Parsha Encounters



Parshas Mikeitz - Chanukah :        [MS Word Format available here]
The Nature of Miracles
Rabbi Mordechai Eisenbach

IThe Shulchan Aruch [ Orach Chaim 187] explains that if one forgets to say "Al Hanisim" on Chanukah in its proper place in bentching, one should then say it at the end of bentching as a request. " Harachaman hu ya'aseh lanu nissim vinifla;'os ka'asher asoh la'avosaynu bayamim haheim baz'man hazeh. "

An obvious question then follows, namely "Why do we ask for nisim from Hashem only on Chanuka and Purim and not on Pesach, Sukkos and Shavuos, holidays which are a rememberance of all the nissim that Hashem did for us in Mitsrayim? We can compound the question by asking why we ask for nissim at all. [See Sha'arei Teshuva at the end of siman 187.] Do we want to ask Hashem to use up all of our z'chusim , merit, in order to perform a miracle for us? Additionally, in this case, is there a specific miracle we are asking for from Hashem? Rav Akiva Eiger [ Orach Chaim siman 231] explains regarding asking for a refuah sheleimah, that one may not ask for a miracle to happen in order to change the status of one's friend [only if it is possible through nature, for the Gemora tells us that even if a sword lies on one's neck may he ask for a salvation as that does not require a miracle].

The Maharal explains that there were two nissim that were bestowed upon Klal Yisroel during Chanukah. The Jews won the war against the Yivonim, and the oil of the menorah kept burning for eight days. The Maharal explains that the main miracle of Chanukah was the military victory, as we mention in " Al Hanisim ." Only at the end of this tefillah do we make mention of the menorah [according to our nusach ]. The message here is subtle, yet powerful. One may study the Chanukah story and come away thinking that the reason why the war was won by the Chashmonaim was merely the fact that they had better tactics of war. It looks like " kochi votzem yodi ," that the victory of the Chashmonaim could have been carried out by any military group passionately defending its culture. The miracle of the menorah ensures that we do not so grossly misinterpret the miracle of the war. By making the openly miraculous burning of the oil, Hashem showed Klal Yisroel that He is in control of all and that He alone was the cause of the nitzachon , victory, in the war, just as He so blatantly caused the miracle of the menorah.

From the Maharal we learn that the chag of Chanukah is to commemorate the miracle of the war that was won through the power of Hashem, which translates into a " neis al pi teva ," a miracle through nature. So when we say " Harachaman hu ya'aseh lanu nissim vinifla;'os ,,," we are asking Hashem to continue to shower us with His miracles of nature. We breathe the air, we walk the streets, and thus we encounter miracles every moment that we live. We must take the lesson from Chanukah that Hashem is the One in control. We breathe because Hashem allows us so, and we walk because Hashem allows us to do so.

With this we can answer the Bais Yosef's famous question: If the Jews had enough oil for one day, the miracle was only a seven day miracle. Why then do we celebrate Chanukah for eight days? The answer is that the first day was also a miracle, because all of nature is miraculous. The mere fact that oil with a wick will burn is in itself a miracle.

With the above Maharal we can also answer the Pnei Ye'hoshua's question: Chazal, he says, rule that " tumah hutra b'tzibbur ," the laws of ritual impurity do not apply if they affect the entire congregation [this is similar to Korban Pesach , where if most members of Klal Yisroel are tamei we nevertheless bring a KorbanPesach and do not wait until Pesach Sheini ]. If so, even oil that was tamei should have been permissible to use under the Chanukah circumstances. Why, then, did Hashem need to perform a miracle for the Jews to have Chanukah oil? According to the Maharal we now understand that Hashem wanted to make a neis nigleh , an open miracle, in order to reveal that He is the one is in control over nature.

The Rambam writes "when you light the menorah, it is to show off and to reveal the miracle." To "show off" the miracle addresses the mitzvah of pirsumei nisa , but what does the Rambam mean when writes "to reveal?" According to the Marahal it means that when one lights the menorah, he must try to reveal the lesson that Hashem is in control of all, and that one is powerless without Hashem's help. May we all be zocheh to incorporate this lesson into our lives, and fully feel that everything we do is under Hashem's control. For the more we let ourselves feel His control, the more we will be zocheh to feel His help.

Rabbi Eisenbach learns nightly in the Kollel as the Rosh Chaburah of the Zichron Aharon Mechanchim Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Proper Preparation for Tefilla

Rabbi Ephraim Friedman

To stand before Hashem in tefilla requires both physical and mental preparation. The mental preparation is discussed in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 93 and in other sources. The physical preparation includes an obligation to ascertain that one's innards are clean; i.e. that one is not currently experiencing an urge to relieve oneself. Failure to meet the requirements of the halacha in this matter can sometimes result in an invalidation of the tefilla which was recited, although in many cases it will not. Let us elaborate on this theme and attempt to clarify the matter. (Note: The halachos with regard to shmoneh esrei are more stringent than they are with regard to other sections of davening. Our focus will be on the halachos of shmoneh esrei.)

It is forbidden to begin davening shmoneh esrei when the urge to relieve oneself exists. Rather, one must first respond to this urge and only then proceed to daven. This applies even if it will result in the individual missing tefilla b'tzibur. If one ignores the urge and does begin davening, whether or not he is yotzei b'dieved will depend upon the following. If at the start of shmoneh esrei the urge was significant enough that he would not be able to ignore it for seventy-two minutes, the shmoneh esrei recited is invalid and must be repeated. If the urge was less pressing, the shmoneh esrei recited is valid b'dieved. (According to the Ginas V'radim cited by Chidushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger and quoted in the Beur Halacha, only if the individual assesses that he would be able to walk seventy-two minutes without relieving himself is the shmoneh esrei valid, even b'dieved.) In any case, l'chatchila one may not begin shmoneh esrei while experiencing the urge to relieve himself - with the following exceptions. 1) If the urge is of a less pressing nature (as defined above) and to relieve oneself first would result in missing sof z'man tefilla, one should daven shmoneh esrei first and afterwards tend to his needs. 2) A shaliach tzibur may begin the repetition of shmoneh esrei without responding to the urge to relieve himself since walking out at that point could cause him embarrassment. (The Beur Halacha is uncertain if this applies even if he is experiencing a pressing urge.)

According to the Magen Avraham and Chayei Odom, only if one were experiencing an urge for g'dolim (a bowel movement) at the start of shmoneh esrei - and the urge was a strong one as explained above - would his shmoneh esrei be rendered invalid. If, however, one only experienced an urge for k'tanim (to pass water), although he is not permitted to begin shmoneh esrei without first responding to that urge, if he were to daven in that state he would be yotzei b'dieved. According to the Eliyahu Rabah and Derech HaChaim no such distinction exists, and in both cases he is not yotzei b'dieved and must repeat shmoneh esrei. The Beur Halacha writes that he is unable to offer a decisive psak in this matter since there is basis for both views in early sources. This being the case we remain with a sofeik as to whether or not the tefilla should be repeated. The governing rule for such situations is sofeik brochos k'hakeil, and one would not repeat the tefilla. Further support for the decision not to repeat shmoneh esrei can be drawn from the Aruch HaShulchan who cites only the view of the Magen Avraham in this matter. (For further discussion on this point see Da'as Torah, Leket HaKemach HaChodosh, and Emes L'Yaakov, all at Orach Chaim 92:1.)

It must be understood that this entire discussion involves one who feels the need to relieve himself when he wishes to begin shmoneh esrei. One who feels no such need may daven. Even if upon concluding shmoneh esrei he ends up relieving himself immediately his shmoneh esrei is still valid. Furthermore, even one who improperly began shmoneh esrei while experiencing a slight urge believing that he could hold back for seventy-two minutes, and subsequently relieves himself shortly after concluding shmoneh esrei (within seventy-two minutes of when he began) is yotzei b'dieved.

If in the course of davening shmoneh esrei one begins to feel an urge to relieve himself, he should not interrupt his tefilla if at all possible. Even if the urge is pressing enough that he will not be able to disregard it for seventy-two minutes, and even if it reaches a point at which one would normally be in violation of bal t'shakatzu by ignoring it, shmoneh esrei should best not be interrupted (see Mishna Berurah 92:11). If one finds it impossible to continue davening he should stop and tend to his needs, taking care not to speak. Even the brocha "Asher Yotzar" should not be recited until after completing shmoneh esrei. Upon resuming davening it is not necessary to repeat any part of shmoneh esrei which was already recited; rather, one resumes davening from the point at which he left off. There is one exception. If he was forced to interrupt shmoneh esrei for a length of time as long as it would generally take him to recite the entire shmoneh esrei from start to finish he is required to start over from the beginning.

Be'ezras Hashem on another occasion we shall address this halacha as it relates other areas of tefilla, to reciting brochos, and to learning Torah.

Rabbi Friedman is the Moreh Hora'ah for Beis Medrash Mekor Hachaim 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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