This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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This week's Torah portion falls on the last day of Chanukah and tells of the rise of Yosef from an obscure prison to ultimate power in just moments because of dreams: especially those of Pharaoh.
What are dreams? Why were they so important in this story? And what is the connection of all this to Chanukah?
To understand this here are two stories: the first is more of a parable and the second actually happened.
Once there was a man that searched for truth. He began his searching in University but after earning several diplomas and degrees he realized that all he had were vague theories and disputable 'facts'. So he decided to go into the real world. He succeeded in business, in politics, in music, art, sports and more but he felt that it was all leading to a dead end. So he tried to change his entire lifestyle. He spent years living according to various philosophies, religions and meditations jumping from one to the other … but with no results.
So he began to walk.
He traveled the world from one wise man to another, learning bits and pieces of what he hoped would satisfy his longing for truth until he was finally advised to attempt to see the one known as The Great Master who lived in the mountains of the orient.
It wasn't easy but after years of braving forests, rivers, wild animals, cold, heat danger and deprivation he finally made it to the ancient one he was searching for.
The master was sitting serenely at the entrance of a cave and looked to be at least two hundred years old. His eyes shone with something far beyond wisdom and he asked almost in surprise, "How did you find me?"
Our hero explained some of the adventures and difficulties he had experienced and then made his request….
The old man stared at him silently for many minutes with unblinking eyes until he finally said.
"Every human has a lamp; a small cup filled with oil with a flaming wick When that oil is gone the person leaves this world."
Our hero listened with open mouth.
"All those cups, several billion of them, are in this cave" he said as he pointed his bony finger behind him. "And your cup is in row six billion etc. …"
Our hero understood the hint. He ran into the cave and began searching and … sure enough! After an hour he found it! Exactly where the Master said it was!! There was his name. But when he looked at his cup he almost fainted: there was almost no oil left! He had only hours… perhaps minutes to live! What would he do?! He was sweating profusely.
But then….. Next to his lamp was one filled to the brim. To the brim!!
It was obvious what he had to do. He slowly picked up the full cup and began to spill some of the oil, he would just take a little, into his.
But suddenly someone grabbed his arm and stopped him!!!
He looked up in shock to see the old man smiling and saying:
"I thought you were looking for truth?"
The second story is about Rabbi Zusia of Annipoli around 250 years ago (Siporim Noraim pg.159)
One day an older Chassid came running into the synagogue and begged to see Rabbi Zusia.
It seems that a large group of soldiers on their way back home from some sort of victory decided to descend on this poor fellow's inn, eat and drink without paying him a penny and then leave But when the poor fellow ran out of whiskey before they were satisfied they began tearing the place up.
They began smashing all the dishes, tables and chairs and began joking about catching him and his family and beating them as well. Of course there was absolutely no way to stop them; they were all huge well-trained soldiers and even the police feared them. That is why he ran to the Rebbe.
As soon as Reb Zusia heard the story he immediately put on his coat and said "Let's get to your inn as quickly as possibly".
In just moments they were approaching the inn and even from afar the shouting, breaking of glass and wild laughter from within was frightening. But the Rebbe showed no signs of fear, exactly the opposite.
He entered the inn, stood in the middle of the room and said in a loud voice one of the main sentences from the prayers of Rosh HaShanna and Yom Kippur:
"Therefore put your fear, G-d our L-rd, on everything You have created." (U'b'chain taen Pach'di'chaw etc.)
After he said it once the soldiers turned to him in quiet astonishment. When he repeated it their eyes widened in fear and when he said it the third time they all began screaming hysterically and frantically tried to escape the room as though it was on fire. In fact, there were was such a jam at the door to escape that many broke windows and leapt out and then continued running for their lives.
Their commander had been delayed and when he arrived at the scene he was greeted by all his soldiers running in all directions.
Needless to say not one of them saluted or even so much as looked at him. Only after firing his pistol several times and then only with the greatest difficulty did finally get them into some semblance of order tried to get some sense out of them. Most of them couldn't talk and others could only say "Pach… pach… pach" (the first syllable of the word for 'fear') but finally they came to themselves.
When he finally heard the entire story he made them all apologize to the Jew, repay all the damages plus give him a large gift and doled out severe punishments to them as well.
Both stories have the same message:
There is a point at the essence of one's soul that is totally above logic and one's personality. It is what made the 'searcher' in our first story suddenly drop his quest for truth and the brave soldiers in the second tremble and flee.
This is also what a dream can be: beyond logic and often even including ridiculous contradictions because then the essence of one's soul is revealed.
That is why in exile we Jews are likened to dreamers (Psalm 126:1).
Because only in exile can the true essence of the soul be revealed as we saw in past generations: one can be a complete atheist or even apostate (G-d forbid) and in one instant suddenly be willing to suffer or even die (G-d forbid) for Judaism (or even some aspect of Judaism, like kosher food or circumcising one's children). And today it is very common that even the biggest 'transgressors' suddenly become 'Baali Tshuva'.
This is what happened in Egypt. Pharaoh's dreams shook him up completely and revealed a new aspect in his soul. Suddenly, for the first time in his life he sensed there was something higher than himself… and when he saw Yosef and heard his interpretations he knew it was time for transformation.
In fact, Yosef transformed not only Pharaoh but all of Egypt, the most licentious country in all history, and made all its males circumcise themselves!! (41:55)
This is the connection to Chanukah. Only a handful of Jews (13 according to Rashi on Deut.33:11) took on the entire Greek army for the most obscure religious reasons.
The Greeks wanted the Jews to live a natural life, disconnected from real truth (as in our first story) and from the essence of the soul (as in the second) [The Greeks did not destroy the Temple and they didn't even spill out the oil for the Menorah, they only touched it thereby rendering it impure according to the Torah. But according to nature it was just like any other oil.]
But the Maccabees (just as Yosef did thousands of years earlier) changed all that and that is why we have Chanukah: to transform the darkness of the creation into the light of the Creator.
This is especially relevant to us today.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that we too must live from the essence of our souls… above logic because the real truth is that Moshiach is here. We only have open our eyes and we can transform the entire world.
(There is a saying: "If you want your dreams to come true… first you have to wake up!)
If we want a new world, void of war and suffering and full of meaning and blessing for all mankind we have to do all we can to live in the world of…
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