This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
The latest article is posted here once a week. You can search the archive for past articles.
Parshat Mikeitz (5762)
This week's section, Mikeitz, (which means ‘the end’) is always read in the days of Chanukah.
One unique thing about Chanukah is that even the most non-observant of Jews observe it.
It could be that the rest of the year they don't believe in commandments, blessings, miracles or holiness but on Chanukah they light the candles in the ‘menorah’, say the blessings, know about the eight-day miracle and that it happened in the Holy Temple
One reason for this strange phenomenon is Chanukah's connection to oil; the bottle of pure undefiled oil the Maccabees found . Oil corresponds to the fifth and deepest level of the Jewish soul (In Kaballah it's called "Yechida").
And just as oil demonstrates two opposite traits; it never mixes but rather floats above all liquids and it permeates all substances. So also the Jewish people can never really mix with the rest of the world (they always seem to come to the surface) but their purpose is to be active in the world and permeate it with holiness and meaning.
It completely defies understanding, the mystery of mysteries.
Also, because everything is connected to and enlivened by the Torah this must also have a connection with this week's Torah portion. What is the connection?
Here is a story to explain:
On the last days of the "Peace in Galilee" war (1982), I was one of a group of ten Chabad Chassidim that got permission from the army to enter Beirut, Lebanon to cheer up the soldiers.
The soldiers welcomed us as though we were announcing the end of the war. The entire night we went from group to group singing, dancing, talking, laughing, and of course making L'Chaims on vodka.
Then at the crack of dawn we got out our Tefillin (aka Phylacteries) and began asking soldiers if they wanted to do a Mitzvah and put them on for a minute.
At that hour of the morning, most of the soldiers were still asleep, so I walked around looking for "customers", and happened on a line of about ten open jeeps, motors running, with two Israeli soldiers seated in each one. It must have been some sort of combat foray, because they were armed to the teeth and were wearing bulky bulletproof vests and metal helmets. Now they were waiting in the chilly morning to go out on some sort of mission.
I approached the first jeep and asked them if they wanted to put on and one agreed. Then, when he finished, I moved on to the next one and asked the driver the same question, but I was in for an unpleasant surprise.
He just looked straight ahead, and even didn't react to my question. So I just stood there and waited for a reply. After a few seconds of silence, he turned to me and said. (Loose translation) "Get away from me you parasite religious scum" If you don’t get out of my face I'll tear you in pieces! NOW GET OUT OF HERE! I hate you vermin!"
I understood that the answer was no. I tried to force a smile and figure out some graceful way to say good bye, when suddenly the driver of the next jeep in line called out to me in a desperate tone.
"Rebbe, Rebbe. Come here. I want to put on Tefillin" I turned, happy to get away, and began to walk toward him.
"Tell me Rebbe" he yelled nervously after I had taken a few steps and was still quite a distance from him, "If....if I put on Tefillin will G-d protect me?"
It was obvious that he was very worried. Yesterday he was probably sitting in his hardware store selling pipes and tools, when they called him up to reserve duty, and suddenly here he was about to enter the front lines.
"Listen my friend" I assured him. "G-d will protect you whether you put on or not. Don't worry. He loves you because you're a Jew. But if G-d protects you for free, so why not do something for Him for free, and put on Tefillin?"
It seems that the soldier in the second Jeep, the one that cursed me out, had heard all this and was thinking it over, because when I finished putting on and then removing the Tefillin from this soldier he yelled out:
"Hey Rabbi! Come over here!"
I turned around to see him rolling up his sleeve like he wanted to do the commandment, and motioning to me to come.
I took a few steps toward him and called out as I was walking, "What do you want? What happened?"
"Listen!" he replied "What do you care? I want to put on too."
I gave him a look and an Israeli hand motion as to say, "Are you for real?" And he replied;
"Listen my friend. To put on Tefillin in order to go to heaven or to be religious, that's NOT for me. But to put on Tefillin for no reason...THAT I'm willing to do!"
This is the essence of the Jewish soul in action. It defies understanding. If he had no reason, then why did he do the commandment?!
The answer is, because a Jew in his ESSENCE (above logic, or even mystical explanations) wants to PHYSICALLY DO what G-d wants not only spiritually!
Even more, there is a special connection of Chanukah to Moshiach (real Jewish Messiah we’ve been waiting for since Abraham).
Moshiach will illuminate the world with G-dliness, be victorious over all enemies of Judaism, purify (with the ashes of the red heifer) the Jewish people, and finally restore the Holy Temple to purify all creation. These are exactly the main features of Chanukah; Light, Victory, Purity and the Holy Temple.
But the most important is oil. The word "Moshiach" means 'anointed' with oil. And one reason is because he will ‘light’ the "oil" i.e. the aforementioned "Yechida" of each and every Jew.
In fact, he will use this "oil" to teach (Chinuch) and illuminate the entire world to be aware of G-d as it was on Mount Sinai; the world will be 'filled' with the awareness of G-d like water fills the ocean.
And this can only be done through the "OIL" of the Torah. The revelations on Sinai and in the Holy of Holies also depended on the Torah but they were only for the Jews. The OIL of the Torah Moshiach will reveal is unique because it will affect all mankind.
The Torah, because it satisfies spiritual thirst and hunger is sometimes likened to water and bread. And because it contains intoxicating concealed mysteries, it is compared to wine.
But oil is a metaphor for the "Mystery of mysteries".
This doubled mystery is what made that second soldier change his mind. "No reason at all!" It's where the essence of the Jew meets with the essence of the Torah and the Essence of HaShem.
So that explains the mysterious popularity of Chanukah. Because it is connected to the "oil" of the Jewish soul which is above time and place that mysteriously pushes the Jews into action.
And its connection to Mikaitz (lit. the end) is that in the ‘end’ of this terrible ‘exile’ we are in this very "oil" will awaken (HaKitz) all the Jews in the world to enlighten all mankind and put an end "Kaitz" to all darkness (Job 28:3). As it says in Ovadya (1:18) "The house of Yaakov will be a fire and the house of Yosef a flame"
It all depends on us. Just as Josef saved the entire world so any one of us, through even one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring ....
Copyright © 1999-2018 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.