Yosef And Channuka
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Yosef and Channuka
Every year, on the Shabbat that falls out on Channuka, we read the story of Yosef. (It’s usually Parashat Miketz, but not always.) This could just be coincidence, but we tend to like to connect everything to the parasha anyway, so I looked for explanations of the fact that these two come together. And when I tried to really understand what the meaning of Channuka and the meaning of the Yosef story were, I think it shed light (no pun intended) on both topics and on their connection.
I have two main questions. Regarding the Yosef stories, what is the point of the dreams? Yosef keeps having dreams and explaining dreams. He is surrounded by dreams. Why? Assuming that the details of the stories of the Torah usually contain significance, what are the dreams for? And my second question, this one about Channuka: Why do we need the neis pach hashemen? Wait, you might ask, it happened – that’s why! But I still think I have a question. Imagine it: A tiny group of Jews defeats a gigantic army unexpectedly –wouldn’t that be reason enough to have a holiday? Why does God need to perform another miracle for us when His presence, helping us out, is so obvious?
But I think that when we consider these two questions together, it turns out that the answer is the same. Sometimes good things happen to us, and it seems that they’ve just happened. It could be coincidence. Luck was on our side. Sometimes we need something to let us know “Hey! That thing that just happened – it wasn’t an accident! It was God!” Yosef’s story is full of successes that could be interpreted as incredible luck. Not by us – we have the Torah to tell us that Yosef was helped by God – but by Yosef himself. Yosef looks around and sees things going really well, he could have thought it was just coincidence. But we know that that’s not how Yosef sees it. Chazal tell us that Yosef was marked by the fact that he was always talking about God, always thanking God. I would suggest that maybe part of the reason Yosef realized that everything was from God was because God gave him little hints all the time – in dreams. Dreams are a funny thing. They connect us to a world that isn’t really where we usually are. Maybe God used dreams, and the fact that Yosef kept getting their explanations right, to let Yosef know “I’m here. It’s Me.”
Similarly, the neis pach hashemen helps us in Channuka. We, or the Jews who won the military victory, might have thought that it was just great luck. We fought really hard and beat the Syrians. God needs to give us a miracle to say “I’m here. It’s Me.” We need the neis pach hashemen to make us realize that the military victory was from God, too.
I hope that great combination – the dreams and the 8-day-buring oil – makes us realize ourselves that presence of God which we might have otherwise missed.
By: Noam Lockshin