Jelly or Chocolate: What are we filled with?

There is a very interesting connection between the holiday of Hanukkah and the Torah portion of the week. Joseph's pit is a parable.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

In the middle of the halakjhic issues of Hanukkah that appear in Masechet Shabbat, the Gemara brings an explanation on a verse from the Torah portion of this week. It teaches us a fascinating connection between Parshat Vayeshev and the holiday of Hanukkah, but one has to ask why this explanation is specifically brought down when discussing issues dealing with Hanukkah?

The Gemara says: “Rav Kahana said in the name of Rav Natan ben Minyomi in the name of Rav Tanchum: Why does it says in the Parsha ‘And the pit was empty, it had no water.’ Obviously if the pit was empty then it had no water! But it is to teach us that there was no water in the pit, but there were snakes and scorpions in it.” Meaning: from the fact that the Torah emphasized that the pit into which the brothers threw Yosef was “empty, without water”, the Gemara teaches us the precision that although the pit was empty of water, it was full of snakes and scorpions which endangered Yosef (Joseph)s life.

Seemingly, the simple answer to the question of why this explanation is brought down here is that this is the way of the Gemara. After all, we see that when the Gemara brings a quote from one particular Amora, it often continues to quotes other sayings which that same Amora said. So in this case as well, Rabbi Kahana in the name of Rabbi Natan in the name of Rabbi Tanchum said a Halakha related to Hanukkah, and so the Gemara brought another statement in his name about the pit of Yosef. But it seems that a deeper connection can be found between the explanation on Yosef's pit and the essence of Hanukkah.

The pit, the water, the snakes and the scorpions are part of a parable. The pit is a metaphor for mankind. Man is a vessel, he can fill himself with virtue and bring good to the world, or G-d forbid he can fill himself with evil and bring destruction to the world.

Water is a metaphor for the Torah. We see many times that Torah is compared to water. For example, the Midrash on Shir HaShirim says: "The words of the Torah are likened to water. Just as water fills the earth from end to end, so too Torah fills the world from one end to the other. Just as water lives forever so too Torah lives forever. Just as water is from heaven so too the Torah is from heaven. Just as water purifies the body so too Torah purifies the body. And just as water drips one drop at a time but in the end the trickle of water becomes a stream the same is true of Torah: a person learns two Halakhot today and two tomorrow until he becomes a flowing stream of Torah knowledge.”


A person's mind and heart are always filled with something, and the person's choice is whether to fill himself with water - with Torah and goodness which will bring him spiritual growth - or G-d forbid - with snakes and scorpions.
Snakes and scorpions are metaphors for greed and lust and all other bad that exist in our world which should be avoided because they lead to sin and death.

The explanation of the Gemara comes to teach us that there is no such thing as a state of emptiness, there can never be a vacuum in a person. A person's mind and heart are always filled with something, and the person's choice is whether to fill himself with water - with Torah and goodness which will bring him spiritual growth - or G-d forbid - with snakes and scorpions - destructive things which can bring him spiritual degeneration.

The Chashmonaim fought with devotion against the decrees of the Greeks because they knew that since there is no such thing as a state of vacuum, that if the people of Israel were not full of Torah then the Greek values ​​would enter their hearts and minds and G-d forbid bring spiritual destruction to the nation of Israel. And indeed, thanks to the dedication of Matityahu and his sons, we won the victory over the Greeks themselves and the victory of the Torah and holiness over the Greek ideology.

Nothing has changed since “in those days”. In every generation there are the spiritual dangers threatening to destroy us, whose desire is to empty the pit of the people of Israel of Torah, and fill it with snakes and scorpions.

And we, the followers of the Chashmonaim, are called upon to strengthen ourselves in Torah and mitzvot and to assure that our pit will always be full of the water of Torah and holiness.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in.



top