Kinder Torah - Parshat Vayeshev
For parents to share with
children at the Shabbos Table
Good News Campaign
Yosef's brothers wanted to sentence Yosef to the death penalty. (The reasons are complicated and beyond the scope of "Kinder Torah.") Reuven convinced them to lower him into a pit instead. His plan was to return to the pit, take Yosef out, and return him to their father Yaakov. His plan ultimately failed, as the brothers drew Yosef up out of the pit and sold him to a band of Yishmaelim. Rav Boruch Halevi Epstein zt"l, (who is known to us as the Torah Temima) writes that even though Reuven's plan failed, the Torah still mentions it because it is fitting to give credit to someone who does a mitzvah. In fact, there is a halacha in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 249:13) based on this. The Rema (Rav Moshe Issurles zt"l) writes that it is permissible for a benefactor to inscribe his name on an object or building, in order to publicize the good deed.
Let's start a good news campaign. Let's talk only about good deeds. Oy, don't we hear enough bad news in the world? When our brother says blessings with kavannah (concentration), let's talk about it! Did you hear how well Benny said that blessing? When our sister straightens her room, tell Imma about it! How about that Miri, she's such a mitzvah girl! When our neighbor gives up his seat on the bus for an older person, tell his parents! Yocheved has such good middos (character traits)! We'll all be so much happier when we focus on the good.
Small In Number
The Medrash (84:1) begins the parsha by quoting a verse from Isaiah (57:13). "When you cry out, your gathering together shall save you." This refers to the unity of the sons of Yaakov, which saved them from the hand of Eisav. "But the wind will carry them all off; nothingness will take them." This is Eisav and his troops. The Beis HaLevi explains the Medrash as follows. The normal preparation for war involves gathering as many soldiers as possible. More soldiers can attack, secure, and defend more positions, defeating more of the enemy and eventually winning the war. Gathering the entire army into one place is actually counterproductive. Their strength lies in their numbers and their separation, securing as many different positions as possible. However, when the Jewish people go to battle, the strategy is exactly the opposite. Our power lies in neither numbers nor separation, rather in unity. We fortify our position by gathering into the Beis HaKenesses, and praying with unified hearts to our Father in Heaven. When we all make the same request, on behalf of the community, we gain strength. However sheer numbers without unity hold no advantage for us at all. Eisav came to battle with 400 men. What hope could Yaakov Avinu and his twelve sons have against them? Yet, their unity saved them from the hand of Eisav.
This is one of the messages of Chanukah. The "Al HaNissim" prayer states, "(You delivered) the many into the hands of the few." Chanukah is a time when we are home together with the family every day. This is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our family unity. Sing songs, eat Imma's delicious latkes, and share stories about the miracles of Chanukah. In the merit of this, may we see more miracles in our day. As we say in the second blessing over the candles, "Who performed miracles for our fathers in those days; in our times."
Why do we celebrate eight days of Chanukah? The Greeks entered the Beis HaMikdash and defiled all of the oil that was used to light the menorah. All except one flask. That oil, which would have naturally burned one day, instead burned for eight days. Only the last seven days of burning were miraculous. Why, then do we celebrate eight days? This famous question is asked by the Beis Yosef. To begin to answer it, let us first understand why the Greeks wanted to defile all of the oil. The oil lit the menorah, which represented the light of Torah. As the verse states, "Because the lamp is a mitzvah, and the Torah is light" (Mishlei 6:23). The goal of Greeks was to destroy the Jews spiritually, not physically. By defiling all of the oil, they wanted to extinguish the light of Torah in the world. Amazingly, they overlooked one flask.
Rav Shlomo Brevda, Shlita, in his sefer "Lihodos U'Lihallel" shares a deep insight. The flask that survived was itself a miracle. How could they overlook it? Therefore, it is no surprise that other miracles came from this miraculous flask. This flask is a parable to our generation. After all of the trials and tribulations of 2000 years of exile, pogroms, holocaust, and assimilation, the Jewish people have survived. Anyone who has remained faithful to Hashem and His Torah in our days is a living miracle, like the miraculous flask. Therefore, we can expect miraculous things to come from him.
You are a living miracle. What does that mean? You can accomplish miracles. Do not ever think that any spiritual accomplishment is out of your reach. "I cannot learn that Mishna. It is too hard for me." "I cannot make peace with my friend." "I cannot listen to my Imma, I don't have koach (strength)." You do have koach. Just try a little harder. It is Chanukah, the time of miracles. You will succeed. You are the stuff of which miracles are made.
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