Parsha Encounters



Parshas Vayeishev        [MS Word Format available here]

A Small Corner of the Soul

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Krohn

It is common practice to search for a theme shared by Weekly and Holiday Torah Readings that coincide with one another. The following D'var Torah, which highlights a connection between Parshas Vayeshev and Chanukah, is a case in point.

Parshas Vayeshev is filled with instances in which clothing is used to link someone to a particular event. Yoseph's brothers submit, to their father, his blood drenched cloak as evidence that he has been killed. The wife of Potiphar claims that the owner of the cloak she is holding attempted to seduce her. Tamar asserts that the owner of the cloak, ring and staff, currently in her possession, is the father of her as yet unborn twins.

At first glance, it would seem that the first two of these narratives differ vastly from the third. Potiphar's wife is trying to deceive her husband into believing that Yoseph had approached her. Yoseph's brothers are, likewise, trying to mislead Ya'akov Avinu into believing that Yoseph was attacked by a wild animal. Tamar, in contrast, is not trying to deceive. Rather, she is trying to inform Yehuda that it is his children in her womb. In short, whereas the intentions of Pothiphar's wife and Yoseph's brothers are to hide the truth, the intention of Tamar is to reveal it.

It thus comes as a surprise that, when presenting their evidence, Yoseph's brothers use terms of speech that are identical not to those of the Potiphar's wife. but to those of Tamar. Tamar, on the brink of a painful death, pleads "Haker Na - Please recognize." Advocating not only for herself but for the Messianic seed within her, she implores Yehuda to fully recognize the garments he once gave her. Tamar's sense of urgency, along with her desire for Yehuda to acknowledge his ownership, is clearly reflected in her choice of words. 1 Why, though, do the brothers of Yoseph, when submitting, to their father, Yoseph's cloak, say "Haker Na?" Do they truly wish for Ya'akov to discover their role in Yoseph's disappearance? It seems that the use of linguistic terms that aim toward concealment would have better suited their needs.

In addition, it is ironic that the cloak the brothers of Yoseph use to identify him for Ya'akov is the Kesones Pasim . This is the very garment that the brothers view as the symbol of inequity between themselves and Yoseph. Why would they select an article of clothing that is, presumably, invested with such negative and painful emotions?

Based on the above, it is conceivable that Yoseph's brothers are communicating with their father on more than one level. On the surface, by altering the cloak to give the appearance of a mauling, they are deceiving Ya'akov. On a deeper, more subtle level, though, they are confiding to him what, they sense, is the primary cause for Yoseph's dispatch. "Haker Na - Please recognize. Is this not the garment you gave only to Yoseph? Haker Na - Please consider. The preferential treatment you accorded him sowed the seeds of jealousy and mistrust between us. Haker Na - Please understand. When we stripped Yoseph of his cloak, together with his dignity and freedom, you, our father, may have shared in the responsibility." What is remarkable about the two levels of communication - manifest and subtle; deceiving and confiding - is that they reflect diametrically opposed intentions.

The idea that a person (or group of people) is capable of displaying two opposing intentions or two conflicting emotions can be understood from within a developmental framework. Oftentimes, a young child runs away from his mother, even while glancing over his shoulder to see if she is following. When this occurs, the child is balancing his sense of dependence on her with the competing desire to become autonomous. As the child traverses the road to adulthood, this balancing act, along with the relational dynamic it implies, does not fully disappear. Rather, it is experienced and expressed in a less obvious fashion. That Yoseph's brothers could subtly reveal to their father the perceived roots of their misdeed, even as they were apparently concealing from him its details, is consistent with this notion. 2

The above can, likewise, be understood in spiritual terms. We are taught that even at the moment a person transgresses his Heavenly Father's commandments, he experiences an innate desire to relate to Him. 3 This is reflected, to an extent, in a person's interactions with his flesh and blood parents as well. When the brothers try to deceive Ya'akov about their role in the sale of Yoseph, they are delivering the second blow to a relationship with him that has already been wounded (in a spiritual-existential sense) by the actual sale. Yet, even as Ya'akov's children are misleading him, they are secretly confiding to him - not only that they played a role in Yoseph's disappearance, but also their deep seated emotions regarding the antecedents to their misdeeds. This represents a step, however small, being taken by the brothers toward healing their relationship with their father.

A parallel can now begin to be drawn to Chanukah. The assault of Antiochus on the Beis Hamikdosh is viewed by many as being the outward manifestation of a more insidious invasion - that of Hellenistic ideals into the minds of practicing Jews: Faith and belief were replaced by empirical rationalism. The pursuit of physical pleasure no longer served as an instrument of spiritual health; it became an end unto itself. (The concept of) G-d was both splintered and reduced from a unique, transcendent Being, to a pantheon, decidedly human in character. By the time Antiochus defiled the Beis Hamikdosh , Jewish sensibilities had themselves degraded and lost their clarity.

It is this spiritual decline that serves as the backdrop for the miracle of the Pach Shemen - the jar of oil. According to the S'fas Emes, the sealed Pach Shemen , found on Temple grounds, symbolizes a small compartment of the Jewish mind that was as yet untainted. Even as the Hellenizers largely abandoned the ideals of Judaism, there remained in their heart of hearts a "Pintele Yid", desiring to believe, yearning for spirituality and understanding that Hashem is One. The Pach Shemen and what it symbolizes is what fueled the Jews' recovery of political sovereignty and spiritual integrity.

The emergence of the Pach Shemen from within a dominant spiritual climate of defilement is not an accident. Similarly, the articulation of " Haker Na " from within a larger communication pattern of deception is not a coincidence. Even as Hashem allows for the possibility of our straying from Him, He guarantees that there will always be a small corner of the soul that still yearns for closeness to Him. Similarly, even as some children move away from the ideals of their parents, Hashem ensures that they retain (in the least) a faint attraction to those ideals, along with a need for closeness to their parents. By identifying, nurturing and responding to the subtle strivings for intimacy of otherwise estranged people, we become partners with Hashem in allowing those people to reenter the systems and contexts they have left.


1. See Rashi Bereishis 22:2 for a discussion of the term " Na ".

2. The intention here is not to reduce the Torah's account regarding Yoseph and his brothers to its emotion-based components. At the same time, it is important not to reduce the Biblical narrative to a dispassionate dispute over Halachic issues such as Ever min Hachai . Rather, the emotional and rational strands of the event, each deriving from its own layer of textual meaning, complement one other.

3. See Rambam: Hilchos Gerushin 2:20

Rabbi Dr. Krohn, an alumnus of the Kollel, learns regularly at the Kollel. He is also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, who works with individuals and families in the community.


Rabbi Liberman, an alumuns of the Kollel, learns daily with the Kollel Boker program.


Halacha Encounters

Lighting the Ner Chanukah

Rabbi Ari Friedman

"The Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is very beloved to us." (Rambam) However, being that lighting the Menorah is a mitzvah which is best performed during a specific time period, it is prone to oversight. Chazal therefore initiated certain laws and customs to preserve the sanctity of the mitzvah and to ensure that its observance be in its proper time. Note: The actual time of hadlakah , lighting, may depend on an individual's personal custom. If one is unsure as to when to light, a halachic authority should be consulted.

The One Who is Lighting

Beginning with one half hour before the time of hadlakah one may not engage in any form of activity which might cause him to lose sight of the mitzvah at hand 1 . Such activities include any form of business, manual labor, or paperwork which could extend itself into the time of hadlakah . One who is in the midst of his regular work schedule and finds it difficult to return home to light may continue working, but he must request of the people at home to remind him to light 2 . Once he has returned home, the menorah should be lit without delay. Sitting down to a meal is not permitted one half hour prior to hadlakah . However, one who is hungry may eat some fruit or a light snack. 3 One should not lie down to sleep, even for a short nap. One who is studying Torah as the time for hadlakah approaches, must interrupt his studies to light the menorah. However, for Torah study the poskim permit one to calculate the half hour prior to hadlakah based on the later time frame in which hadlakah begins, at tzeis hakochavim (nightfall, as defined by the "coming out" of three medium-sized stars in the sky). 4 Whether or not Maariv is davened before or after hadlakah would depend on when one normally davens Maariv. If one normally davens Maariv before tzeis hakochavim , he may do so as well on Chanukah, provided that there remains time to light before tzeis . It is advised that the Menorah be prepared beforehand so that upon returning from Maariv the Menorah may be lit right away. If one normally davens Maariv after tzeis , then the Menorah should be lit first and Maariv afterwards.

Members of the Household

The above halachos apply as well to those members of the household who will be included in the lighting of the menorah, since they too must be careful not to neglect the mitzvah. 5 In cases of necessity, they may be lenient 6 . One who is unable to interrupt his activities, or must eat or sleep prior to lighting the menorah, must have someone remind him to light or leave himself a reminder at home such as a sign or a prominently placed Menorah which will be noticed. 7

Following the Lighting

After the menorah is lit, it is proper to remain nearby for a half-hour so as to absorb and appreciate the " pirsum hanes ," the publicizing of the miracle, that the Menorah is there to symbolize. 8 There is a centuries-old minhag that for the first half-hour after the lighting of the menorah, women refrain from doing household work. 9 The "work" included in this minhag are activities which require concentration and/or exertion such as mending, cleaning, etc. Some refer to the activities prohibited on Chol Hamoed as those which are included in this minhag . 10 The simplest explanation for this minhag is that since traditionally women do not light their own menorah, but rely of the lighting of their husbands, an extra measure of awareness of the mitzvah is displayed by not being preoccupied with other matters. 11 A second reason quoted by many seforim is that the beheading of a Greek general, Helifornis, by a Jewish woman, Yehudis, began the downfall of the Greeks and the victory of the Jews. To commemorate this turning point women exercise an extra level of observance on Chanukah. 12 A third explanation is to celebrate our victory over the Greeks who attempted to abolish Rosh Chodesh - another time in which women customarily refrain from "work". 13


1 Magen Avrohom 672-5

2 Nitei Gavriel 4-4

3 Shulchan Orech O.C. 232-3 and M.B. there

4 Shaar Hatzeyun 672-14 and Btzel Hachochma 3-95

5 Nitei Gavriel 4-3

6 Btzel Hachochma 4-58

7 Nitei Gavriel 4-4

8 Mekor Chaim 672

9 O.C. 670

10 Nite Gavriel 38-1, see footnote 4

11 Sefer Moadim Lisimcha P. 213-214, see footnote 13

12 Magen Avrohom 670-1 and others

13 See O.C. 417

Rabbi Friedman learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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[1] See Magen Avraham 201:4 and M.B. s.k. 13

[2] O. C. 167: 14 and 201: 1

[3] M.B. 167 s.k. 70. It is only forbidden if the reason the Talmid Chacham is giving over the honors is because he is a Kohein.

[4] The reason that he should make the Hamotzi is because he will give out the portions in a more generous fashion (M.B. 167 s.k. 73). Regarding the host leading bentching see Biur Halacha Siman 201.

[5] Biur Halacha (ibid)

[6] M.B. 201: s.k. 13 (At a very large meal see Birchas Naphtali siman 4)

[7] This paragraph is from the psak of hagaon Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyshiv, shlita quoted in Sefer Birchas Naftali (Ch. 3).  The Gemarah in Gittin says that a Kohein takes precedence in all matters of kedusha. One of the examples the Gemara gives is to be served first at a meal. The Pardes Yoseiph in Parsh Emor questions how being served first at a meal is considered a "matter of kedusha". He answers that the Gemara is talking about a "seudas mitzvah". However the poskim do not differentiate between a seudas mitzvah and an ordinary meal. Therefore some attempt to explain the Gemorah in Gittin that the Kohein goes first in all matters that bring him honor, and by doing that we are acting towards him with kedusha. (Birchas Naphtali Siman 5)

[8] Quoted in Birchas Naphtali (end of siman 5)

[9] Siman 201

[10] see Mkor Chaim (Chavas Yair) 168: 14 (Kitzur Halachos)

[11] see Rivash siman 94, The Aruch Hashulchan  (O.C. end of siman 128) speaks out strongly against those who want to suggest that we are uncertain of their lineage.

[12] see Mkor Chaim (ibid)

[13] M.B. 201 s.k. 13




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