Parashat Vayeishev 5768

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28 Nov 2007

Parshat Vayeishev 5768

Parshat Vayeishev – Do What Hashem Commands You

Question: What is the mitzvah of the lights of Chanukah – lighting them or placing them in the correct place?
Answer: It is well-known that this is a dispute in the Gemara (Shabbat 22-23) as to whether the mitzvah is the lighting of the Chanukah lights, or whether the mitzvah is that the lights be placed in the proper spot, i.e. lit for a certain period of time. What is the difference? One example is in a case where someone who is not obligated in the mitzvah, like a non-Jew, kindles the lights and then a Jew, who is obligated, picks them up and puts them down. If the mitzvah is the actual lighting, since the lights were kindled by someone who is not obligated the Jew cannot not fulfill his obligation with them. If, however, the mitzvah is placing the lights, even though the lights were kindled by someone who is not obligated, since they were put down by the Jew, he does fulfill his obligation. The halakha is that the actual lighting is the mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 675:1). This is also verified by the blessing itself: “Who has made us holy with His mitzvot and commands us to light…” Based on this discussion, we can ask: What exactly was the miracle of Chanukah? Was the miracle the actual lighting of the Menorah in the Temple or was the miracle that they were lit for a certain period of time? The miracle seems to be that they were lit for a certain period of time, since there was no problem lighting the Menorah – there was enough oil for one day! If we say that the miracle was the actual lighting of the Menorah what was the miracle? Answer: The miracle was that it took great strength to be bold enough to even light the Menorah in the first place. They could have said: “Why should we light it? It needs to be lit for eight days before new oil will be ready. It isn’t worth it to light it for one day.” But they did not say this. They said: “Hashem commanded us to light. We will light. What will be tomorrow? We don’t know. Hashem will decide.” The same is true of the revolt. “You are going to rebel against the Greeks?! You think you can win?! Sure you can begin a battle, but how are you going to win? Why even start then?” “We were commanded by Hashem, so we will begin. After that Hashem will decide.” There was a great miracle, but they didn’t know that this was going to occur when they began. This is “Mesirat Nefesh” – true self-sacrifice. There are many example of great self-sacrifice in our tradition, but the miracle of Chanukah is unique. Up to this point, there were always prophets. Here, however, there were no prophets to give direction. They acted because they understood what Hashem commanded them to do.

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Text Message Responsa

Ha-Rav answers hundreds of text message questions a week. Here’s a sample:

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Stories of Rabbeinu – Our Rabbi: Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook

Jerusalem, mountains surround her

Our Rabbi was once in the hospital, and he laid there and did not respond. Students tried to engage him in conversation, but our Rabbi did not answer. An announcement arrived that the Prime Minister, Mr. Menachem Begin, needed to see him. The students were concerned about what would happen; perhaps our Rabbi would be embarrassed because of his condition. Then a nurse came to perform a treatment for him, and our Rabbi awoke and said: “Perhaps later,” because he did not want the Prime Minister to arrive in the middle of the treatment. He strengthened himself, sat on the bed and requested a towel. When the Prime Minister arrived, he became completely alert, which amazed everyone. Our Rabbi said: “Perhaps it is possible for just the two of us to be together?” Everyone left. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Begin said: “Jerusalem, mountains surround her, and Hashem surrounds his Nation” (Tehillim 125:2). This appears to have been the substance of their conversation.

May you depart towards peace, Angels of Peace

When our Rabbi said “May you depart toward peace” in the song “Shalom Aleichem” before Kiddush on Shabbat night, he would pick up a cup of wine and say as one who is justifying his actions: Now that we are able to eat what do the Angels have to do with us (This was to justify saying this stanza since the minhag in some places – like Volozhin – was not to recite it and request the angels to leave) (from Ha-Rav Avihu Schwartz – Iturei Kohanim #81)

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Shut She’eilat Shlomo – Questions of Jewish Law

Accidental Radio on on Shabbat

Ashkenazi in non-Ashkenaz minyan

Direction of Davening at the Kotel

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On Air

Every Tuesday and Thursday night Rav Aviner answers questions of Jewish Law and faith on the radio in Israel. On the Air presents a sample of these answers each week.

Blessing on Sufganiyot

Oil for Pesach

A scoundrel within the permission of the Torah

One big shul or many little shuls

Time for Lecha Dodi

Discussing a recipe on Shabbat

Answering the phone on Shabbat when one’s mother is sick

Calling relative outside of Israel while it is still Shabbat there

Rabbi giving kosher certification to product he does not eat

Pareve cake in fleishchig oven

Lending pool pass to someone

Can a mourner have an aliyah during “shiva”

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Rav Aviner’s article from the parsha sheet “Be-Ahava U-Be-Emuna” of Machon Meir from Parshat Vayishlach 5768 (Translated by Rafael Blumberg)

Don’t Cut Up the Land of Israel!

Question: What is the Torah’s view about the new suggestion of bringing the destroyer right into Jerusalem, by transferring neighborhoods in which Jews do not live to either Jordan or the Palestinians, or other such ideas?
Answer: Obviously this strange and bizarre suggestion is pure nonsense. It is well-known that the mitzvah of the Land of Israel may be divided into three parts:

  1. Living in the Land. Every Jew must live in Israel and not in Babylonia, New York or anywhere else on earth.
  2. Settling the Land. The Land must be built, settled, filled with Jews, filled with factories, fields and vineyards. As Ramban wrote: “We must never abandon it to desolation” (Positive Commandment 4 of Ramban’s additions to Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot)
  3. Occupying the Land. The Torah commands, “You shall clear out the Land” (Bamidbar 33:53); and, “Inherit the Land” (Devarim 4:1). These commands refer to the people taking ownership of the Land. As Ramban said, “We mustn’t leave it in the hands of any other nation” (ibid.). This land must not be left in the hands of any other people, but only our people.

This mitzvah requires self-sacrifice. Without self-sacrifice it won’t work out. No nation on earth succeeds in holding on to its independence without self-sacrifice, all the more so the Jewish People. Everything we have today in our land has come by way of self-sacrifice: 1) Self-sacrifice to move to Israel, even in face of danger, even traveling through deserts or by ship; 2) Self-sacrifice, down through the generations, to establish settlements in the Land, to establish neighborhoods and to build. Such self-sacrifice was exhibited by all Jews, secular, religious and Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox); 3) The self-sacrifice exhibited by our army in occupying our land.

The rule is this: This entire land has to be under our sovereignty (Ramban, ibid.). There is a place for non-Jews living here, under certain conditions (Ramban, ibid.), just as such conditions exist in every country on earth. Whoever wishes to live in a particular country must certainly fulfill its laws and practices. He must certainly not be involved in the murder of its citizens. There is room for deliberating on which non-Jews should be allowed to live here, in accordance with their religion and nationality, wickedness or faithfulness – yet all this is referring to a private calculation. If an Arab has a house or field, accompanied by proof that it is indeed his, and not just stolen – we won’t take it away from him. (see Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah, page 252)

We are talking here about national ownership, in other words, by the State. How strange the argument that in the Jerusalem neighborhoods earmarked for transfer, “Arabs live there and not Jews anyway. What difference does it make if there is non-Jewish rule?” How senseless one must be to make such claims! After all, in every country in the world there are minorities. Obviously, we are not like every country in the world – we must live as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Yet we are not inferior to any other nation, as Maharal states at the beginning of his book Netzach Yisrael. Shall we fail to understand something that every nation on earth understands? For example, shall the French, because they have eight million Arabs or twelve million Arabs, suddenly establish a state for them there?! Every single country on earth has minorities. Obviously, we have to relate to them with human dignity, but that does not give them the right to national sovereignty.

Therefore, this entire idea is a one big deceit and a dangerous blunder. It is hard to understand how people can talk such nonsense, nonsense that no other nation on earth would spout. Find one people on earth ready to establish a state or to hand over to another people part of its territory since foreigners live there. This nonsense, according to the theory of our master Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, stems from the Holocaust (LeNetivot Yisrael 1:94): In the Holocaust, they not only murdered us but also drove us insane, until we lost our self-confidence to bang on the table and say: Eretz Yisrael is ours!

A friend who went on vacation in Alaska told me that he sat by the sea, fishing. During the trip in the light plane that brought them there, someone jokingly asked, “What happens if a bear approaches us?” Yet the group leader didn’t laugh. He answered, “Look it straight in the eye and say to it, ‘Hey bear! This is my place!’ Later on when my friend was fishing he heard a rustling behind him. He turned around and saw a terrifying sight – a bear was threatening him. He had the courage to look it in the eye without blinking and to say, “Hey bear! This is my place!” The bear made a noise, turned around and left.

We have to state clearly: This land is our place. It is all ours. The fact that we disappeared from the Land because we were cruelly exiled by our enemies, and foreigners came and built homes and stole our lands, does not suddenly make it theirs.

Also the claim that all of these non-Jewish Jerusalem neighborhoods cost us money is nonsense. We did not establish our country as a business venture. Millions of Jews lost billions. Ask any Jew who dwells in Zion: For you, is the Jewish State just about economics and security? He will be insulted and will respond, “G-d forbid! It’s history! Thank G-d we’ve got an economy and security, but that’s not the only reason we returned to our land. We came back because it is our land. We didn’t wait two thousand years just to give part of it away to foreigners.”

Ben Gurion once asked Yitzhak Tabenkin, one of the principle thinkers of the Kibbutz movement: “Is it possible to concede parts of Eretz Yisrael for peace?” and Tabenkin responded, “I have to get advice.” The next day he answered no. Ben Gurion asked him, “May I asked you from whom you got advice?” and Tabenkin responded, “I asked my grandfather who has died and my grandson who is not yet born.”

Let us be strong and courageous for our land.

Special thank you to Fred Casden for editing the Ateret Yerushalayim Parshah Sheet

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Winter Questions

A Sick Person Going to Shul

Asking Someone to Remove a Used Tissue from the Table

Pointing Out to Someone to Clean their Nose

Kissing the Torah by Hand

Windows Open or Shut in Shul

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Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner is Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim. All material translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig. For more Torah:

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.