By: Herschel Karp (9th)
This week’s Parsha, Parshat Vayeshev, discusses the story of Yosef and his brothers throwing him into a pit. This Parsha always falls out on Chanukah or right before, and many wonder what the connection is between Chanukah and Parshat Vayeshev. Although there are some explanations, the manner in which Chanukah relates to Parshat Vayeshev is largely unknown.
The only mention the Talmud gives in regards to the Parshah’s relationship with Chanukah is seemingly random and out of place Midrash. In the section of laws related to Shabbat, Chanukah is mentioned. Rav Kahana says, in the name of Rav Natan bar Minyumi who said it in the name of Rav Tanchum, that there is a seemingly repetitive expression in this week’s Parsha.
When Yosef’s brothers were looking for a pit to throw him into, the Torah says that they found a pit that was empty and there was no water in it. This seems redundant: if something is empty then that means that there is no water. The Midrash explains, however, that the reason it seems to repeat itself is to teach us that the pit was not only lacking water, but it contained snakes and scorpions.
Through this, the Talmud found its relation to Chanukah.
There is a principle in the Torah that whenever there is a reference to water, it actually hints to the Torah. When the Torah goes out of its way to tell us that the pit lacks water, it results in the infestation of snakes and scorpions. This is similar to when one lacks Torah knowledge. If something is devoid of Torah, negative, harmful, and dangerous things automatically occur. When one lacks Torah, the person is bound to going down a bad path.
In regards to the Chanukah story, the major conflict between the Jews and Greeks stemmed from a cultural disagreement. While the Greeks did not physically oppress the Jews, they tried to control them by removing all Jewish values. The war that the Macabees fought was because they knew that they could not live without the Torah. This resembles the story of Yosef; when the pit had no water, it yielded tragic results, but the pit itself was not necessarily the problem.
Our job as Jews is to add the “water” our culture desperately needs to be elevated to a higher and holier form. Running away from outside influences is a futile endeavor that can never succeed. Rather, the message of Chanukah and this week’s Parsha shows us that our job is to introduce the water of Torah into the outside world as well as apply it to our life so we actually wont go down a bad path.