Miketz/Chaunkah 5783

This week’s parsha, Parshas Miketz, opens with the two dreams of Pharaoh.  While Yosef is languishing in prison, Hashem is arranging events so that Yosef’s fate will abruptly change.  In his first dream, Pharaoh sees seven skinny, gaunt cows consuming seven healthy, robust cows along the shores of the Nile River.  In his second dream, he sees seven ears of grain, beaten by the east wind, consuming seven healthy ears of grain.

וַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר, וַתִּפָּעֶם רוּחוֹ, וַיִּשְׁלַח וַיִּקְרָא אֶתכָּלחַרְטֻמֵּי מִצְרַיִם, וְאֶתכָּלחֲכָמֶיהָ; וַיְסַפֵּר פַּרְעֹה לָהֶם אֶתחֲלֹמוֹ, וְאֵיןפּוֹתֵר אוֹתָם לְפַרְעֹהand it was in the morning, and his spirit was agitated, and he sent and he called for all the magicians of Egypt and all her wise men, and Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was no one to interpret them to Pharaoh (Bereishis 41:8).  

When Pharaoh dreams dreams that no one can interpret to his liking, the Butler recalls that there is a Hebrew lad, a slave, in prison, who can interpret dreams.  Immediately, Pharaoh sends for Yosef.  וַיִּשְׁלַח פַּרְעֹה וַיִּקְרָא אֶתיוֹסֵף, וַיְרִיצֻהוּ מִןהַבּוֹר; וַיְגַלַּח וַיְחַלֵּף שִׂמְלֹתָיו, וַיָּבֹא אֶלפַּרְעֹהand Pharaoh sent and called for Yosef, and they rushed him out of the pit, and he shaved, and he changed his clothing, and he came to Pharaoh (Bereishis 41:14). 

Yosef explains the meaning of the dreams – there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine – and offers a solution as well: Pharaoh should amass food and fill the store-houses during the years of plenty, so that Egypt will survive the years of famine.  Pharaoh accepts Yosef’s words and suddenly, Yosef the slave becomes Yosef the viceroy.  

What was it about his dreams that aggrieved him so?  

R’ Shlomo Zalman Bregman, in his Short and Sweet on the Parsha, writes, “Imagine for a moment you didn’t know the import of the dreams.  They were just some dreams about cows and ears of grain.  Why couldn’t Pharaoh simply dismiss his dreams in the same fashion as most people who have strange dreams do?  What was it about the dreams that warranted an immediate assembly of the wisest men in the land?

“Rav Shimon Schwab zt’l answers as follows: The ruler of Egypt had been living with the belief that ‘might-makes-right’ and that size, power and numbers are what is decisive and important in life.  As the ruler of the most powerful nation in the world, Pharaoh felt quite comfortable with his lot in life, and living in a world that was controlled by these types of norms; a world where power, might and strength always ruled over the weak.  

“Therefore, what disturbed him profoundly was the symbolism of the dream.  Skinny cows consuming fat cows?  Thin ears of grain swallowing healthy and robust ears of grain?  These images imply that the few can defeat the many, and that the weak can bring down the strong.  In Pharaoh’s mind, this was highly distressing, and threatening, news.  It went directly against his worldview of ‘might makes right’ and ‘survival of the fittest.’  It was this that motivated him to assemble all the wise men of Egypt to explain the dreams.”

Clearly, the connection to Chanukah is not lost upon us!  Parshas Miketz is almost always read during Shabbos Chanukah.  And Chanukah is the yomtov when we celebrate the victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong, the impure into the hands of the pure.  

R’ Bregman concludes, “R’ Schwab explains: The central themes of Chanukah include the notion of the many suffering defeat at the hands of the few, the strong being delivered into the hands of the weak, one small – insufficient – flask of oil lasting for eight days, and the concept that a little bit of light can dispel a great deal of darkness.  

“All of these lessons are represented in the imagery of Pharaoh’s dreams, and thus Parshas Miketz is an appropriate Torah reading during the holiday of Chanukah” (Short and Sweet on the Parsha, Feldheim Distribution, p.97-98).

We live in a world where power is revered, physical strength and beauty are lauded, wealth and success are praiseworthy, and the most powerful man is expected to always ‘win.’  This, too, was the world view of Pharaoh and ancient Egypt, and the view of ancient Greece.    

When Pharaoh dreams tell him otherwise, his spirit agitated, and he is terrified.  For though Egypt was the mightiest of ancient empires, Pharaoh realized there was no guarantee that they would not be conquered by small, weaker forces.  

And indeed… after 210 years in mighty Egypt, that’s exactly what happened.  A (relatively) small, weak, slave society marched to freedom and along the way, decimated Egypt.  Pharaoh’s dreams not only foreshadowed the imminent famine that was to come; they foretold of the great Exodus from Egypt as well.

And it is this very reality that gave the Maccabee army their victory.  Because from the perspective of the RS”O, the might of man is nullified before Him, wealth belongs only to G-d, and physical prowess is utterly insignificant before Hashem. 

When we light the Chanukah licht, we must remember well the lesson of Pharaoh’s dreams, and their application throughout our long and bitter exiles.  From the Egyptian enslavement, to galus Yavan and the miracle of Chanukah, and b’ezras Hashem to our future redemption, it is the emes of Torah, the performance of mitzvos, and acts of chessed and tzedaka, that will always win over the physical strength of the umos ha’olam.

And so, what better way to commemorate the Chanukah miracle – and victory – than by lighting menorah?  The Chanukah licht is a reminder that one small flame, one small act of kedusha (holiness), and one measure of light in a very dark world, can – and will – triumph when we are faithful to Hashem.  As we recite in the Al Ha’Nissim tefillah: רַֽבְתָּ אֶת־רִיבָם דַּֽנְתָּ אֶת־דִּינָם נָקַֽמְתָּ אֶת־נִקְמָתָם, You fought their fight, judged their judgement, [and] avenged their revenge; מָסַֽרְתָּ גִבּוֹרִים בְּיַד חַלָּשִׁים וְרַבִּים בְּיַד מְעַטִּיםYou turned over the strong in the hand of the weak, and the many in the hand of the fewוּלְךָ עָשִֽׂיתָ שֵׁם גָּדוֹל וְקָדוֹשׁ בְּעוֹלָמֶֽךָ, And for You, You made a great and holy name name in Your world; and for Your nation Israel you did a great salvation and redemption to this day.  

May we merit the ultimate redemption, may it be immediate and in our days.

בברכת חודש טוב, חנוכה שמח, ושבת שלום, 


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