Halacha for Friday 25 Kislev 5784 December 8 2023

Parashat Vayeishev - Shabbat Chanukah

A ma’amar from HaRav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, Maran’s zt”l grandson
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Encouraging Those Who Are Irreligious to Become Observant and Ensuring a Continuous Shalom in Am Yisrael

In Megillat Antiochus (quoted in Siddur Bet Oved p. 165) it relates about Antiochus King of Greece, who was the oppressor of the Jews. He said to his people, behold the Jewish people are in Yerushalayim, their laws are different to other people, and they do not adhere to the king’s laws, therefore, we will go and wage war against them and annul their mitzvot, the mitzvot of Shabbat, brit milah and Rashei Chodashim (meaning he wanted to abolish the Jewish calendar).

Then a powerful army went out from Greece, approximately 120,000 soldiers and further armies joined from around Macedonia, they were so numerous like the sand on the seashore, with elephants trained in battle. They drew near to wage war against Am Yisrael.

Yehudah Maccabi heard and together with Yochanan ben Mattityahu they instructed the people to fast and pray to Hashem to come their aid, to save them from the palm of their enemy, and so they did. Many of the Bnei Yisrael who were loyal to the Torah, sat fasting in tears and mourning for three continuous days, and only afterwards began to get ready to face the battle.

Yehudah and his men arose to face the battle and Hashem Yitbarach fortified them with a heroic spirit. He delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few, and Am Yisrael prevailed. At the beginning of the war Am Yisrael smote about 4,000 soldiers and there was a tremendous commotion in the enemy camp and each man dew his sword against his fellow (they unintentionally killed each other) and the number who died was about 700,000 who drew swords!

Then the enemy fled back to their places and the Bnei Chashmonaim HaCohanim returned to Yerushalayim in triumphant cheer. They lit the lamps in the Bet HaMikdash and Hashem saved His people and His inheritance, those who observed His mitzvot and laws, from the hands of their oppressors and those who sought to harm them. The crown returned to its former glory.

Our chachamim said in the Midrash, “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance; all at our doors have the precious fruits of comely seeds” (Shir HaShirim 7:14). “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance”, refers to Reuven, “all at our doors have the precious fruits of comely seeds”, refers to the Chanukah lights. We must understand what is the connection between Reuven and the Chanukah lights?

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadiya Yosef tzvk”l explained, “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance”, refers to Reuven, the intention is to the event of Reuven’s mandrakes, because Yissachar was born into the world in the merit of the mandrakes which Reuven found and where subsequently given to Rachel [see Bereishit 30: 14-17]. Yissachar was a masterpiece of wisdom and understanding, for they established from the tribe of Yissachar 200 heads of Sanhedrins. With the merit of the Torah, which was expressed in such a unique way by Yissachar, we merited to Hashem’s salvation and to light the Chanukah lights. Therefore “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance”, from them we merited to establish for us, “all at our doors have the precious fruits of comely seeds”, these are the Chanukah lights, which came to spread the upper light in the eyes of everyone coming and going.

We may further explain something that is pertinent to our time, when there is more unity in Am Yisrael and this unity has a great meaning, because Hashem loves it when Am Yisrael are living in shalom amongst themselves and especially during the days of Chanukah.

So said the prophet Yirmiyahu, “Hashem showed me [a vision] and behold, to baskets (the intention of the Hebrew word for this “dud”, is like a barrel [this is the same Hebrew word as previously identified as baskets/mandrakes]) of figs…one basket [contained] very good figs and one basket [contained] very bad figs, which were so bad they were inedible” (Yirmiyahu 24:1-2).  Our chachamim explained (Eruvin 21b) that the good figs are the complete tzaddikim and the bad figs are the completely wicked people. Our chachamim continue and say that should we consider that the completely wicked have no remedy as the Gemara (Bava Metzia 33b) states, “they lost their confidence and canceled their chance” [meaning that they’ve lost their chance to join in the joy of the coming of Mashiach, (see the continuation of the Gemara there too)] just like the ruined figs, then take note that this is not so, for it states, “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance”, these and these will both release a fragrance.

If so, we may explain in the way of Maran zt”l:

That which they said, “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance”, refers to Reuven, that from them Yissachar was born, and Yissachar is the foundation of the Torah in Am Yisrael. However, the mandrakes symbolize both the tzaddikim and wicked within Am Yisrael. This concept comes to teach us that in order for there to be a form of enduring significant shalom in Am Yisrael, it is very fitting to draw Am Yisrael closer and to save the holy sparks which sparker in the hearts, in order to arouse to strengthen in Torah and yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven). So that there won’t be just simple peace as it were between simple people, but rather an elevated from of shalom, between people of Torah and yirat shamayim.

If we will merit to, “All my baskets (mandrakes), good and bad, emit a fragrance”, the tzaddikim and the wicked will strengthen one another, then they will emit their beautiful fragrance. Also, to ensure that those far from the Torah draw near to the Torah, loving the Torah, loving talmidei chachamim. Moreover, for Torah observant Jews to increase their love of Klal Yisrael. When we are without baseless hatred and division, then with that distinction we will merit to, “all at our doors have the precious fruits of comely seeds”, like the Chanukah lights, which emit light outwardly. In this way Am Yisrael’s good name will spread out in the world and Am Yisrael will be a light unto the nations [see Yeshayahu 42:6]. Then we will merit to a complete redemption and to light the Menorah’s lamps in the Bet HaMikdash, because the days of Chanukah will never be annulled [see Ramban z”l at the beginning of Parashat B’haalothcha].

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Urim Sameach and Chodesh Tov!

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