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Friday, December 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

                I have always found the text detailing the birth of Efrayim and Menasheh (41:50-52) rather intriguing. We are told that two sons were born to Yoseif before the onset of the years of famine. Perhaps the second one was just before the years of famine, but the first would have been a considerable number of months before then, at the least. Admittedly, this is not a very strong question for a number of reasons. We are then told the names that Yoseif gave his sons and the reasonings behind each. I cannot recall any other instance where we are informed in detail of the birth of two children simultaneously. The pasuk does not state that a son was born to Yoseif, he named him Efrayim and then he had another whom he named Menasheh. Rather, we are told that two sons were born to him.


                This has always led me to believe that Efrayim and Menasheh were actually twins. I have not found any actual evidence in the Midrashim (although I would be very satisfied to find it.) But it would certainly explain how both sons were born just before the years of famine. It would also explain Yaakov's apparent difficulty in discerning between Efrayim and Menasheh. Indeed, it is stated that Yaakov's eyesight had deteriorated. But an older son is usually taller than his younger brother and Yaakov shouldn't have needed his sight to determine that. But if they were twins and were approximately the same height (and perhaps similar appearance) that would explain everything.




                The gemara (Shabbos 21b) explains the origins of Chanukah. After the great miracle, the rabbis instituted an eight day festival of praise and thanks. Although it would appear that the recitation of Al HaNisim is an integral part of this institution, it is not a requisite part of the Birkas HaMazon or davening as one need not repeat if it is forgotten. Indeed, Rambam does not include the laws pertaining to Al Hanisim in the laws of Chanukah but rather, in the laws of Tefillah. This implies that it is merely a general requirement to mention the day, "mei'ein hameora," in the tefillah but not an integral component of Chanukah itself.


                R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l explains that when the Rambam discusses the halachos of Chanukah (3:3), he makes it clear that the lighting of the candles is mitzvah that was instituted as a manifestation of the praise and thanks. We show our appreciation not merely by thanking HaShem but by publicizing the miracle.


                The underlying lesson is that the theme of Chanukah is praise and thanks. I therefore believe that the common reference to Chanukah as the Festival of Light is somewhat misleading. Focusing merely on the lights and not on the message behind them simply misses the point. The name is also likely related to an erroneous assumed connection to the other holiday that often falls around the same time. The Mishnah (Midos 2:3) recounts that the soreg, the wall that marked the point past which gentiles could not pass on the Har HaBayis, was breached in 13 places by the Greeks. The breeches were closed up following the victory over the Greeks. The victory and commemmoration of Chanukah are the resealing of those breeches and our affirmation that we are different than all other nations. This is most important when Chanukah coincides with the end of December as it does this year. We must not lose sight of the true meaning of our holiday - the Festival of Praise and Thanks.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Be Strong
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Mikeitz veChanukah by Eliyahu Levin
AstroTorah: Dreaming of Astronomically Fat Cows by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Was the Menorah a Planetarium? by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: NEW BOOK: The Secrets of the Stars by R' Ari Storch

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