In this week’s Parsha, the passuk says, "ויאמר פרעה אל יוסף, אחרי הודיעך אלהים את כל זאת, אין נבון וחכם כמוך... רק הכסא אגדל ממך" – Pharaoh appoints Yosef as the second-in-command based on his uncanny ability to interpret dreams accurately. It seems a bit strange that Pharaoh, who was the ruler of the entire civilized world at the time, would choose Yosef Hatzadik, who at first glance, would not appear to be the most likely choice for a number of reasons. Firstly, the verse refers to him as a young lad, implying his lack of experience. Secondly he was a dejected slave. And finally he was a Hebrew – the most hated race at the time. Equally difficult, the justification that the Torah gives for this apparently bizarre choice is that Yosef Hatzadik was successful in interpreting dreams. Certainly dream solving would not to be at the top of any viceroy resume list?!
The Sabba Kadisha from Kelm raises this difficulty and attempts to resolve it by saying that Pharaoh saw in Yosef his overbearing Fear of Heaven, as Pharaoh says to Yosef “After God has revealed to you these interpretations…” showing that even Pharaoh was able to recognize God through Yosef. When Pharaoh recognized this fear of Heaven in Yosef, he was unable to resist being naturally drawn to Yosef, as Chazal say “Anyone who has charm or charisma, it is a give in that this person possesses Fear of Heaven”. Chazal bring down, similarly, that when a person develops a powerful fear of heaven, people will be attentive to whatever he has to say. So to Pharaoh was uncannily drawn to everything that Yosef had to say and recognized that this quality would be integral to a ruler of Egypt. R’ Chaim Shmualevitz adds that fear of heaven is the only credential which guarantees a trustworthy person who will fulfill his obligations with complete integrity, and is a wise choice for any position which involves financial management and the distribution of funds.
We also find by Yosef Hatzadik the proper method to build Yiraas Shamayim. It seems that whatever happens to Yosef in this week’s parsha, he attributes it to God. Whether it was a matter of his being able to interpret dreams or escaping from prison, Yosef makes sure that it is abundantly clear that every event that befell him was directly from God. This trait is not so common, as the instinctual reaction to the events that befall us is to view them as happenstance. It would certainly behoove us to attempt to emulate this trait of Yosef in our lives and recognize how everything that happens to us is directly from our Maker.
On a parallel vein, the most common attitude in the secular world is “looking out for Numero Uno”. Whereas the Torah teaches us quite the contrary, that God should be the focus of our actions and thoughts, as the first Rammah says in Shulchan Aruch that one should view himself as constantly “walking” in front of God. We find an example of this concept being illustrated by Yosef later on in the Parsha, when Yosef is tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he counters to her, “How can I do this action and sin in front of God”? We don’t find that Yosef claimed to her that it is not a good idea to sin with her because it wouldn’t be proper socially, or because he could get caught, rather the only thing on his mind was that it would be displeasing to his Maker.
The Gemorrah in Shabbos ל"א: says that Fear of God is the only real wisdom in the world? This Gemorrah seems strange as there are many different Chochmos in the world, such as Math and Science, all of them requiring at least a certain level of proficiency! Perhaps one could answer that Fear of God is the sole Chochma which encompasses every aspect of our lives. There is no facet of our daily lives which the Torah doesn’t govern and this is what the Gemorah means to say when it posits that Fear of God is the only true wisdom.
There is a Midrash at the beginning of the Parshah which explains that Fear of Heaven must be objective and not subjective. The Midrash says that Pharaoh was dreaming, and in his dream he was standing on the banks of the river. The Midrash goes on to explain that the Wicked stand on their god and the Righteous have their God stand on them. I once heard Harav Kalev Shlezinger who was a student of the Kesav Sofer interpret this Midrash to mean that the Nile, which is referred to as the god of the Egyptians, had Pharaoh standing on it to symbolize that a non-Jew has a tendency to find in a deity whatever traits are the most convenient for him to keep, whereas a Jew has an obligation to view himself as nothing more then the sum total of what God commands of him.
This time of Chanukah is a time that all the Jews must focus developing their Fear and more importantly their awareness of God. The Pnei Yehoshua in פרק במה מדליקיןasks why did God need to perform the miracle of allowing the Kohanim light one jug of oil for all eight days? We know that there is a concept that Impurity is permitted when the entire congregation is impure so the Macabees could have gone ahead and used the impure oil! He answers that we know that in the Beis Hamikdash, there was a “Western Light”, which was lit constantly. The goal of this light was to continually portray the fact that God is always with us. However, this “Western Light” became extinguished with the passing of Shimon Hatzadik. Therefore, God needed to perform this miracle of the Chanukah oil in order to remind the Jews that God was still dwelling amongst them for all eternity.
There is a Midrash in פרשת בהעלותך which says that Aaron felt slightly dejected when everyone around him was receiving so many honors. God comforted Him by explaining that his honor would be the greatest of all, for he would get to light the Menorah which would last for all future generations. The Ramban asks on this Midrash that we find that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed relatively shortly after this time, so how did this assurance of God to Aaron come true? He resolves this difficulty by saying that the Chanukah lights which we light today are just a continuation of the commandment to light the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdash thereby fulfilling God’s guarantee to Aaron. From this Ramban we see clearly that just as the Western lights always demonstrated to the Jewish people that the Shechinah always rests among us, (like we saw in the Gemorrah in Shabbos) so to when we observe all the Chanukah lights in every family’s window, we will be awakened to a deep level of fear of God and a constant recognition of God’s presence amongst us.
May we all merit to utilize this Chanukah to have a powerful recognition of God’s presence!