Compiled by Dina Fraenkel
In Parshas Mikeitz, which is read on Chanukah, we read the story of Yaakov’s sons’ journey to Mitzrayim with their youngest brother Binyamin. There is a famine in the land of Goshen and Yaakov’s sons go to beseech their brother Yosef — whom they previously sold into Egyptian bondage and has now risen to power – for food. When the brothers requested their father’s permission to return to Mitzrayim with Binyamin, he reluctantly responded: “May G-d Almighty grant that the man have pity on you and release your other brother and Binyamin.”1
Yaakov had a much higher level of fear than his sons about his children’s return to Mitzrayim. While they knew that they deserved punishment for their previous actions and had a negative feeling about the upcoming events, the sons viewed the situation as a personal tribulation.2 On the other hand, their father Yaakov viewed the situation as a continuation of his own tribulations and an indication of the future tragic experiences of the Jewish people in Mitzrayim.3
Why did Yaakov and his sons have such different views about the scope of the event of returning to Mitzrayim with Binyamin? There is a basic difference between Yaakov and his sons. Yaakov was one of the three Avos, a founder of B’nei Yisroel. He was on such a high spiritual level that he saw every event in his life as a sign and precursor to events that would befall the Jewish people at a later time. His sons, the founders of the 12 Shvatim, were not on the same spiritual level as their father and, therefore, were only able to see the events as they related to themselves. Yaakov’s sons saw the events as part of the course of nature, as a natural consequence to their actions regarding their brother Yosef, while Yaakov Avinu, with his heightened level of spirituality, saw the event as it transcended nature and took on supernatural significance.
The view of Yaakov Avinu relates to the miracles of Chanukah as well. Even though the events of Chanukah were miraculous, one could view them as occurring within the scope of nature, since the victory of the Jewish people over the Syrian-Greeks involved an actual physical war. This view misses the real truth of the Chanukah miracle. Hashem made this miracle occur completely outside the bounds of nature. The Jewish people overcame incredible odds, as it says in V’Al HaNissim: “…the mighty into the hands of the weak, many into the hands of the few.”
Yaakov Avinu’s far-reaching view of events teaches us that anything a Jew is involved in, no matter how small it seems, no matter how mundane, one should not think of the act as a purely natural act. It should always involve a strong knowledge that one’s actions have a lasting physical and spiritual impact on the world and a prayer that one’s action should contribute to the greater good.
We know that we must live our lives within the laws of nature, as the Torah teaches, “G-d your Lord will bless you in all you do.”4 But we must also remember that our connection to nature is merely external, because we are truly bound to Hashem, who is far above nature.
May the knowledge of the everlasting effects, both physical and spiritual, of our actions compel to fill our lives with Torah and mitzvos and hasten the imminent coming of the complete and final redemption with Moshaich now.