Moshe Kempinski
Moshe KempinskiCourtesy

Lilui Nishmat Avi Mori HaRav Baruch Ben Moshe Avraham whose neshama departed into the hidden light on the third night of Hannukah

The struggles of our forefathers always seem to be entangled in veils and disguises. In the Torah portion of Mikeitz, Joseph begins an intricate subterfuge wherein he accuses his brothers of spying . He sets them up so that they must again face either standing courageously or risking the life of another brother, Benjamin. It is not just any brother, but actually one whom they think is the only remaining child born to Rachel.

This is not the first instance of camouflage and subterfuge in the text of the book of Genesis. Jacob disguises himself as his brother and Leah disguises herself as her sister. Tamar, the daughter in law of Judah, disguised herself as a harlot and now we meet Joseph, hidden behind the disguise of an Egyptian viceroy.

It seems that the book which describes the beginning of a people is actually about developing the ability to see beyond the camouflage and to see beyond the covering darkness. The disguises were nor the point of the story but rather its catalyst.

This is how that, despite the unknown, Abraham finds G-d and it is how Sarah understands the spiritual danger of Ishmael. With that vision Rebecca loves Jacob and fears Esav. It is also how Jacob understands the powerful subtext of Joseph's life.

That curtain over reality, this darkness, becomes the ultimate obstacle between meeting and relating to G-d and thereby becoming part His ultimate plan. Yet it is a hiddenness that G-d Himself sets into place when He declares “And I will surely hide My face in that day”( Deuteronomy 31:18)

While this Divine “hiding” seems to simply be response to man’s actions in this world. It is actually much more. The "hiding" prompts the yearning ,which empowers the searching ,which inevitably leads to discovery..

Hassidic lore tells the story of “Rebbe Reb” Baruch, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. “Rebbe Reb” Baruch was himself already a grandfather as he sat studying in the garden. Suddenly his grandson, Yankele, came bursting into the garden in tears and fell into his grandfather’s arms. “Rebbe Reb” Baruch tried to comfort him and asked Yankele what had happened. Yankele explained that he had been playing a game of Hide and Seek, and nobody came to look for him.

“Rebbe Reb” Baruch smiled and wiped away his grandson’s tears and distress with a sweet candy he pulled out of his pocket.

Several moments later “Rebbe Reb” Baruch’s wife came out to the garden and found her husband in tears. “Baruch what’s wrong...if you’re worried about Yankele. I just saw him playing with his friends,” she said. “Rebbe Reb” Baruch sighed and said, “That’s not it...but I just thought that we know that G-d went into hiding and is expecting us to look for him. So few of us are...and I just realized how sad that is.”

It is that sadness and yearning that sends the searching soul onto its journey. The great spiritual changes in our history are always precipitated by mankind’s innate desire to find what was lost, to discover that which was hidden. It is in fact behind that curtain that man finds his inner strengths .

When the brothers of Joseph arrive in Egypt to garner provisions for their families, we read "And Joseph saw his brothers, and he recognized them, but he made himself a stranger to them, and he spoke to them harshly, " (Ibid 42:7).Essentially, Joseph sets them up so that they must again face giving up or risking the life of another brother. It will become the great challenge for this family as this is not just any brother, but Benjamin, the only remaining child born to Rachel in their minds. We see an intricate plan which again pits the sons of Leah against the sons of Rachel. In order for this people to become a people, this is a challenge that they must overcome.

That is the lesson of the Hanukkah lights as well. We celebrate the victory of the small army of Maccabees over the oppressive Greek warlords. It was the victory of the small group of faithful against the large hordes of the faithless. Miraculously, the few overwhelmed the many.

Yet, the focus of the festival seems to highlight the smaller miracle of the jar of oil. The little jar of oil that was found untouched and pure, and that had enough oil to last for one day, lasted, in fact, for the eight days needed to produce more oil. Many of our sages ask the question why such emphasis is put on such a wonderful yet small miracle, which has much less impact than the victory of the few against the many.

Perhaps it is because these lights, for many reasons, shine and reveal a deep spiritual hidden reality

On the first day of Creation we read And G-d said, "Let there be light," and there was light.( Genesis 1:3)

This was the light of Creation that enabled all to truly see clearly. The next verse reads:"And G-d saw the light that it was good, and G-d separated between the light and between the darkness."( ibid 4)

Rashi writes that the Supernal light was hidden until its ultimate revelation in the end of days,"and G-d separated( VaYavdel)" . It is only then that mankind could properly understand and benefit from such a pure light. As a result that Great Light was hidden thirty six "hours" later with creation of the sun and the moon .

Yet sparks emanating from that Hiddenness reveal themselves from time to time to those who have the eyes to see.

The Hannukah festival places sparks of that great light in great prominence. The Bnei Yissaschar writes that the number of candles ( 36) used throughout the feast as Hannukah lights points to the number of times that the word “light” appears in the Torah.

As we gaze at our Hannukah menorah alit and glowing, it would be worthy to contemplate the great revealing light just beyond our vision.

It is that simple truth revealed to Zechariah in the haftara read on Shabbat Hanukkah

“This is the word of Hashem unto Zerubbabel, saying:'Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit,' saith Hashem of hosts

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved VeKol HaCholim