Mikeitz 5777


The believing Jew understands that nothing happens for naught. Even more so, he perceives that nothing occurs by chance. Time, person, and place define the incidence of all events.
In the Jewish year there are Yomim Tovim D’Oraysa and Yomim Tovim D’Rabbanan, Biblically and Rabbinically ordained festivals. Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos are the Yomim Tovim D’Oraysa; Purim and Chanukah are the Yomim Tovim D’Rabbanan.
A casual glance at the calendar reveals an interesting detail. The Yomim Tovim D’Oraysa all occur in the summer seasons, whereas the Yomim Tovim D’Rabbanan transpire during the winter months. Why?
A further difference is in the very root of the festivals themselves. The Biblically ordained festivals are based upon miracles engineered directly through G-d. The Exodus, Sinai Revelation, and the Clouds of Glory are all gifts from Hashem to His nation. On the other hand, the Rabbinical festivals are precipitated through human venture (albeit Divinely inspired) – Mordechai and Esther confronting Haman, Matisyahu and his family engaging the (Syrian) Greeks.
Another interesting point regarding the Rabbinic festivals is the role that the Jewish woman plays. In both Purim and Chanukah, women occupy a central role. Purim features the righteous Esther; in the Chanukah story, Yehudis the daughter of Matisyahu slays the Greek general, sparking a rebellion.
To elucidate these points, we must first understand the very root of the festivals. At Sinai, Hashem Yisborach gave to Klal Yisrael two Torahs, the Written Torah and the Oral one, referred to respectively as Torah Shebichsav and Torah Shebe’al Peh. Torah Shebichsav is that Torah which emanates purely from Hashem, whereas Torah Shebe’al Peh is the Torah as interpreted and understood through the lens of man. Included in that process is the ability of the sages to create their own ordinances, all done with the guidance of oral transmission and purity of their own selves. In a sense, Torah Shebichsav is the Torah of the Giver and Torah Shebe’al Peh is the Torah of the Receiver.
That being the case, we can understand the various differences between the festivals. Pesach, Shavuos and Succos are all part of the Written law. As such, they stem directly from G-d himself, the Giver, their very essence being a day created by Him. Different by nature are those festivals which are created through the Oral law. Purim and Chanukah are brought about through Divinely aided human effort. They stem from the Oral law, the law of the Receiver, given to man to be understood only by his G-dly aided human mind.
For that very reason, the seasons of the celebrations reflect the very nature of their bases. The summer is the time when the ground awakens, letting loose the treasures within, to be shared and consumed by the creatures all around. Its role becomes that of a giver, giving and supplying to all who need. Understandably, those Yomim Tovim, which represent the law of the Giver, concur with the season in which the world at large is functioning as a giver, too. Winter is the opposite: the ground receives the rain, taking in the gifts from Above, thus enabling it to continue its role. Therefore, the festivals celebrated at that time are the festivals representing those who receive.
Man is the primary recipient of G-d’s gifts. Those festivals based upon the law of man, the Torah Sheba’al Peh, are specifically engineered through the efforts of man, Klal Yisrael. And not any human form, but especially the female one. In the Torah’s viewpoint, the role of the woman is that of the receiver. Both physically and emotionally, she takes from the male, enabling him to develop into the true servant of Hashem. The Jewish woman is prominently active in the creation of the festivals, which represent the law of the Receiver. She is the paradigm of the recipient bringing the law of the Receiver into being.
Perhaps that is why the story of Chanukah concurs with the Torah reading of Yosef and the brothers. It is at this juncture that Sefer Bereishis shifts from the story of the fathers to the tale of the sons. The transition from father to son is the transition from giver to receiver. So at this time of year, when the focus is the receiver, we celebrate the festival of the Receivers. Likewise, we read the Parshiyos of the Receivers.


The Gemara (Shabbos 25a) teaches that הדלקת נר בשבת חובה, the Mitzvah to light Shabbos candles, is a binding obligation. In characterizing the source and nature of this “obligation,” the Rishonim appear to identify two different components. In the thirtieth chapter of Hilchos Shabbos (Halacha 4), the Rambam associates Shabbos candles with the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos, honoring the Shabbos. This association is further highlighted by the Hagahos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Shabbos 5:1), who cites the opinion of the Yerushalmi that the Bracha for Shabbos candles should read “להדליק נר לכבוד שבת”. In the fifth chapter of Hilchos Shabbos, however, the Rambam links Ner Shabbos with the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos, delighting in the Shabbos. Apparently, then, the Rambam maintains that the lighting of Shabbos candles fulfills both the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos and the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos.
The Vilna Gaon (Beiur Hagra Orach Chaim 529:1) explains the difference between Kavod and Oneg Shabbos. While both Kavod and Oneg refer to activities performed in honor of the Shabbos, the distinction between these Mitzvos lies in their respective timing. Activities which are done in anticipation of Shabbos, i.e., before the commencement of Shabbos, such as cooking and cleaning the house, fulfill the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos. Activities performed on Shabbos itself, such as eating meals, fulfill the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos.
Given the Gaon’s explanation, the Rambam’s understanding of Ner Shabbos as a fulfillment of both Kavod and Oneg Shabbos becomes clear. By lighting the candles on Friday afternoon in preparation for Shabbos, one fulfills Kavod Shabbos; by allowing the candles to continue to burn into Shabbos itself, providing an illuminated room which enhances the Shabbos experience, one fulfills Oneg Shabbos. Based on this analysis, it emerges that the practice of lighting Shabbos candles before the actual commencement of Shabbos is not simply a function of the prohibition to light candles on Shabbos. Rather, Friday afternoon is the optimal time for lighting Shabbos candles, so that the lighting serves as preparation for the incoming Shabbos and thereby fulfills the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos.
This understanding of the time for lighting may bear practical ramifications regarding Yom Tov, which similarly entails Mitzvos of Kavod and Oneg (see Rambam Hilchos Yom Tov 6:16). Although one is permitted to light candles on Yom Tov, the D’risha (introduction to Tur Yoreh Deah) cites the practice of his mother to light candles before the commencement of Yom Tov nonetheless, in order to fulfill the preparatory Mitzvah of Kavod Yom Tov. While the D’risha suggests that one should not follow this practice before the second night of Yom Tov in the Diaspora, in order to avoid “preparing” from one day of Yom Tov to the next, Tosafos (Beitzah 22a s.v. Ain) argue that such a practice is indeed permissible. Since the lighting of the candle illuminates the dark room, the lighting provides immediate benefit for the current day of Yom Tov, and is therefore not deemed a preparation for the next day of Yom Tov.
This understanding may also account for the Rashba’s challenge of the Rambam’s opinion regarding the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah. The Rambam rules (Hilchos Chanukah 4:5) that one may not light Chanukah candles before nightfall, even if they continue burning into the night (except, of course, on Erev Shabbos). The Rashba (Shabbos 21a s.v. Ha D’amrinan) disagrees, arguing that as long as the candles continue to burn through the requisite time period, one may indeed light the Chanukah candles early. As support for his opinion, the Rashba cites the case of Shabbos candles, which are similarly kindled before the time of the Mitzvah (before Shabbos), but by continuing to burn into Shabbos night fulfill the Mitzvah nonetheless. The Rashba infers from here that one may always light candles before the ordained time of the Mitzvah, as long as the candles continue to burn during the prescribed time period.
In defense of the Rambam’s opinion, Rav Turtzin (Kuntrus B’inyanei Chanukah U’Megilla 1) draws a fundamental distinction between Ner Shabbos and Ner Chanukah. The Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah begins at nightfall. Prior to nightfall, there is no Mitzvah to light, and one who lights is indeed considered to be lighting early. Ner Shabbos, however, is quite different. Because of the preparatory nature of the Mitzvah of Kavod Shabbos, the actual time for the Mitzvah is Friday afternoon. Lighting before Shabbos is not considered to be lighting early, but lighting at the proper time. Chanukah, by contrast, where no Mitzvah of Kavod exists, cannot be compared to the Mitzvah of Ner Shabbos.