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On Chanukah, we must daven to gain the ability to see the good and the potential within everything and not only at what things appear to be externally. We must daven for the ability to look at ourselves, our wives and husbands, our children, and all Jewish people with the eyes of Yosef Hatzadik, the eyes of “in those days at this time,” the inner perspective of “And every eye hopes to You.”
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Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Mikeitz – Shabbos Chanukah 5774
The World that is or the World that Could be
We find a unique halacha with regard to the Chanukah candles that does not exist anywhere else. According to the Gemara (Sukkah 41a), if one is walking down the street and sees a lit menorah, he should say the blessing, “who has done miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.” Tosafos offer three reasons to explain why this is only the case with regard to the mitzva of Chanukah candles, the first of which is that it is because of “the preciousness of the miracle.” Let us understand an additional reason why we make a blessing even when we merely see Chanukah candles without actually lighting them. What is the unique connection between Chanukah and the concept of seeing such that one can make a blessing just by seeing the Chanukah candles?
The Divrei Chaim of Tzanz teaches that the primary element of the mitzva of Chanukah candles is seeing the candles. He was even known to sit and watch the Chanukah candles for six or seven hours without ever averting his attention from them. He explains that this is the deeper meaning of the phrase in “Haneros Halalu,” in which we say after lighting the candles: “And we do not have permission to use [the candles]. Rather, we may only see them.” The Avodas Yisroel of Kuzhnitz says that gazing at the Chanukah candles can repair the spiritual damage done to our eyes when we look at forbidden sights. The Chanukah candles are the manifestation of (Tehilim 97:11) the “light sown for the righteous.” And the “righteous” is a reference to Yosef Hatzadik, who was known for being extremely careful to ensure that his eyes saw only appropriate sights.
Why is seeing such an important concept on Chanukah? The Divrei Chaim explains:
In truth, if one follows that which his eyes see, he will, G-d forbid, fall into [the evil inclination’s] trap. As the pasuk (Bamidbar 15:39) says, “And you shall not stray… after your eyes.” The main thing is to distinguish matters using the intellect. This is also called ‘seeing,’ as Chazal (Kesubos 109a) say, “I see the words of Admon.” This means the sight of the intellect because the intellect [חכמה] means the ability [כח] to see what [מה] something truly is. It is the ability to truly see. And the Greeks wanted to seduce our hearts to forget the words of the Torah and to follow that which nature can see, as we know about their foolish ways. In this way, they attempted to darken the eyes of the Jewish people (Bereishis Raba 2:4).
We see from the Divrei Chaim that there are two types of “seeing.” One way is to see things which are physically before his physical eyes and the other is to see something with the power of the intellect, with one’s wisdom. Rav Avremela Eiger, z”ya, the son of Reb Leibele Eiger, zy”a, who was the grandson of Reb Akiva Eiger, zt”l, explains a phrase we say in the Korbanos every Shabbos morning in his sefer Shevet MiYehuda, “And every eye hopes to You.” He explains that this means that every eye hopes, waits, and longs for G-d. He also explains how the Torah uses the word “עין, eye” to refer to the wellspring (עין המים) throughout the story leading up to the marriage between Yitzchak and Rivka, the first “shidduch” process mentioned in the Torah. On a simple level, the “עין המים, wellspring” refers to the well. But on a deeper level, Eliezer was “testing” Rivka to see what kind of eyes she had. Did she look at the world with physical eyes or with the eyes of, “And every eye hopes to You?”
The light of Chanukah does not illuminate the physical world. Rather, it lights up the potential that exists inside things, beneath the surface. When a person opens his physical eyes, he only sees what is in front of him. But if he wants to see something far away, he squints his eyes, almost closing them. Why? Because by closing his eyes to that which is right before him, he is able to see much further and much deeper. He can see potential which has not yet been actualized. While the sun can only shed light on that which is, the Chanukah candles show us that which we desire and long for, what we can become.
Although Greece fancied itself the most “enlightened” nation, Chazal revealed (Bereishis Raba 2:4) that Greece represents the deepest darkness because they attempted to “darken the eyes of the Jewish people.” They attempted to convince us that we can only rely on that which our physical eyes can see. From that perspective, the Jewish people have no hope. If one looks only at what his eyes can see, he sees that we have no future. If one sees the world according to what he reads in the Pew Survey, he would lose hope. If Matisyahu ben Yochanan Kohein Gadol and his sons only considered the physical nature before their eyes, they would never have taken up arms against the Greeks! Only tzadikim who look at the world with the eyes of “And every eye hopes to You” have the deeper vision to see the world as it could be. Not the world as it is.
When one sees the Chanukah candles, he makes the blessing, “who did miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.” On one hand, this means that Hashem did miracles in the past for our great-grandparents at this time of the year. But on a deeper level, “in those days” refers to the light of the times of Moshiach, as the pasuk (Tehillim 132:17) says, “I have set up a candle for My Moshiach.” When we gaze at the Chanukah candles, we look into the future and draw the reality from that great future “in those days” into “at this time.” We actualize that future right now. Rebbe Nachman even teaches (Likutei Moharan Tinyana 7) that the mitzva of the Chanukah candles rectifies the sin of the spies who looked at Eretz Yisroel with their physical eyes instead of squinting to see the land with the eyes of the intellect. They saw only what was, but not what could be and what would be.
Yosef Hatzadik exemplified this Chanukah-dik outlook. The Torah (Bereishis 49:22) describes him by saying, “A charming son is Yosef, charming to [עלי] the eyes.” The word used to describe how Yosef was charming to the eyes also means that he rose above (עלי) the eyes. He looked above and beyond that which was in front of him. He saw the world as it could be and not as it was. He did not look at the wife of Potifar. He did not look at his suffering. Despite everything in front of his eyes, he saw greatness and holiness underneath the filth of Egypt. Although the daughters of the land were clamoring to gaze at Yosef’s face (ibid.), he never looked at them. He was able to see his father’s image in the depths of the impurity of Egypt (Rashi on Bereishis 39:11).
The Midrash teaches us (Bamidbar Raba 14:6) that Hashem repaid Yosef for his eyes’ greatness in a remarkable way. According to the Midrash, “Our sages taught that people ate minor sanctified foods within the walls of Yerushalayim, but [with regard to eating minor sanctified foods from the Mishkan] in Shilo, which was on Yosef’s portion [of Eretz Yisroel], they would eat them ‘as far as one can see [the Mishkan]’” (emphasis added). The Gemara (Zevachim 118b) expands on this idea, teaching that “‘a charming son is Yosef, charming to the eyes;’ the eye which did not want to benefit from something which does not belong to it will merit to eat “as far as one can see.’”
Reb Shlomo Katz quotes a story recounted by Reb Shlomo Carlebach about Reb Boruch Mezhbitzer, zy”a. In it, Reb Boruch traveled to Zhitomer, a town know as having a large population of thieves. As he was walking, he saw a man on the other side of the street who appeared to have a shining face. He immediately walked over to him and asked if he had a son. He answered that he did. Reb Boruch responded that he had a daughter. “Do you want to make a shidduch?” Stunned, the man paused for a minute. Reb Boruch’s gabbai was shocked as well and people began to gather around. But the man responded that he agreed. Reb Boruch began drafting the “Tena’im,” the engagement contract, on the spot. After the agreement was signed, he went on his way but the people of Zhitomer felt an obligation to tell Reb Boruch that the man with whom he made a shidduch had a checkered past.
The townspeople told Reb Boruch that several years earlier, this man was accused of stealing something from another family. He was then tied to the back of a wagon and dragged around the town while the Jews and non-Jews of the town pelted him with garbage. Reb Boruch paid them no mind, telling them “I know good merchandise when I see it.” Before leaving, he went to pay a visit to the widow of a great tzadik who used to live in the town, Reb Volf of Zhitomer, known by the name of this sefer, the “Ohr Meir.” When he was speaking with her, she wished him a hearty mazel tov on the shidduch. So Reb Boruch said, “Not everyone here believes that this is such a good shidduch. Why do you think it’s a good match?”
Reb Volf’s widow answered, “When that Jew was being dragged around the streets, my husband and I were watching from this window. He said to me, ‘That man is innocent. The thief was actually a poor man who was desperate. This man knew that the poor man could not withstand the town’s abuse so he decided to take the blame. And if you do not believe me, you will see that some years from now, a big tzadik will come to town and make a shidduch with this man.” Tzadikim like Reb Volf of Zhitomer and Reb Boruch Mezhbitzer have eyes that look beneath the surface at the inner essence of things. They look at the world with the light of the Chanukah candles, not the light of the sun.
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