How often do we hear the complaint,
“Nothing good ever happens to me” or “I need a miracle” [to get through this]?
Such reactions are the symptoms of poor faith and commitment.
portion speaks about Yosef (Joseph) and his brothers. The brothers treated
Yosef with indifference because they believed that he transmitted slanderous reports
of their activities to their father, Yaakov (Jacob). This resulted in “His
brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they
hated him. [Therefore] They could not speak to him peaceably.” It came to a
point where upon one occasion when Yaakov asked Yosef to check on his brothers,
“They saw him from a distance, and before he approached them they were plotting
against him. And one man said to another, Here comes
the dreamer. Now, come let us kill him
and throw him into one of the pits”.
The pit in which they threw him is the source of an
unusual Talmudic discourse in Tractate Shabbos (22a) “R. Kahana
said, R. Nathan b. Minyomi expounded in R. Tanhum`s name: If a Hanukkah lamp is placed above twenty
cubits [from the ground] it is unfit. [Because it is too high
to be noticed and does not advertise the miracle]. R. Kahana also said, R. Nathan b. Minyomi
expounded in R. Tanhum`s name: Why is it written, and
the pit was empty, there was no water in it? From the implication of what is
said, `and the pit was empty`, do I not know that there was no water in it;
what then is taught by, `there was no water in it`? There was no water, yet
there were snakes and scorpions in it.” [In Tractate Yebamoth
121b, the Talmud teaches, “If a man fell into a lion`s den, no evidence as to
his death may be legally tendered concerning him; but if into a pit full of
serpents and scorpions he fell, evidence may legally be tendered to determine
that he is dead which would enable his wife
What’s the connection between
Hanukkah and the discussion about Yosef’s pit? This
is the subject of much discussion among the commentaries. We will concentrate
on one analysis based on a lesson in Maayan
HaShavuah by Rabbi Sholom M. Wallach,
a contemporary Jerusalem
When Yosef fell
into the pit, the venomous creatures inside certainly would have bitten him (as
taught in Tractate Yebamoth), but a miracle occurred
and he was unharmed.
Now, the brothers certainly knew
nothing of the danger lurking inside the pit due to the deep darkness inside.
Moreover, they did not actually want to kill Yosef, they only intended to to frighten him and teach him not to interfere in their
affairs which were actually not wayward deeds. Furthermore, had Yosef been rescued
from a pit of snakes and scorpions, it would have been apparent that he was a Tzaddik (righteous) and they would cease to suspect him of
impropriety. So it is quite certain that the brothers had no inkling of the
danger concealed in the pit nor did they know of Yosef’s
This may be the connection between
the two teachings; that of the Hanukkah lamp and the pit into which Yosef was
thrown. The general perspective of people is very superficial, they do not
notice anything “above twenty cubits” and they are not aware of what is at the
“bottom of the pit”. Therefore if you wish to publicize the miracle, it must be
directly before your eyes in order to grasp it!
How truthful and penetrating are
these words! We light the Hanukkah candles to underscore the extraordinary
miracle of the small jug of oil that only contained enough oil to burn for one
night, but remained lit for eight nights! We make the blessing `Who wrought miracles for
our fathers in days of old, [and as well] at this time’. We certainly cannot
compare the Hanukkah miracle to the miracles of the Exodus, the Ten
Plagues and the Splitting of the Sea! These were unquestionably much greater
miracles. Great miracles such as these are not performed in the present day.
But we must seek out and appreciate the small miracles in our daily lives.
We light the Hanukkah candles each year to
perceive the miracle before our very own eyes in order to instill within
ourselves that miracles can and do occur!
We should take time out to examine
the events of the day to find the little miracles that Hashem performs for us
daily. It will strengthen our faith and guide us to more meaningful lives.