Kislev-Teves, 4:47).
They were mistaken. God controls the planets and their movements. This is hinted to in the first of the Ten Commandments which says "I am Hashem Elokecha (your God; Ex. 20:2). The word "Elokecha" is also numerically 66, teaching us that Hashem Elokecha controls the galgalim (Sfas Emes, Chanukkah).
The planets have a science to them. The Greeks were experts in planetary science. This made them feel extremely proud, because they understood the very gods which they worshiped. Convincing the Jews to believe in planets, would result in the Jews becoming arrogant as well. Jews would also understand the science behind planetary motion and begin to feel very proud of themselves.
Once the Jews would become arrogant, they would automatically forget their Torah because it says that any person who becomes haughty will lose his wisdom (Pesachim, chap. 6, "Eilu Devarim", which just happens to be found on pg. 66b!). This was the method the Greeks tried to implement to make us forget the Torah.
Perhaps we could suggest why the Greeks wanted us to write that we had nothing to do with the God of Israel specifically on the horn of an ox. The verse says that an ox knows its owner (Isa. 1:3). Meaning, an ox knows who feeds it. An ox knows who butters its bread. Therefore, an ox represents recognizing THE MASTER, THE OWNER, THE PROVIDER, HASHEM. Forcing us to deny God specifically on an ox was intended to destroy the power of the ox which is the power of remembering Hashem.
Now we can understand why our sages instructed us to light the Chanukkah candles specifically outside the front door of the house (Shabbos, chap. 2, "Bameh Madlikin", pg. 21b). Chanukkah candles represent the light of Torah which is intended on dispelling the darkness of Yavan. The darkness of Yavan is arrogance. By lighting outside the front door of the house we are filling ourselves with humility by declaring that we haven't even entered the door of understanding.
Placing the Chanukkah candles opposite the mezuzah (Shabbos, chap. 2, "Bameh Madlikin", pg. 22a, Rav Shmuel M'Difti) is also meant to encourage humility. In order to become humble, we must think about two things. One is to think about the greatness of Hashem. Compared to Hashem's greatness, we will start to feel very small. The other is to think about our own shortcomings and limitations. This will also keep the ego down.
The mezuzah and the Chanukkah candles represent these two perspectives. The mezuzah must be placed on the lower part of the upper third of the door post (Shulchan Aruch, Yora Deah, 289:2). This is pretty high up the door post, representing Hashem Who is Most High. In addition to that, the mezuzah points upward, to God, stating that Hashem is transcendent, way beyond our capabilities of understanding. The mezuzah is meant to remind us of just how great God is. This is one method which will make us feel inadequate.
However, the Chanukkah candles should preferably be placed between three and ten tefachim (a tefach is the average size of a man's fist. Approximately 4 inches. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 671:6) off of the ground. This is pretty low down the door post. The Chanukkah candles are supposed to remind us of our own deficiencies, which is a second way of decreasing our egos.
Both of these mitzvos work as a team, helping us achieve humility. The positioning of these two mitzvos specifically outside the front door, solidifies the message of humility by reminding us that we must always remember that no matter how much we do know, it is like we haven't even entered the door of understanding. We should realize that it is like we are still standing outside.
The Shelah (Mikeitz-Chanukkah) says that the Hebrew word Chanukkah can be broken into two words, spelling "Chanoch - hey" (educating ourselves about the letter hey). This means that the essence of Chanukkah is to cultivate the lesson of humility represented by the letter hey (Shvilei Pinchas).
The Shvilei Pinchas adds that the doorway of the house forms the shape of the letter hey. This is because we do not measure the size of the door posts based on the actual size of the door posts. Rather, we measure the size of the door posts based on the mitzvah affixed to each side.
The mezuzah is attached to the upper part of the right door post. Therefore, the right door post will be considered a high door post, which is similar to the right leg of the letter hey. However, the Chanukkah candles are placed by the lower part of the left door post. Therefore, the left door post will be considered a low door post, similar to the left leg of the letter hey.
One way to apply this teaching, in a practical way, would be to sing the song "Pischu Li Sha'arei Tzeddek" (open up the gates of righteousness) by the front door after lighting the Chanukkah candles. During the singing of this song, think that we are asking Hashem to open up the gates of understanding because we realize that we are still standing outside the doorway of understanding.
So, my dream is that we all be blessed this "Chanoch-hey" to absorb the flame of Chanukkah at our "delet"-doorways which will dispel the darkness of those Greeks and their galgalim, enlightening us to the greatness of Hashem Elokecha, putting us in our places.