The Shvilei Pinchas teaches that the Greek exile is a rectification for the story of Yosef. Indeed, the Bnei Yissaschar notes that the numerical value of Y-O-Se-F, Me-Le-CH Ya-Va-N, and the Greek king A-N-T-I-O-CH-uS add up to 156. How does the Greek interaction with Judaism explain the travails that Yosef suffered and what are we to extract from this juxtaposition?
Yosef was the first member of the full Judaic family to spend time in exile, in an alien culture. His behavior provides the model for us in exile. The Shvilei Pinchas explains that when Yaakov fled from Esau, he stopped at the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever for fourteen years to study the Torah of how a Jew is to act in exile. Yaakov understood through Divine inspiration that Yosef would need this additional Torah. From the age of three until the age of seventeen, the same fourteen years he had studied, he taught this Torah to Yosef. At the age of seventeen, Yaakov sent Yosef in search of his brothers, thus precipitating the exile to Egypt. This reflection of Torah learning is what Yosef saw when the wife of Potifar tried to seduce him, and this gave him the strength and determination to flee from her grasp.
Yosef originally believed that if you try to integrate with the culture around you, you might be able to influence them. But in fact the opposite is true. He realized that he must remain strong in maintaining his identity if he was to remain true to his inner self. As such, he was to become the model for the rest of the nation who would descend to Egypt. This was the Divine plan. This was throwing Yosef into a pit empty of water, but filled with snakes, the pit of Egypt empty of Torah but full of evil. Just as he survived both the physical pit and the symbolic pit of Egypt, so too would the nation he represented survive. We would learn how to maintain a separate identity amid the various corrupt exiles throughout our history.
This was the essence of the battle between the Greeks and the Hashmoneans. They wanted the Jews to assimilate into their culture. They sought to defile every cruse of pure oil, for the nature of oil is to retain its essence and to rise to the top. But we already had the example of Yosef who always remained the
the different one. The Hashmoneans understood that they too, and the entire nation, could retain our specific separate Jewish identity even amid this alien culture.
The Leket Sifsei Kodesh notes that Yosef kept
in Egypt. The initials of these mitzvot spell out
, oil, the central symbol of our battle against the Greeks. In the darkness of night, points out Reb Chaim Hacohen, all the wild animals of the forest come out. But when daylight breaks, they disperse. In our dark exile, the
of the alien cultures bare their claws. We need the light so that our eyes will see the truth and we will retain our values as Jews.
The Gemara points out that the menorah may not be higher than twenty
. If it is to be a beacon that teaches us to keep our eyes focused on our inner essence, then it must be at eye level. Yosef's brothers saw only an empty pit, without water. But a vacuum does not exist. There were snakes and scorpions inside. The Hashmoneans recognized the dangers lurking in the walls of the pit of Greek culture. They wanted their homes to be filled with the life sustaining water of Torah rather than with the emptiness of Greek civilization.
The Rambam notes that the threads for the wicks of the menorah were taken from the tunic of the priest's worn out garments. Halekach Vehalebuv cites the Shlah Hakodosh that the pattern of the tunic was circles with squares inside. The circles represent the physical world while the square represents that which is supernatural. In the desert we were encamped in a square, modeled after the angels surrounding the Throne of Glory. We recognize that everything in nature is imbued with holiness from above, just as our physical bodies contain the divine souls. We believe in the essence of the olive that the Greeks wished to defile.
The traditional shape of the
is square. Yet when it spins, it appears to be round, an illusion. The numerical value of Ya-Va-N and Ga-L-Ga-L, a wheel is 66. The circle of this world is the mirage; the reality is the square. How often do we find ourselves running around in circles, not even knowing what our destination is? Now is the time to use the light of the menorah to find our way out.
The world of nature revolves around seven, and Chanukah celebrated for eight days, signifies the spiritual and the reconnection with Hashem. Just as the Hashmoneans ignited the world of the physical into the spiritual with the lighting of the oil that burned for eight days, says Lemachar Aatir, so too can we ignite the temporal world around us to experience eternity.