Parsha Encounters



Parshas Vayeishev - Chanukah:

The "Nature" of Royalty

Rabbi Yehoshua Nudell

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

This week's Parsha portends both Golus (exile) and Geula (redmption) - not only the very first Golus of Mitzrayim, but even the last Golus and Geula (and all those in between).

The Medrash in Tehillim (114:3) tells us that the pasuk "The sea saw and fled" refers to the Yam Suf being confronted with the casket of Yosef HaTzadik. "It fled because of the one who fled." In the merit of Yosef who "Va'Yanos HaChutzah, And he ran outside" - overcame his natural inclination and fled from the wife of Potiphar, so too the sea, whose natural state is to flow into itself, split for the casket of Yosef and for Klal Yisroel.

The expression of "VaYanos HaChutzah" is repeated four times in the narrative of this incident with Aishes Potiphar. Why? In fact, such language was used earlier during the Bris Bain HaBisorim. "VaYaitzai Oso HaChutzah." Hashem said: "You, Avrohom will go outside of your nature (i.e. constellation, as the Medrash notes) and although by nature you should be unable to produce children, you will in fact be the forefather of a great nation."

What produces this "LeMaaleh Min Hatevah," ("supernatural") enabling a person to avoid his fate? It is the Middah K'Neged Middah (quid pro quo) of somebody going outside of his own teva (personal nature). Avraham Avinu did this by fighting his inclination of mercy in order to fulfill the Will of Hashem at the Akeidah. Yitzchok Avinu accomplished this by breaking with the trait of Gevurah (internal strength) as it pertained to his final relationship with Yaakov and Eisav. And Yaakov followed in their footsteps by fighting "Titain Emes LeYaakov," his trait of truthfulness, for the sake of obtaining the Brochos for the future of Klal Yisroel.

When we fail to meet challenges to our middos (personality traits), terrible things may occur. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (6b) states "Rabbi Meir teaches that anybody who praises the compromise of Yehuda [(Beraishis 37:26-27) 'What good will it do to kill our own brother? Let us sell him to the Yishmaelim.')] is a blasphemer." Why is this the case?  If Yosef deserved to die as a rodef (one who is chasing another person intending to kill him), then he should have been killed. If in fact he was faultless, then he should have been brought back to his father. Selling him was not a legitimate option. Yehuda was the de facto king of the Shevatim (Twelve Tribes) - he alone had the opportunity to do what was necessary and correct. He unfortunately did not fully rise to the occasion and paid a terribly high price for it. On a personal level this failure (according to the Medrash) led to death of his wife and children. On a global level it led to Galus Mitzrayim (the Exile in Egypt). Perhaps Yehuda felt that Yosef did not deserve to die, however, he also felt he could not stand up to the other brothers. He fell from the greatness and decisiveness of a king to the compromise - the moreh heter (finding justifications for one's own actions) - of a lesser man. It is only when he was able to broach no compromise, to stand up at great personal embarrassment by saying "Tzadkuh Memeni, She is correct!" during the incident with Tamar, did Yehuda reclaim his status and ensure that Malchus Bais Dovid (the Davidic Dynasty) would be his destiny. Yehuda had a plethora of reasons why he could once again compromise or be moreh heter. After all, how would it look? He was a very important person. The status of an entire family would be hurt! Besides, she enticed him, and he also may have thought that she was the reason his children died. Yehuda did not give in to these rationalizations and went against his tevah, with the result of producing Moshiach Ben Dovid.

The Sefer HaPardes teaches (starting with pasuk 3) that all of the pesukim in VaYeishev start with the letter Vav except for eight verses.  These eight pesukim correspond to the eight days of milah. It may seem that all of the incidents of the Parsha are connected -hence the "Vav"s in some sort of logical story.  It is in fact the eight "Le Maaleh Min HaTevah" pesukim that bring it all about.  Maybe this is what was meant by the Bris Bain HaBesarim, which foretold of all the future Golus and Geulas, that brought Avroham Avinu and all of Klal Yisrael "LeMaaleh Min HaTeva."  Everything may resemble the tevah of  "Vav", but by going LeMaaleh from your tevah, by breaking from your tevah for Hashem's sake, then you will be Zocheh to live an existence of LeMaaleh Min HaTevah.

This brings us to the LeMaaleh Min HaTevah of the eight days of Chanukah, a Yom Tov that has the aspects of Golus (Yavon) and Geula within it.  May these days of Chanukah finally bring to us both the Moshiach Ben Yosef and the Moshiach Ben David


Rabbi Nudell learns nightly in the Kollel.  

Halacha Encounters

Using Electric Lights for the Chanukah Menorah

Rabbi Avi Weinrib

One of the most amazing aspects of Halacha is that although our world is changing and advancing at a dizzying pace, Halacha needs no advancement.  The job of our Poskim (Halachic deciders) is merely to apply age-old principles to the inventions of the day.  In this week's Halacha Encounters, we will discuss the fusion of Chanukah and electricity, by examining if and when the use of electric lights for the lighting of the menorah would be permitted.

There are a number of issues raised by the Poskim regarding the use of electric lights for the menorah.    HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l, in his classic work on electricity, Me'orei Aish [chap. 5, section 2] raises the following points.  Our lighting of the menorah, he writes, is to commemorate the great miracle of the oil in the Beis HaMikdash (Temple) which miraculously burned for eight days when there was only enough oil to burn for one day.  It would follow that our menorah should therefore be similar to the menorah lit in the Beis Hamikdash.  In an oil menorah, the fire consumes the fuel, whereas using electricity consumes no "fuel."  Additionally, electric menorahs lack a flame, the most basic trait of an oil menorah.  Thirdly, a basic trait of an oil-burning light is the function of a wick - used to draw up the fuel for the flame. We do permit using candles, as there the wick is seen as being fueled by the wax or paraffin.  In electric light the electricity flowing through them is merely lighting up the wires. This would be similar to a person heating up rods of iron, which give off a light that according to all opinions would not be valid. See also HaGaon Rav Y. Henkin zt"l in Edus Liyisroel Page 122 Kaf Hachaim 673-19 and Sha'alos Vitshuvos Maharshag Volume 2 Siman 107, who give similar reasons. There are Poskim who take issue with the above reasons. They contend that since the Shulchan Aruch [O.H. 673-1] rules that all oils and wicks are acceptable for one's menorah (albeit olive oil being the most preferable fuel), we see there is no requirement to imitate exactly the Menorah in the Temple. [See Beir Yitzchok Y.D. Volume 2 Siman 31 Tzitz Eliezer Volume 1 Siman 20 Chapter 12].

Another issue raised by Rav Shlomo Zalman and Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt"l [HaMa'ayan Journal Tevet 5732] is as follows. The Shulchan Aruch [675-2] rules that since the mitzvah is the actual kindling of the flame, then one is obligated to have the required amount of oil [enough to burn for half an hour] in the menorah at the time. If one would light and then add the required amount he did not fulfill his obligation. Regarding electricity, there is no fuel present during the lighting. It is being constantly generated. This would be similar to lighting and then adding afterwards. If one would use a battery- powered menorah, he would avoid this problem.

Another issue raised by the Tzitz Eliezer [ibid.] is that the Shulchan Aruch rules that one can only fulfill his obligation with a single flame, and not a "medurah" [blaze of fire]. He contends that since incandescent bulbs contain an arc shaped filament this would have the status of a "medurah" rather than a single flame.

Additionally in Sha'alos V'tshuvos Bais Yitzchok, Rav Yitzchok Shmelkish rules that one cannot use electricity for an additional reason. The Rema [671-7] rules that one should not light his menorah in a place where he lights throughout the year, as it will not be recognizable that he is lighting now especially for Chanukah. Regarding this, if one would have an electric menorah where it is clear that the sole function is for Chanukah, then this problem would not exist.

In summation, based on the above reasons one should not use electric lights in any situation where one has the option of using oil or candles. What should one do if he is in a situation where lighting a flame is not allowed [i.e. a hospital or one on a long flight through the night where there is no option of lighting when one arrives]? There are Poskim who suggest lighting a flame for an instant and then blowing it out.  Their reasoning is that since the flame in and of itself has the ability to burn for a half an hour, even though one decided on his own to extinguish it, one would have fulfilled the obligation. HaRav Dovid Zucker, shlit'a, rules that this should be strongly discouraged.  Besides the obvious danger, there is the tremendous potential for a Chillul Hashem [desecration of G-d's name] and an additional issue of Mitzva Haba Biaveira [a commandment fulfilled through illegal means].  The best practical solution would be for one to bring, corresponding to the day of Chanukah, that amount of flashlights and have them burn for one half-hour.  One should not make a bracha, being that many render even this method invalid.  One should make sure not to hold the flashlights in his hand, but to set them up on a table or similar place [see Shulchan Aruch 675:1].  As an aside, there is an extensive discussion among the Poskim when one is not in his "home" if and when one is required to light, which is beyond the scope of this article.  As a final point, HaGaon Rav Elyashav, shlit"a, (Shvus Yitzchak Ner Shabbos Chapter 3 Footnote 11) says this entire discussion would only apply to incandescent bulbs.  Regarding fluorescent lights, all would agree one might not use such a bulb for Chanukah, as it does not have the halachic status of "aish" (fire).

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






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