Darkness's Dawn

Naaleh_logo Shiur provided courtesy of Naaleh.com

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

Liluy nishmat Binyamin Meir ben Zev Dovid and all our chayalim who fell defending our country

Yosef Hatzadiik Hatzadik's imprisonment ended exactly two additional years after the release of Pharaoh's chief butler, מקץ שנתים ימים. When those two years were ended, Pharaoh himself experienced some disturbing dreams. Pharaoh's butler, who had been the benefactor of Yosef Hatzadiik's dream interpretation, now told Pharaoh about Yosef Hatzadiik. Yosef Hatzadiik was then rushed out of the dungeon, shaved and dressed, and went to meet Pharaoh. The rest is history, from Yosef Hatzadiik's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream, to the enslavement of Bnei Yisroel, and to our redemption from that exile.

Our Sages connect this terminology of קץ/ending to a verse in Iyov/Job, "קץ עשה לחשך/God sets a limit to the darkness... the source of gloom and the shadow of death." In the first interpretation of this connection, our Rabbis tell us that the source of darkness is the yetzer horo, and as long as the evil inclination exists, there will be gloom, and darkness, and the shadow of death. When the evil inclination will be uprooted, there will be no gloom or shadow of death in the world.

The Medrash continues with a second, related interpretation, linking it more closely with Yosef Hatzadiik Hatzadik. The terminology implies that there is a definite term to the darkness, and that when that "end" arrives, the light and salvation will enter immediately, in the blink of an eye, as it did for Yosef Hatzadiik Hatzadik.

Rav Chaim Hakohein, known as the Chalban, explains our first interpretation. Hashem is the source of light. But the yetzer horo within each of us and within the world creates a barrier that prevents the light from entering, leaving us in darkness. When we do teshuvah, we remove these barriers. The whole purpose of the yetzer horo is to keep us in darkness, to delude us into seeing fantasy as reality so that our eyes do not see and our ears do not hear what Hashem wants of us. Greece wanted us to see only with our physical eyes, to be blind to our inner, spiritual eyes. With their philosophy, they turned out the light of Godliness, enabling the power of darkness to enter and empowering it.

But the darkness is fleeting. Once the evil is gone, once the end of its reign arrives, redemption takes place by default, as the world returns to its original, pure state. We can be assured of this through the life of Yosef Hatzadiik Hatzadik, writes the Novominsker Rav. As soon as the two years of his mandated further imprisonment came to an end, Yosef Hatzadiik's darkness immediately gave way to light as he was raised from his dungeon. Similarly, we must not despair neither personally nor nationally, for there is a limit to the darkness, and the light of salvation will then immediately appear.

We create the darkness, and we have the ability to remove it. Therefore, we light the menorah at an opening, either the doorway or the transparent window, adds Rebbetzin Smiles, to remind us to open our eyes and let the light in.

Are we walking through life in spiritual darkness? Like a physically blind person, we then see no obstacles in our path and are more likely to stumble, warns us Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, citing the Ramchal. Just as we open our physical eyes along the path of life, so must we also open our spiritual eyes to God's will to keep us spiritually safe.

Light also exists both in the light of Torah and in an oasis of time. The Torah, the orah/light of Torah and the rest and joy of Shabbos are the light for the Yehudim. Shabbat is the day of light of Hashem's Kingship, writes the Bad Kodesh, Rabbi Porvaski zt’l.

Observing Shabbat simply by rote is missing the essence of Shabbat, for שבת and אור are mirror images of each other, 702 and 207 in their gematria/numerical equivalence. To experience Shabbat properly, one must see and feel the light of Shabbat. Otherwise, it is like sitting on a park bench in Gan Eden without sensing the spiritual light of this special place, writes the Slonimer Rebbe zt’l. In that light, all impurities become neutralized. There is a special energy in Shabbat. As our Sages say, more than the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.

Interestingly, the importance of Shabbos is revealed in the law that if one has the ability to light either Shabbat candles or Chanukah candles, but not both, lighting Shabbat candles takes precedence. Why? As Rabbi Pincus zt’l explains, even more than the security of having light in one's home, Shabbat itself proclaims the cessation of the natural order of the world, and all that exists is the glory of God.

When we make Havdalah at the end of Shabbat, we are separating not only Shabbat from the rest of the week but also light from darkness. It is not that light creates anything new; it merely allows us the clarity to see that which already exists, like turning on the light to find the book you are looking for on the bookshelf. It was always there, but you couldn't see it in the darkness. Hashem is always manifest in our world, but we are blind to Him. Shabbat turns on that light as we enter His domain.

Chanukah helps us access that same light, as it serves the same function -- to reveal God's presence. Yosef Hatzadiik Hatzadik is the model for finding that light. Rabbi Goldwicht zt’l beautifully develops this idea. He begins by stating that Hashem created a multi-faceted world. Everything in the physical dimension exists in six planes, like a cube. But a seventh dimension exists within the cube. Along these lines, one can examine a simple leaf and observe only its structure. But by looking at the spiritual dimension, one can recognize the leaf's magnificence as a creation of the Ribbono shel olam, thereby connecting with Hashem. 

Yosef Hatzadiik's life is the model of this light. Yosef Hatzadiik always brings Hashem into his life and attributes everything to Hashem, from repelling the advances of Potiphar's wife, to dream interpretation, to attributing his brothers' selling him into slavery as God's will. The lone exception was when Yosef Hatzadiik asked the chief butler to remember him instead of relying completely on Hashem. There ensued two years of darkness, a time when he felt distant from Hashem. When he responds to Pharaoh's request that he interpret Pharaoh's dreams with, "Bilodai/It is beyond me, but Hashem will answer Pharaoh for Pharaoh's welfare, [It is all in Hashem's hands]," Yosef Hatzadiik does teshuvah.

Here lies Yosef Hatzadiik's connection to the Chanukah story. The Greeks were not averse to Torah study as an intellectual pursuit. They were even willing to accept a belief in God. After all, they worshiped many gods. What they refused to accept was the involvement of God in the life of the individual and in the development and history of nations. By Yosef Hatzadiik's response to Pharaoh, Yosef Hatzadiik injected the belief in Hashem and in Hashem's direct interaction with the world, a belief the Hellenist totally rejected, refused to see, and hoped to blind Bnei Yisroel to Hashem's presence in their personal lives. That is why, continues Rabbi Goldwicht zt’l, the essence of the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is to see them, to let their Godly light illuminate our lives and dispel the darkness.

Medrash Insights now approaches the verse from a different perspective, based on the Beis Halevi. According to this interpretation, Yosef Hatzadiik had originally been destined to suffer darkness for these two years. The moment that time was up, Hashem made Pharaoh have his disturbing dreams. Here, the cause was the time limit and the result was the dreams. In other words, because Hashem wanted Yosef Hatzadiik to be released, Pharaoh had the dreams.

We tend to reverse the order Hashem has put in place and proverbially put the cart before the horse. Rabbi Beyfus provides an example. A childless couple has waited years to conceive. They hear that a great rabbi is coming to town. Hoping for his blessing on their behalf, they go, receive a blessing, and shortly thereafter conceive and give birth to a healthy child. The couple ask themselves why they did not seek out the rabbi's blessing earlier. Rabbi Beyfus posits that it was not the Rabbi's blessing that enabled the conception. Rather, this was the time Hashem had ordained for them to conceive, Therefore, he sent the great rabbi to them as a conduit to bring the blessing of a child down to them.

The same holds true with death. When man's allotted lifespan approaches, Hashem sends the medium, whether it is "old age," disease, or a tragic accident. Rebbetzin Smiles related a poignant experience which she heard at the funeral of one of our beautiful, fallen soldiers. With amazing faith, the father said that his son had lived his predestined years; it was a zechut/merit/privilege to have died in defense of Eretz Yisroel.

The moment Pharaoh has the dream, writes Rabbi Walkin zt’l, Yosef Hatzadiik is already free, even though the process itself may take some time.

Similarly, we tend to think that the cries and prayers of Bnei Yisroel in Egypt awakened God's mercy and brought the redemption. Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr zt’l suggests the reverse, that since the time for redemption had come, Hashem instilled in Bnei Yisroel the urge to cry out. Similarly, during the Greek oppression the predetermined time for the end of that oppression had arrived. The greatness of the Chahmonaim was that they heard the spiritual call and fought with tremendous self sacrifice to return to the proper service of Hashem. Similarly, we receive many wake up calls from above during our lives. Are we tuned in to the messages?

Our duty is to make ourselves aware of the opportunities that surround us and take advantage of them. Rav Dessler zt’l reminds us of the model of Yaakov Avinu. When he was fleeing from Esau, he passed by Chevron. Realizing he had passed this sacred ground, he turned back to pray at the grave site of his grandfather and grandmother. We need to be awakened to these auspicious places and times, and grab the opportunities as they arise. Chanukah is such an auspicious time to push ourselves to greater prayer, mitzvah observance, and acts of chessed. The loss of our brave chayalim is a call to us to proclaim -- מי להי אלי -- Whoever is for Hashem, join me. As Rabbi Tzadok zt’l teaches, when Hashem wants to redeem us, He instills in us the desire to call out to Him.

While personal and national redemption are often intertwined, they may not occur simultaneously. The nation may not be ready at the time of the individual's redemption, writes the Tosher Rebbe zt’l in Avodat Avodah. Yosef Hatzadiik's redemption from his prison was not the redemption of Bnei Yisroel, but was a precursor of that redemption. When we see an individual's redemption, we should take it as a clue to extricate ourselves and ask for further redemption. Just as Yosef Hatzadiik's redemption happened so quickly that he was unaware of it at the beginning [Pharaoh's dream], so do we not know that the salvation is on its way, suddenly. As we bless Hashem daily in our prayers with גואל ישראל /He Who redeems Yisroel, in the present tense, continuously. Even in our times of darkness, Hashem takes us out continuously from the darkness to the light.

As we light the Chanukah candles and sing the Maoz Tzur, focus for a moment on the last stanza:  חסוף זרוע קדשף  Bare Your holy arm [and make it strong - חזק ]

and hasten the End for salvation -

Avenge the vengeance of Your servants' blood

from the wicked nation.

For the triumph is too long delayed for us,

and there is no end to days of evil,

Repel the Red One in the nethermost shadow

and establish for us the seven shepherds.

Bear in mind not only the national redemption, but also the personal redemption. Bring down the supremacy pf Edom, the Red One, Esau, and establish for us the Seven traditional Shepherds of our nation, one of whom was Yosef Hatzadiik