By Rabbi Avraham Gordimer
Parshas Mikeitz perpetually coincides with Chanukah, and Parshas Vayeishev likewise frequently coincides with Chanukah. Various explanations have been offered to prove a connection between Chanukah and these parshiyos which deal with Yosef and his brothers. I’d like to offer a new explanation.
Yosef was severed from his family at the young age of 17. Faced with a strange land and language, as well as a culture of idolatry and hedonism, Yosef pulled through with God’s help to become the leader of the Jewish nation and its spiritual protector. Confronted by hatred, enslavement, physical temptation, imprisonment and scorn, Yosef steadfastly kept faith and commitment under the most challenging of circumstances to emerge strong and eventually affirm his stature as the bearer of Yaakov’s mesorah (Torah traditions).
The Chashmonaim and their supporters were in a very similar position. The Jews at the time were spiritually stifled, having to observe mitzvos clandestinely, while the Greek values of hedone and idolatry were thrust in their faces, backed by military threat. The challenges and adversity to Torah ideology and commitment were immense, and Torah observance was banned and disparaged; despite this all, the Chashmonaim and their followers persevered and emerged victoriously. Just like Yosef’s salvation came about through natural means, but it was clear that Hashem was behind it all, the wars of Chanukah lacked revealed miracles; only the continual flame, representing the Shechinah – Hashem’s Presence – attested that God was working it all from behind the scenes and was the source of all that transpired.
Interestingly, the Rambam presents the laws of Hallel in Hilchos Chanukah – the section of his Yad Ha-Chazakah dealing with the regulations of Chanukah. Why was this done? Perhaps the Rambam’s understanding was that the greatest attestation of God’s glory, for which we praise Him through reciting Hallel, is in the so-called natural scheme of things. Events that seem natural but are clearly directed from Above, so to say, which compel a thinking person to realize that what we term “natural” is itself a manifestation of Hashem’s providence, is the greatest forum for Hallel. When we try to fathom the unfathomable complexity of nature, such that every structure is purposefully planned; when we see that creation is designed with intricate and elaborate systems, all working in tandem, such that the greatest of scientists cannot begin to replicate; when we experience natural events that are too coincidental to be “natural” – we realize that the greatest of miracles which warrant God’s praise are at hand.
The realization that Hashem designs and manipulates nature compels our recitation of Hallel on Chanukah, and our perseverance in Torah and mitzvos in the face of the adversity of secular society should be inspired by Yosef and the Chashmonaim, as we commemorate and internalize the miracles “of those days in these (and all) times”.
Originally appears on YUTorah