Parshat VaYeshev

Parshas Vayeshev/Chanukah

This week’s parsha contains many events, and lessons along with them. When the Yosef’s brothers sell him as a slave, we learn how hatred and anger can affect even the greatest Tzaddikim. When Yaakov refuses to be comforted over losing Yosef, we see the intense love a father has for his child. When Yosef describes his dreams, we see how dreams can become a reality.

According to the simple reading of the pesukim, it seems that Yosef’s brothers and father did not take his dreams too seriously. Yet Yosef’s dreams did, in fact, become a reality, albeit over was a lengthy span of time.

The Nesivos Shalom explains that when we light the menorah on Chanukah, there’s a very specific reason we start with one candle and add another each night. There is a disagreement in the gemara between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel on this very issue; Beis Shammai believes that we light eight candles the first night and subtract one each night, whereas Beis Hillel believes that we light one candle the first night and subsequently add a candle each night. Common practice today is to follow the opinion of Beis Hillel.

What is the root of their disagreement? The Nesivos Shalom explains that there are two types of fire: there’s fire that consumes, and fire that illuminates. Beis Shammai felt that we should try to emulate the fire that consumes swiftly and totally. We should therefore light eight candles on the first night, to symbolize reaching the highest level of spirituality as quickly and completely as possible. Beis Hillel understood that, while Beis Shammai had a point, most people cannot make such huge strides right away. Most people need to accomplish spiritual growth in small steps, one at a time. For this reason Beis Hillel suggested lighting one more candle each night. Slowly but surely, our menorah will, by the end of Chanukah, be completely filled with candles.

The struggle for spiritual perfection never ceases. We must always, always be moving forward, and never backward. Many regard yeshiva and seminary as the optimal places to grow, but growth is incumbent upon anyone, anywhere, at anytime. May we all merit to continuously grow and achieve all our dreams and goals.

Happy Chanukah!

Student Studying in Shaalvim