Hands Down the Top Five

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Mikeitz - Chanukah
Hands Down the Top Five

As the story of Yosef and his brothers unfold, we find that Yosef gave Binyamin five times the amount of gifts that he gave to his other brothers, on two different occasions. The first time appears in this week's portion, Mikeitz, where Yosef gave Binyamin "Chameish Yados" (five times as much) than the other brothers' portions (Gen. 43:34).

The second time appears in next week's portion, Vayigash, where Yosef gave Binyamin "Chameish Chalifos Simalos" (five changes of clothing) whereas the other brothers only received one change of clothing each (Gen. 45:22).

When Yosef gave Binyamin "Chameish Yados", he was hinting to Binyamin that the Jews would be victorious over the Greeks in the Channukah story. We can see this from the text of the "Al HaNissim" prayer said on Channukah where the word "Yad" (related to "Yados") appears five times. It reads, "You delivered the powerful into the "Yad" (hands) of the weak, the many into the "Yad" of the few, the impure into the "Yad" of the pure, the wicked into the "Yad" of righteous, and the insolent into the "Yad" of those involved in the study of Torah".

When Yosef gave Binyamin "Chameish Chalifos Simalos" he was hinting to Binyamin that the Jews would be victorious over Haman in the Purim story where Mordechai left the presence of the king dressed in royalty. There are five (Chameish) types of clothing (Simalos) that Mordechai wore: "Turquoise, white, a large gold crown, a robe of fine linen, and purple (Est. 8:15). (See Kedushas Levi, Pirushei Aggados, "Vateirev"; Avodas Yisrael, Mikeitz, "Vayisa"; Tiferes Shlomo, Channukah, "Vateirev"; Meggilah, chap. 1, "Meggilah Nikreis", pg. 16a)

If Binyamin received "Channukah and Purim gifts", he must have been very connected to these two holidays; and he was. Binyamin was connected to Purim because the two heroes of that story, Mordechai and Esther, were both from the tribe of Binyamin (Est. 2:5 and Rashi there; Est. 2:7).

Binyamin was also connected to Channukah because the "Heichal" (sanctuary) part of the Temple was in Binyamin's portion of Eretz Yisrael (Deut. 33:12; Yoma, chap. 1, "Shivas Yamim", pg. 12a, citing a Bereisa). The "Heichal" contained three vessels. The inner alter, the table of show bread, and the Menorah.

When the Greeks entered the "Heichal, they made all the oil impure (Shabbos, chap. 2, "Bameh Madlikin", pg. 21b). By trespassing the Heichal, Binyamin's territory, the Greeks were making a statement, namely, that they were attacking the portion of Binyamin. When later the Hasmoneans cleansed the "Heichal", ("Al HaNissim" text) they fixed the portion of Binyamin (Shvilei Pinchas).

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that when Yosef gifted Binyamin with these specific items, he wanted to awaken and activate Binyamin's inner holiness, in order that Binyamin pray on behalf of his descendants so that they overpower the forces of evil in each perspective generation.

Since nobody can give a gift that he himself does not possess, then, obviously, Yosef was also connected to Channukah and Purim. Yosef received the inner teachings of these two holidays from his father Ya'akov. When Ya'akov paid two extra coins for Yosef's cloak, more than he paid for the cloaks of his other sons, he bought two extra strips of silk that Yosef wore as two stripes on the sleeve, indicating a higher rank than his other brothers.

These two stripes of silk represented the teachings of the two holidays, Channukah & Purim, that Ya'akov taught Yosef. Ya'akov only taught Yosef about Channukah & Purim because he knew that Yosef would be able to understand their depth. Since Ya'akov knew that his other sons would not be able to grasp the teachings of Channukah & Purim, he never bothered teaching them about it. (Chassam Sofer, Derushim Va'aggados, pg. 138, "Vihinei")

Since Yosef received Channukah & Purim from Ya'akov, he was able to give Binyamin gifts that were connected to these two holidays. It is also interesting to point out that specifically the sons of Rachel were connected to Channukah and Purim, and not the sons of Leah. The reason for this will become clarified as we proceed.

The Pri Tzaddik (Channukah) teaches us what the Greek objective was. In the "Al HaNissim" prayer it says that they wanted us to forget Torah. But which Torah were they after? The Pri Tzaddik says that it was the Torah Sheba'al Peh (Oral Tradition) that they wanted to uproot.

We can see this from a kind of show-down between Shimon Hatzaddik and the Chachmei HaMishnah on the one side, and Alexander the Great and his people on the other side. (See Yoma, chap. 7, "Ba Lo Kohen Gadol", pg. 69a). Shimon HaTzaddik and the scholars of the Mishnah came with the power of Torah Sheba'al Peh, whereas Alexander the Great came with Aristotelian philosophy that he intended to replace our Oral Law with.

This is why we light 36 candles altogether over Channukah (excluding the Shammoshim) because they correspond to the 36 tractates in the Talmud. Lighting the Channukah candles represents the victory of our Oral Tradition over Greek philosophy. (B'nei Yissaschar, Kislev-Teives, 2:8, citing Reb Pinchas of Koretz in Midrash Pinchas, chap. 1)

Not only is Channukah about the Oral Law, but so is the essence of Purim. Only on Purim did we reaccept the Oral Tradition upon ourselves willingly (See Shabbos, chap. 9, "Amar Rebbi Akiva", pg. 88a; Ex. 19:17; Est. 9:27; Tosafos"Kafa"; Tanchumah Noach, #3).

Once we have established that Channukah and Purim are all about Torah Sheba'al Peh, we can share a Kabbalistic secret about Ya'akov's two wives. Leah represented Torah Shebichtav (the Written Law), whereas Rochel represented Torah Sheba'al Peh (Meor Einayim, Vayeitzei, pg. 93 & pg. 96).

This is why Ya'akov had to marry both of them, so that eventually all of his children would accept upon themselves both the Written and Oral Law. This also explains why ultimately Ya'akov had to marry Leah before Rochel, because the Written Law comes first and only then can there be an Oral Law explaining the written word (See Arizal, Eitz Chaim, 6:1; Gen. 29: 5 & 26; Bereishis Rabba, 70:10, the opinion of Rebbi Yosi Bar Channinah). This also explains why Rochel gave the signs to Leah, (Meggilah, chap. 1, "Meggilah Nikreis", pg. 13b) because the mission of the Oral Law (Rochel) is to assist the Written Law (Leah).

It is no longer a surprise that specifically Rochel's sons, Yosef and Binyamin, were instrumental in bringing about the salvation of Channukah and Purim. It is because these two holidays are all about Torah Sheba'al Peh, and so are Yosef and Binyamin all about Torah Sheba'al Peh.

This crystalizes why Ya'akov only taught Yosef (who later taught Binyamin) about Channukah and Purim, but he did not share these two holidays with his other sons. It is because Ya'akov understood that only Yosef would grasp the depth of Channukah and Purim being that Yosef comes from the same camp of Torah Sheba'al Peh. The other tribes, however, came from a different camp, Torah Shebichsav, which is why the Biblical holidays are found in the Written Law delivered by Moshe Rabbenu, who was from the tribe of Levi, a descendant of Leah.

From this entire piece, we see that Channukah is about strengthening ourselves in Torah Sheba'al Peh. Perhaps we could suggest that this Channukah we make a resolution to be more involved in the study of Torah Shaba'al Peh. For some, this might mean to be involved in the study of Mishnah, for others it might mean to engage in the study of Bavli, for others it may mean to toil in Yerushalmi, while for some it could mean to learn Midrash.

Maybe a good practice would be that after we light the Channukah candles, we sing the songs, gaze into the lights, and then spend a few minutes in the study of the Oral Tradition. We could then continue to spend these extra few minutes a day in this type of Torah study throughout the rest of the year. Not only is this one way of really celebrating Channukah, but the final redemption is dependent on it. (See Vayikra Rabba, Tzav, 7:3, the opinion of Rav Huna)

So, this year, as we celebrate Channukah, may we be blessed to "Yosef" (add) to our involvement in the study of Torah Sheba'al Peh, and in doing so may we merit to bring about the final redemption, and witness the Kohen Gadol light the Menorah once again in the Bais HaMikdash while wearing his holy clothing.