Parsha Encounters



Parshas Mikeitz - Chanukah:

Shedding Some Light on Enlightenment

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

Chanukah is the celebration of our victory over the mighty Greek army. Our sages tell us that the goal of the Greeks was not to destroy us physically but rather to change our essence, who we were and what we stood for. Right in the beginning of the Torah the verse states "Viha'aretz Haysa Tohu Vavohu Vichoshech Al Pnei Tihom," (Bereishis1:3) "And the land was empty and desolate and there was darkness on the face of the earth." The Midrash describes this verse as a precursor to the four exiles destined to befall the Jewish people. Tohu refers to Babylon, Vavohu is the exile of Media, Choshech is Greece, and Al Pnei Tihom is the exile of Edom. Our sages define the culture of Greek as Choshech - Darkness. This is a rather interesting description, considering that Greek culture is viewed by the world as enlightening. What about the culture of Greece prompted our sages to refer to it as darkness in direct contrast to the secular view of Greece?


I heard the following insight from my father, R' Yonah Weinrib. When the Jews miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they proclaimed "This is my G-d and I shall exalt Him." The Talmud, [Shabbos 133b] based on this verse, teaches us that when one performs a mitzvah it should be done in the most beautiful way. One should have a beautiful Torah scroll, use an exacting scribe and cloak it with attractive silk coverings. For this holiday of Chanukah many will spend a large sum on the purchase of a beautiful candelabra. The question we must ask is "In what way is this different from Greek culture, which also placed great emphasis on art and beauty?" In what way is our beautification of mitzvos different than the Greek view of beauty?

The difference is the ultimate goal.

Greek culture sees art and beauty as a function in and of itself. Art for art's sake and beauty for beauty's sake. Nothing beyond that which meets the eye. Our view, in contrast, is of beauty seen only as a means to an end. When we beautify a mitzvah, the beauty itself is of no value. Only if we see it as a conduit to bring us closer to G-d does it have real value. The intrinsic value of a beautiful silver menorah is not for those present to "ooh" and "aah" over the intricate designs. The focus is that the place where one is willing to spend a small fortune is in the servitude of G-d. Through spending money and beautifying a mitzvah one feels a deeper attachment to the mitzvah and ultimately to G-d. Jews throughout the ages who lived the simplest of lives would make sure to have beautiful candlesticks for Shabbos and a lovely menorah for Chanukah. Unfortunately, there are people whose homes are decorated with the most beautiful external trappings, yet when it comes to buying a beautiful esrog (citron fruit used on the holiday of Sukkos) they will complain about the $100 they have to spend for it. This is the effect of Greek culture on all of us. One can have the most beautiful cases for his mezuzah but if it is empty on the inside it degenerates from a beautiful mitzvah into an empty case. The external trappings are there to raise the mitzvah to a higher level, showing our value and appreciation of G-d's commandments.

This is why Greece is referred to as darkness. By focusing on the external without a glimpse of the deep meaning behind it, the Greeks were blotting out true perception of what is really valuable.

The Sefer Emes gives us a beautiful insight into the miracle of the oil burning for eight days. He explains that the single pure flask of oil represents the deep inner spark inside each as every one of us. Unfortunately, too often the spark is covered and not allowed to shine through to light up our lives. When the Jews of that time were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their inner sparks, they realized that the externals of this world are only there to elevate that spark. Thus, G-d showed them the power of those sparks and made them burn for eight days and nights. May we too merit shunning the darkness of Greece - the external trappings with empty insides, and allow our own sparks to shine through and light up our lives.

Rabbi Weinrib is a full-time member of the Kollel. 

Halacha Encounters


"V'sain Tal Umatar L'vrocha"

Rabbi Ephraim Friedman


With December 4th now behind us, Jews in all areas of the world are davening for rain by reciting v'sain tal u'matar l'vrocha in the ninth brocha of each weekday Shmoneh Esrei, Birchas Hashonim. An interesting halachic dispute surrounds the circumstance of an individual who neglects to recite this phrase in its proper place and realizes his error immediately upon concluding the brocha. Let us examine the background of this dispute.


The Rosh in Mesechta Taanis (1:1) cites the view of the Ravyah that when one omits a critical phrase from a brocha of Shmoneh Esrei and realizes his omission only after concluding that brocha, but before beginning the next one, he need not repeat the first brocho. Rather he should recite the omitted phrase at that juncture between the two brochos and then proceed with the next brocha as usual. The underlying principle behind this view is that one is not considered to have fully completed the previous brocha until he has begun the subsequent one, thus allowing him the latitude to make certain necessary corrections.

The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 114:6) rules in accordance with this view with regard to the recital of mashiv haruach u'morid hagoshem during the winter season. Although omitting it invalidates one's Shmoneh Esrei (unless morid hatal was recited in its place), one who has completed the brocha of michayei hameisim need not necessarily return to the beginning of Shmoneh Esrei. If the next brocha (Atoh Kadosh) was not yet begun mashiv haruach u'morid hagoshem should be recited immediately and Shmoneh Esrei should countinue as usual with Atoh Kadosh. Similarly, with regard to Ya'aaleh Viyavo on Rosh Chodesh, the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 422:1) rules that at Shacharis and Mincha when the inclusion of Ya'aaleh Viyavo is critical, one who upon completing "hamachazir shechinaso liTzion" realizes he omitted Ya'aaleh Viyavo, should recite it immediately and then proceed as usual with modim.

With regard to v'sain tal u'matar l'vrocha, however, the position of the Shulchan Aruch is not entirely clear. We find in the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 117:5) that one who omits this phrase from Birchas Hashonim can rectify his error by reciting it in the brocha of Shma Koleinu before saying "key atah shomayah." The Shulchan Aruch further states that if one forgot to say it there as well, and realizes his error immediately upon completing the brocha "shomayah tefila," he should recite v'sain tal u'matar l'vrocha right there before beginning Ritzei. This ruling is based of course on the view of the Ravya. However, the Shulchan Aruch does not mention that if one originally realizes he omitted v'sain tal u'matar l'vrocha upon completing Bircas Hashanim before beginning Tika BiShofar, that he should recite it there. Is this an intentional omission on the part of the Shulchan Aruch and, if so, what is the reason behind it?

This question was posed to the famous Gaon, Rav Yechezkel Landau zt"l by a member of his community (as recorded in Teshuvos Nodeh B'Yehuda [vol II O.C. 9]). The questioner wished to suggest that the Shulchan Aruch's omission was indeed intentional. Being that one still has an opportunity to include v'sain tal u'matar within the text of a brocha (i.e. in Shma Koleinu), perhaps it would be preferable to wait for that brocha, than to rely on the chiddush of the Ravya and recite it between the brochos. Only if the individual forgot once again and omitted it from Shma Koleinu would he be advised to recite it between the brochos, before beginning Ritzei.

The Nodeh B'Yehuda responded by completely rejecting this theory. Why, he asks, should one hesitate to rely on the ruling of the Ravya, particularly in light of the fact that many other Rishonim are in agreement with his position? As for the Shulchan Aruch's omission of this ruling, the Nodeh B'Yehuda contends that the Shulchan Aruch saw no need to mention it, having just taught us the very same concept a few chapters earlier with regard to mashiv haruach u'morid hagoshem. Only when one forgets v'sain tal umatar in Shma Koleinu as well, did the Shulchan Aruch deem it necessary to mention that it can be recited immediately after the brocha, before beginning Ritzei, although that is not its primary location. However, to recite it immediately after Bircas HaShanim before Tika B'shofar is obviously an acceptable - and therefore recommended - course of action for one who forgot to mention it within the brocha. In support of his ruling, the Nodeh B'Yehuda cites the Magen Avraham (117:5) who also rules this way.

The Chofetz Chaim, however, approaches this issue very differently than the Nodeh B'Yehuda. In the Be'ur Halacha (114:6 s. v. B'lo Chasimah) he writes that in fact many Rishonim - and some very prominent Achronim - disagree with the Ravya on this matter, and hold that reciting any vital phrase in between brochos of Shmoneh Esrei is unacceptable. Therefore, concludes the Be'ur Halacha, although one should not veer from the explicit ruling of the Shulchan Aruch with regard to mashiv haruach u'morid hagoshem and Yaale V'yavo, nonetheless, in the case of v'sain tal umatar l'vracha, the proper course of action for one who omitted this phrase from Bircas Hashanim would be to include it in the brocha of Shma Koleinu, rather than reciting it in between the brochos, before Tika B'shofar. This psak halacha of the Chofetz Chaim is reiterated in the Mishna Brura 117:15 where he also cites that the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (19:6) rules this way as well.

There is one final point to consider. One who forgot to recite v'sain tal umatar in its primary location, i.e. Bircas Hashanim, is probably a likely candidate to forget as well to include it in Shma Koleinu where it is not a regular feature. For this reason, one who realizes his error before saying Tika B'shofar may be best advised not to pass up the opportunity for reciting it there. To comply with the psak of the Mishna Brura, he may recite it again upon reaching Shma Koleinu if he should in fact remember to do so. [See Sefer Shgios Me Yavin chapter 13, note 12.]

Other Related Halachos

  One who realizes that he omitted v'sain tal umatar after uttering Hashem's name in the concluding brocha of Shma Koleinu (i.e. "baruch atoh Hashem... Shomei'ah tefillah") should, according to the Mishna Brura (117:19) recite immediately "lamdeini chukecha," then continue with "v'sain tal u'matar [l'vrocha] key atah shomei'ah tefilas."

Note: Some Gedolai haposkim do not allow saying "lamdeini chukeycha" in Shmoneh Esrei. (See for example Igros Moshe O.C. 4:93) Time and space constraints do not allow for an elaboration on this issue currently.

  One who realizes his omission after beginning Ritzei must return to the beginning of Bircas Hashanim (i.e. Bareich Aleinu) and continue from there.

  One who realizes his omission only after completing Shmoneh Esrei must repeat the entire Shmoneh Esrei (see Shulchan Aruch 117:5 and Mishna Brura 18 for exact details as to when Shmoneh Esrei is considered complete).


In addition to leading the Kollel's Yoreh Deah Night Chaburah and being the Moreh Hora'ah at Bais Medrash Mikor HaChaim, Rabbi Friedman learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.





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