Thursday, December 14, 2017



There was a man who had survived the Holocaust and was completely broken. He had fallen into a state of yiush - utter despair.
Rabbi Yankel Galinsky knew him from years earlier, and suggested that he come with him to discuss his tragic situation with the Chazon Ish[2]. The man was reluctant; he didn’t feel like anything could help him after what he had seen and experienced. But eventually he agreed.
After listening to the man describe some of his horrible experiences, and his feelings of despair, the Chazon Ish told the man that he would like to share with him a halachic question from years earlier:
There was a woman who supported her husband, who learned Torah in kollel, by selling merchandise. On one occasion, she was in Leipzig for the major fair to sell her wares. After doing much business for a few days, she realized to her horror that she had lost the pouch that contained all the money she had collected.
She was beside herself with grief. That was the money she had painstakingly earned to provide for her family for a few months.
She went to the local Rav and related what had occurred. The Rav replied that he would announce it in town and, on the very small chance that a Jew had found it, hopefully he would return it.
Indeed, a few days later a Jew approached the Rav and said that he had found the pouch. But he argued that the woman had unquestionably given up hope of ever seeing the money again. Therefore, he asked the Rav if he was really obligated to return the pouch. The man added that he wasn’t interested in acting piously, beyond the letter of the law (lifnim mishuras hadin). He only wanted to know the bottom line halacha - is he really obligated to return it?[3]
The Rav was stymied and presented the question to Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector zt”l.
Rav Yitzchak Elchanan replied simply that the rule is, כל מה שקנתה אשה קנה בעלה - everything a woman acquires, belongs to her husband. Therefore, the woman’s yiush doesn’t count for anything, since it isn’t hers. The true owner - the husband - doesn’t know it’s missing, and therefore it’s a case of yiush shelo mida’as[4]. Therefore, the finder is indeed obligated to return the pouch to the woman.
After the Chazon Ish finished recounting the story, the man asked him what it had to do with his situation. The Chazon Ish replied that as a religious, Torah-abiding Jew, no matter how bleak and challenging things were, he had no right to be miyaesh. Like the woman in the story, who could not give up on money that belong to her husband, he could not give up on a life that had been granted to him by Hashem. Hashem preserved him throughout the horrors of the war, and therefore he is obligated to persevere.
Rav Yankel Galinsky related that the man left a different person. Everyone had tried to empathize and reason with him. But the Chazon Ish framed it differently - a person has no right to ever give up; it’s not our prerogative![5]

I often joke that Parshas Miketz ‘begins at the end’. That’s because the opening words of the parsha are, “And it was at the end of two years, and Pharaoh dreamed…”  But perhaps there is a deeper meaning to that statement, which also serves as a tremendously encouraging message, apropos to the Yom Tov of Chanukah.
The Bais Yosef asks: the gemara[6] states that the jug of oil the Chashmonaim found contained enough oil for one day. After they lit it, it miraculously continued to burn for an additional seven days. If so, the miracle was in fact only for seven days. So why is Chanukah an eight-day holiday, and not seven days?[7]
The Bais Yosef himself offers three possible answers. One of the ideas he writes is that the Chashmonaim divided the oil they had found into eight parts, and only poured one eighth of a cup into the menorah on that first night. The fact that it continued to burn the entire night and not only one eighth of the night, was a miracle on that first night, which repeated itself throughout all eight days.[8] 
This idea is very perplexing. How could the Chashmonaim divide the oil, thereby ensuring that naturally the mitzvah would not be fulfilled even that first night? They had no idea that a miracle would occur. If they only had enough oil for one night, they would have seemed to have been obligated to fulfill the mitzvah properly that first night, and worry about the subsequent nights later.
Rav Dovid’l of Skver zt’l explained that when they prepared to pour the contents of the jug into the menorah, the Chashmonaim did not intend to only fill an eighth of each cup. However, when they began pouring the oil, they were only able to squeeze out an eighth of a cup into each cup. Try as they might, they could not get out even a drop more. With no recourse, they lit with the oil that was there. The miracle was apparent that first night, when the candles continued to burn throughout the night.
The Nikolsburger Rebbe, Rav Yosef Lebovits[9], noted that the idea of Rav Dovid’l symbolizes a tremendous lesson about life. At times, we try to accomplish things, be it in the spiritual realm or physical realm, and find ourselves feeling very frustrated when we are not able to accomplish our objectives. It’s analogous to the oil not emerging, no matter how hard the jug is squeezed. We view it as a needless and frustrating experience, and don’t realize that Hashem may be orchestrating our frustration for our own benefit.
When Yaakov dispatches Yosef to check on his brothers’ welfare, it sets off a trajectory that lands Yosef as a slave in Egypt, and then as a prisoner in jail on trumped up charges. The commentaries ask, there is a rule that “emissaries sent to perform a mitzvah will not be harmed”. If so, how was Yosef able to suffer so much misery, as a direct result of his fulfilling the mitzvah of adhering to the instruction of his father?  
The truth however is, that one only would only ask such a question if he failed to see the bigger picture. In the bigger scheme of things, Yosef’s fulfilling his father’s instruction, ultimately led to his becoming viceroy of Egypt, and ability to sustain his entire family throughout the years of famine. But even before he became viceroy, by overcoming the incredibly difficult test of resisting the lustful advances of Potiphar’s wife, Yosef set down a foundation of holiness for the Jewish People in Egypt. That heroic self-control influenced the entire nation throughout their centuries there.[10]   
We can never know why things do or don’t happen to us. But we need to remind ourselves that the way things seem to us based on our limited physical senses is often not the way things really are.
Beyond that, even when things seem most bleak and it seems like a time of utter darkness, the Jewish People never give up. We live with the hope of a better tomorrow. How many times has an end also served as a new beginning.
The Holocaust was the tragic and unfathomable end of European Jewry. After the war, with the smoldering ashes still burning, the world gave up on the Jews ever again becoming a force, especially Torah Jewry. Yet, that was the beginning of a miraculous resurgence which continues until today.
Just prior to June 1967, it seemed like the end was coming. The entire country of Eretz Yisroel trembled in fear of the impending onslaught and attack from the Arabs on all sides. Yet, it ended being an incredible new beginning, with the reconquest of Yerushalayim and an incredible boost of morale for Jews the world over.
During the time of Chanukah too, it seemed like the end. The Hellenists were constantly growing in power and prestige, and the loyal few who were persecuted and abused, seemed hopeless. Yet, from the bowels of despair the Chashmonaim accomplished miraculous victories and created a holiday that continues to give us hope, even in the darkest and most unlikely of places.
There is no end for the eternal people, only new beginnings. Sometimes those beginnings are costly and painful, but we live with the faith that the candles, not only continue to burn, but increase each night.

“And it was at the end”
“A great salvation and redemption, like this day…”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Miketz 5777
[2] Rav Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz zt’l
[3] Generally, the halacha is that if the owner gave up on getting his object back, the finder may keep it, though it is still proper for him to return it.
[4] When an owner doesn’t know his object is missing, he can’t actively “give up hope” on getting it back.  If it’s a situation where any rational person would give up hope of getting it back, but the owner doesn’t know about it, such as if it fell into the ocean, it’s considered “unintentional yiush”. The law in such a situation is a major Talmudic debate between Abayei and Rava. We hold that it is not considered yiush and therefore must be returned. 
[5] Story heard from Rav Yosef Veiner - Agudah convention 2018
[6] Shabbos 21b
[7] This is known as the famous question of the Bais Yosef. There are over five hundred solutions that have been offered to this legendary question.
[8] They were are that they would be able to procure pure oil in eight days, so they knew that jug had to last them for eight days.
[9] Derasha given in Nikolsburg Bais Medrash, Fourth night of Chanukah, 5777
[10] Egypt was a country seeped in immorality. Yet, from the millions of Jews there for over two hundred years, there was only one instance of immorality, which was forced, and the Torah publicizes that she was flirtatious – Shloimis bas Divri. The product of that relationship was the Egyptian who blasphemed G-d in the wilderness. 


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