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Friday, December 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

   Before the search for the missing silver goblet, the brothers blindly declare (44:9) that he with whom the goblet is found shall die. Earlier, when Lavan is searching Yaakov's possessions for his stolen idols, Yaakov says (31:32) that he/she with whom you shall find your gods will not live. Rashi teaches us there that it was this declaration that cursed Rachel and caused her to die on the way back from Lavan's abode. This is despite the fact that the idols were not found with her as we are taught that the curse of a chacham is carried out no matter what. Here, Binyomin was indeed found with the goblet in his bag. Nevertheless, (to my knowledge), there is no record of any ramifications of this curse on Binyamin.

    Perhaps the answer lies in the exact wordings of the two declarations. Yaakov said that the one with whom the idols are found "lo yichye," shall not live. This implies a certain lessening of life. Some life must be taken away from the subject of the curse. For this, Rachel's life was shortened and she died on the way rather than dying later. However, the brothers here declared that the one with whom the goblet is found shall die - no mention of when he shall die. After all, doesn't everyone die.

   Additionally, it has been suggested that Yaakov was not giving Lavan permission to harm anyone with whom he might find his idols. Rather, he was declaring that a penalty of death should be decreed upon him or her from Shamayim. The brothers' declaration was much different. They were, in fact, stating that if one of them were found with the goblet, the authorities would have permission to execute them. Since that option was declined, Binyamin was in the clear.



    Everyone is surely familiar with the miracle of the oil, which we commemorate on Chanukah.  The Chashmonaim found only enough oil for one day (not even enough for one day according to She'iltos d'Rav Achai) but the oil lasted for eight days.

    This was not, however, the first miracle with oil in Jewish history. For the haftarah of parshas Vayeira, we read about another miracle with oil. In Melachim II (perek 4) a poor woman (the widow of Ovadiah HaNavi, according to Midrash Tanchuma) comes to Elisha HaNavi in dire need. She is deeply in debt and the creditor is threatening to take her kids as slaves for payment.  Her only source of income was selling oil. Elisha tells her to borrow some jugs, close her door and pour the oil into those jugs. Miraculously, the oil multiplied to fill all of the jugs and she was able to sell the oil and pay off her debts.

    The question that occurred to me as we read this haftarah was, why is it that the miracle of Chanukah occurred in the specific manner in which it did? Why did the oil last extra long instead of multiply like it did in Elisha's case? As you traverse the many answers to the famous question of the Beis Yosef, indeed a number of analyses of the miracle might understand that the oil did in fact increase very slowly. But I have a suggestion of my own.

    The initial miracle of Chanukah, the unlikely military victory over the Syrian Greeks, was particularly noteworthy because we were so vastly outnumbered. In Al HaNisim, we make specific mention of "rabim beyad me'atim," HaShem brought the many to defeat at the hands of the few.  The theme of this miracle is quality over quantity. As Yonasan declared when he and his armourman single-handedly took on a band of Pelishtim (Shmuel I 14:6), HaShem does not discern between many and few when granting salvation to His noble servants. The quality of character and the nobility of purpose were all the Chashmonaim needed to defeat the Greeks. Therefore, rather than increase the quantity of the oil that was found, it was that miniscule measure of oil which lasted the necessary eight days.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)
Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes
Dikdukian: Be Strong
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Mikeitz veChanukah by Eliyahu Levin

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