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Friday, December 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

This coming Tuesday, 5 Teves, is the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Israel Frankel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.

Although from time to time, I do establish connections from the parsha to current events, I never saw myself doing so with the world of show business. But there was a series of events that transpired this week whose connection to the parsha are simply undeniable. Please excuse my willingness to mix the mundane with the holy.

Late last week a relatively famous actress (don't be fooled by the name, only her father was Jewish) suffered a heart attack at the age of 60. Just four days later, she passed away. Sadly, her mother passed away the very next day at the age of 84. It was reported that the very last words she uttered before suffering a stroke were that she just wanted to be with her daughter. It is certainly not all that uncommon for spouses or other loved ones to pass away within close proximity of each other. It is indeed a stark reminder of how much power the mind truly has over the body.

Yaakov Avinu offers us our first detailed insight into the anguished heart of a parent suffering loss. The pain he endured as he learned of Yoseif's apparent fate would surely have been enough to bear. But as the plot thickens in this week's parsha, he is faced with the prospect of even further loss. In his initial refusal to allow Binyamin to join the brothers as they returned to Mitzrayim, he declares (42:38), "if disaster were to befall him, you will send my gray hairs down to she'ol in grief." Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar, points out that this language is somewhat stronger than the words chosen by Yaakov when he heard the news regarding Yoseif. There (37:35), he was merely stating that his mourning would last forever and follow him all the way to his grave. Here, however, he is hinting to something far more ominous. Enduring the grief of the loss of Binyamin would certainly hasten, if not immediately bring his demise.

The effect of the mind on the function of the body is by no means a new discovery. It was a phenomenon to which Yaakov Avinu was well-attuned. Indeed, the feelings and emotions expressed by Yaakov and felt by all parents, and the undeniable force that is the love a parent has for a child, are so perfectly encapsulated by the emphatic final three words of the first aliyah of next week's parsha, "venafsho keshurah benafsho."


I feel it's slightly unfair for the shtikle to strike such an exclusively somber note, especially on Chanukah. So, I will end with a nice thought I recently heard from – believe it or not – a robot. For many years now, the Chanukah House has been a basic staple in Baltimore. One of the more entertaining features is an animatronic Rebbe who speaks to you as if he's real. His motions and voice are controlled by someone on the inside and he is aware of his surroundings by means of a camera so he actually carries on real conversations. Last night, he offered the following: Why do we wish people a Chanukah samei'ach? There is no specific mitzvah of simchah on Chanukah as there is on the other major holidays?

Among the various forms of persecution applied by the Syrian Greeks, they issued decrees against three specific mitzvos – Shabbos, bris milah and Rosh Chodesh. The roshei teivos of Shabbos, milah and chodesh spell out samei'ach! That is why we counter with that greeting.

Have a Chanukah samie'ach, a chodesh tov and 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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