An American phrase which originated during the 20th century is “The Pits”. This means the worst of all possible worlds. It is an expression of pain and turmoil, hitting the lowest point. Our Parsha focuses on two Pits which were life changing for Yosef. One was the pit in which the brothers threw Yosef into. It could definitely be called “The Pits” for inside there were snakes and scorpions (Bereishis 37,24). The second pit (Bereishis 39,20; 41,14) was also “The Pits” for the young Yosef Hatzadik was placed together with criminals who sinned against the Pharoah. Yet the Jewish experience of The Pits differs very much from those of the Gentile Nations. For the Yid not only is there light
at the end of the tunnel but also in the tunnel itself.
The Medrash says that when Yosef returned from burying his father he went to the location of the pit in which the brothers threw him inside and made the beracha of ברוך שעשה לי נס במקום הזה. The question asked is why did Yosef have to peer inside the pit when the miracle revolved about the fact that he was drawn up from the pit and saved from death?
The answer is that there were many other hidden miracles that happened to Yosef in relationship to his stay in pits. Our Chazal relate that in the pit there were deadly snakes and scorpions which miraculously did not cause him any harm. The brothers threw in the pit huge rocks to try and kill him and yet he was unharmed. He found favor in the eyes of the one in charge of the jail pit into which he was placed after he was accused by Potiphar’s wife of attempted adultery. Chazal also say that attention that would have been focused on Yosef for this alleged affair was diverted by having Pharaoh’s personal butler and baker placed in the pit dungeon and the criminal focus was instead placed on them. It was for these miracles and protection that occurred in the pit out of the public eye that Yosef felt also indebted to thank Hashem beside his eventual exit from the pit.
In essence, standing on the outside of a deep בר (pit) one is unable see its lowest point and he remains “in the dark”. Yet the word בר also means the opposite, clarity and light? The answer is that although Man might spiritually fall into the dark and become earthly without insight and direction, he nevertheless remains close to the light and under the watchful eye of Hashem עמו אנכי בצרה. Hashem is peeking through the crack in the wall מציץ מן החרכים (Shir Hashirim 2,9). Hashem sees us but we do not merit seeing him. The Jewish experience of “The Pits” is called סהר (Bereishis 39,20) which translates as the moon and light. Our pit experience parallels the cycle of the moon revealing a thin ray of light which will come about sooner than later even if at the present time, Hashem who is symbolized by the sun, does not radiate His light openly in the Pit. Even in the letters of סהר we find an allusion that one can receive from Hashem סמך and inner support to help climb the mountain הר- of adversity and tzaros. As we say in Baruch Sheamar ברוך גוזר ומקיים that Hashem decrees but sustains the person to overcome the decree.
Yosef experienced two pits. This symbolizes even a deeper falling, the double concealment of Hashem as the passuk says אנכי הסתר אסתר פני (Devarim 31,18) which is translated as I will hide the fact that I am hiding from you. Nevertheless even with the double descent of Yosef into two בר ‘s, Hashem is still peeking through the cracks watching over him as the passuk says (Bereshis 39,2) . Klal Yisrael are called צאן יוסף (Tehillim 80,2) the sheep of Yosef. So too, Yisrael merits this hashgacha from Hashem even though there exists a concealment within a concealment.
The sefarim tell us that Yosef has a special connection to Chanukah. The Yom Tov of Chanukah always falls out during Parshas Mikeitz. That is one of the reasons that at the end of that parsha not only are we given the total number of pessukim but here we get an added treat of the total number of words in the parsha. Why only here do we merit this bit of information? Because the number of words in the parsha 2025 is the same gematriah of eight times the wordנר (candle) which also equals 2025 alluding to the mitzvah of Chanukah. Furthermore, יוסף (156) equals מלך יון (156) and אנטיוכס (156) the king of the Greek Nations. A further support to the Chanukah Yosef connection is found in the gemarrah (Shabbos 22) which presents a connection between the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah Lights and the pit in which the brothers threw in Yosef through the juxtaposition of both seemingly irrelevant statements. What is the meaning of this connection?
Yosef who was experiencing the concealment of Hashem’s light was nevertheless capable of recognizing that Hashem was still concerned with this welfare by peeking through the crack. At the lowest point ofבר , Yosef also saw the בר the tiny light squeezing itself through the cracks. The Sifsei Chacahmim asks how could the passuk say that the pit was empty when it contained snakes? He answers that the snakes disappeared into the cracks of the pit.
Let us ask why was Yosef saved in this manner? Why couldn’t Hashem just make possible that there were no snakes in the pit? Hashem wanted to demonstrate that every Yid goes through his own personal pit of darkness and tzaros. Therefore every Yid must recognize that his salvation from the tzaros will come “through the cracks” through Hashem’s concern of מציץ מן החרכים. This emunah that עמו אנכי בצרה strengthened Yosef not to surrender to the evil forces or to his seemingly inevitable fate. He was encouraged to hold steadfast with his unwavering belief in Hashem’s eventual salvation of him even if the odds were stacked agains his favor.
The generation of Chanukah was in a very dark place. We are not talking about individuals here and there, that left the Torah. We are dealing with a period where almost an entire nation succumbed to the Greek culture and ideology. It was as if the entire body of Klal Yisrael was in a חשך and deep in “The Pits”. Only through the mesiras nefesh of 13 individual Kohanim, Hashem revealed the light that was hiding behind the wall all the time.
Now we can understand the connection of Am Yisrael during Chanukah and the pit of Yosef. Both Yosef and Chanukah’s generation were in a pit of darkness with a light streaking out from behind the cracks thereby offering hope for redemption which at end miraculously came.
The Angel of Esav injured Yaakov on the thigh. The thigh is called ירך and שוק. The Shelah writes that the injured Sciatic Nerve the gid hanashe symbolizes the Churban of the two Beis Hamikdashes. The letters גיד add up to 17 corresponding to the 17th of Tammuz, the gimmel of gid corresponds to Tzom Gedaliah the third day of Tishrei, the yud of gid corresponds to Asarah Beteves, and the word את is the acronym תשעה אב. The two Beis Hamikdashs were destroyed on this date. This is tantamount to falling into a double בר like Yosef, a concealment within a concealment. The word בר is gematriah 203 including the word. Two times בר equals 406 the same gematriah as שוק . The effect of Yaakov’s injury on the שוק brought about the destruction of two Beis Mikdash each one leaving us with a gaping crater and emptiness like a בר. Chanukah is the chinuch of the future geulah as its name suggests. The time of lighting the Chanukah Licht is up until תכלה רגל מן השוק. When we will cease being accustomed and tolerable of the double emptiness of the galus, the double בר originating with Yaakov’s injury in the thigh and the gid hanashe. It is only then that our geulah will finally come. Chanukah is the time to rid ourselves from the many pits in the Reshus Harabim which the goyim dig and dig everyday for us Yidden to fall into and starve our neshamos. However upon realizing that Hashem is in it together with us, we can call out to Him and He will help us as He helped Dovid Hamelech who said in Tehillim (40,3) ותעלינו מבור שאון .
Gut Shabbos Rav Brazil