There is a thematic link between the story of Yosef, in this week's parshah, and the story of Chanukah: man's realization that G-d's "Unseen Hand" is guiding history.
When Yosef goes in search of his brothers, an anonymous "man" meets him in Shechem and directs him toward Dosan. Thus began the chain reaction that sends Yosef to Egypt as a slave and culminated in his ascension to Egypt's throne.
"The Torah incorporates Yosef's encounter with the anonymous man," explains the Ramban, "in order to teach the fundamental principle that in determining the real cause of history's events, hacharitzut sheker vehagezeirah emet--man's industriousness is false and G-d's decree is true."
Sensitivity to this truth grew within Yosef until, many years later when it was time to reveal his identity to his brothers, he was able to say, "It was not you who sent me here, but G-d."
It was this same awareness that motivated the Chashmona'im. They understood that in all their accomplishments, G-d's gezeirah was emet and their charitzut was secondary.
This recognition suggests an answer to the well-known question regarding the flask of pure oil found by the Chashmona'im.
The law of tumah hutra betzibbur establishes that, when there is no alternative, a communal offering is acceptable even if it is in an impure state. Since the oil used to kindle the Temple menorah was considered a communal offering, it would therefore be covered by this rule and, had the Chashmona'im not found the flask of pure oil, they would have been permitted to kindle the menorah with impure oil.
Why, then, did the Chashmona'im insist on using ritually pure oil for the menorah, when all they had was one small flask? To have lit the menorah with pomp and ceremony only to have it go out after just one day would have certainly exposed them to ridicule from the Hellenists and a dubious public.
In seizing the very first opportunity to light the menorah and in insisting on pure oil no matter what the risks, the Chashmona'im were making a statement. Surely their military success was striking. But was it an undeniable miracle? Was it the "Unseen Hand"? Could it not have been argued that Judah Maccabee was a master military tactician with a highly motivated guerrilla force, who succeeded in humbling an occupying superpower--as have many such groups in history?
What is crucial to the festival of Chanukah is the Maccabee's conviction that G-d's miraculous intervention was responsible for whatever they had achieved militarily. Hacharitzut sheker vehagezeirah emet. Their capacity to sense the "Unseen Hand" behind the unfolding events generated a profound sense of thanks to G-d who was responsible for their victories.
Rabbi Yosef D. Soloveitchik, zt"l, once said that this appreciation distinguished the lighting of the menorah by the Chashmona'im from the lighting which would occur in the Temple daily for the next 200 years.
Theirs was not only a halachic performance but a unique and extraordinary expression of hakarat hatov to the A-mighty. Other ways could have been found to stretch the small flask of oil--by dividing it into eight smaller parts or by using thinner wicks--until new, pure oil could be produced. But the flame would have been dim and unimpressive.
Such an impoverished light would have failed to convey the profound gratitude that drove the Chashmona'im to rekindle the menorah at the very first opportunity and in the most beautiful manner possible.
Rabbi Mordecai E. Feuerstein, Congregation Schara Tzedeck, Vancouver B.C., Canada
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