July 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 17, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parashat Miketz-Rosh Chodesh-Chanukah

On this Shabbat we are granted the unique opportunity to read from three separate sifrei Torah as we mark Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and Chanukah. As such, we read Parshat haShavua (Miketz) as well as the special Rosh Chodesh reading (Bamidbar 28)) and a maftir reading for Chanukah (Bamidbar 7). Ordinarily, when Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh, Shabbat, being the perfect “host,” steps aside and allows Rosh Chodesh to take center stage, so we read the haftarah that focuses on Rosh Chodesh and not that which connects to the parsha itself. And as whimsical as this explanation is, the true reason for reading the Rosh Chodesh haftarah is because the haftarah must connect to the maftir that is read, and on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh we read the maftir from Bamidbar detailing the Rosh Chodesh offerings. It is for this reason that this Shabbat we read the haftarah focusing on Chanukah and not on Rosh Chodesh, because we read the maftir regarding the chanukat haMishkan, the dedication of the mishkan, that connects to the holiday of Chanukah. This is done because of the well-known principle “tadir vsh’eino tadir, tadir kodeim,” when two mitzvot have to be performed, we perform the more common one (Rosh Chodesh) before the less common (Chanukah).

As for the haftarah itself, we have explained in the past that the connection to the chag of Chanukah is found in two themes that the navi strikes in his prophecy: Firstly, there is the vision of the Menorah, clearly suggestive of the Chanukah mitzvah. Secondly, the symbolism of the Menorah is explained to Zecharya at the closing of the haftarah and it defines all the major lesson of Chanukah. Even before the events of Chanukah, Hashem tells the prophet “Lo v’chayil v’lo v’choach ki im b’ruchi,” that Israel’s power is found not in her military might but in her spiritual strength. Their faith in the Almighty God is what will grant them victory; victory of the few over the many and of the weak over the powerful.

But I would suggest that there is yet another connection to Chanukah, a more subtle connection, perhaps, but one that leaves us with an important message. The navi Zecharya prophesied during the era of shivat tziyon, the first wave of Jews who responded to the decree of Cyrus and returned to Yerushalayim under the leadership of Zerubavel. This generation faced many challenges. Perhaps the greatest was the fear of the surrounding nations who threatened the Judean community and even succeeded in delaying the building of bayit sheni. In an attempt to repair relations, many of the leaders, including the kohanim,intermarried with the nations that surrounded them. It was a problem so severe that it was solved only a generation later with the arrival of both Ezra and Nechemiah. The message of the haftarah was addressed to Yehoshua, the Kohen Gadol. The navi spoke to a righteous kohen in a generation of so many assimilated ones who had lost their identity and their faith.

The story of Chanukah also tells the story of the return of the kohanim to their proper stature as faith leaders, generations after they had abandoned their divine role. It is the story of faithful kohanim, the Chashmona’i family, who never lost their identity and who led the opposition to assimilation and Hellenism.

The battles of Chanukah mark the first time in history that war was fought over beliefs and not conquest, faith and not power. It is the story of Israel returned to her land, the kohanim following their priestly guides and the people defending their State and their beliefs.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles