The greatest purpose of mankind is to be God’s language in the world .That is why G-d chose a people , as an example , to to reveal that truth. “Now therefore, Hashem our G-d, I beseech You, save us out of his ( the enemy surrounding the walls of Jerusalem) hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are Hashem G-d, and only You ” (2 Kings 19:19).
It is that lesson that is learnt from the festival of Hanukah, the prophecy of Zechariah and from the story of Joseph.
Joseph begins a dramatic process of the unfolding of destiny as he is being hurried out of his jail cell to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Yet it is not coincidental that this torah portion always comes around the time of Hanukah. The two events are intricately connected.
We had previously read that Joseph encouraged the royal butler with his dream interpretation. When that dream becomes fulfilled Joseph begged him to appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf. Yet the butler forgot about Joseph for two years.
Some explain that this request could have been construed as a diminishing of joseph’s faith and therefore resulted in an extra two years of imprisonment .Yet perhaps the two years were due to the fact that Joseph’s request caused a diminishing of the greatness of G-d in the eyes of the Butler. First joseph reveals to the butler and his companion the greatness of G-d’s authority “And they said to him, we have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter for it.” Joseph said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to G-d? Tell [them] to me now.”( Genesis 40:8.
Then Joseph places his redemption in the hands of the butler and by so doing fills the Butler with a sense of self importance and arrogance. These are feelings that do not allow for an awareness of G-d to blossom in the Butlers’ soul.
All this changes when Joseph is released;
“I have heard say of you,” says Pharaoh, “that you can understand a dream to interpret it.” “It is not me,” says Joseph. “G-d shall give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”.( ibid 41:15-16)
The effect on Pharaoh is noticeable in his declaration to Joseph;
“Since G-d has shown you all this,” says Pharaoh to Joseph, “there is none as understanding and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled; only in the throne will I be greater than you.”(ibid:40)
The same truth is revealed in the festival of Hanukah
After the lighting of the Hanukah lights we recite the following
“We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.”
The focus of the Hanukkah lights seems to highlight the smaller miracle of the jar of oil. Why is such emphasis placed on such a small miracle, which is much less impactful than the victory of the few against the many (The Maharal). The military victory represented the end of spiritual and physical domination, while the jar of oil simply ensured the continuance of the light.
The military victory, the Maharal explains, was a great miracle. Regrettably the source of such a great miracle is usually attributed to military power and tactics. The Divine origins of such a victory can be lost amidst the din of the adulation for the victors. G-d used the jar of oil as a signature, to clarify the “Author” of all miracles.
We see the same message being relayed through another menorah, to the prophet Zechariah in the haftara read on Hanukah:
“And he (the angel) said unto me: ‘What do you see?’ And I said: ‘I behold a menorah all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes, yea, seven, to the lamps, which are upon the top thereof; and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.’ And I answered and spoke to the angel that spoke with me, saying: ‘What are these, my lord?’ Then the angel that spoke with me answered and said unto me: ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said: ‘No, my lord.’ Then he answered and spoke unto me, saying:
‘This is the word of HaShem unto Zerubbabel, saying: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit,’ said HaShem of hosts.”(Zachariah 4:1-6)
Military might focuses on the strength of mortals. We have seen again and again how G-d intervenes in miraculous ways and the resulting salvation is then seen as a result of military strategy and physical prowess. We saw such a phenomenon after the Six Day War and throughout Israel’s recent history. The Hidden hand is missed because ego and arrogance cloud the vision. The light of the menorah is meant to dispel that cloud.
That is the purpose laid before all of us at all times. We are bidden, in all of our actions and words, to point back to the Source of all things. That is the reason for the Chanukah lights placed in a location that would be visible to every passersby. That was the greatness of Joseph. That is also the great truth revealed to Zechariah ;
“‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit,’ said HaShem of hosts.’”
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved