| Parshah |

C Minor

It’s our duty to contemplate these miracles, both major and minor


“… The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Bereishis 37:24)

ashi quotes the Gemara (Shabbos 22a) asking: Why does the pasuk tell us the pit was empty, and there was no water? This repetition tells us that although there was no water, there were snakes and scorpions.
Earlier in the same Gemara, the same rav quotes a halachah that a Chanukah light placed higher than 20 amos above the ground is invalid.
Why did the Gemara juxtapose these seemingly unrelated passages? (Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Dorash Dovid).

A hospital is not the best place to spend Chanukah. But a family member was scheduled for surgery, so I parked on a narrow street and walked toward the building in the watery winter sunlight.

Schneider Children’s Medical Center is the largest children’s hospital in Israel. Stepping into the atrium-style lobby, I was greeted by a spectacular seven-story-tall menorah, created completely out of balloons. I could feel its Chanukah spirit giving flight as it soared above me.

Still, as I rode the elevator, the signs for so many wards and floors devoted only to children in pain had my heart plummeting despite the elevator’s ascent.

Consider the many obvious miracles that accompanied Yosef from his journey as hated sibling and slave to becoming the viceroy of Egypt. The hand of Hashem is clearly evident.
However, Hashem performed many other, albeit lesser-known miracles for Yosef, miracles that were just as essential as part of Hashem’s master plan.
If not for the Torah’s redundancy in the pasuk above, we’d never have known that Hashem saved Yosef from these dangerous creatures.
Hashem purposely includes both overt and hidden miracles in His world, so mankind will work to discover these underlying miracles and the Hand that enacted them. Upon contemplation of the “major” and “minor” miracles, he reaches the ultimate truth: Ein od milvado — There is nothing besides Hashem.
Such lofty recognition doesn’t happen with just a casual glance. One must seek the Hand of Hashem in every situation, to discover how the most minute details are all part of the Creator’s perfect plan.

Stepping into the hallway, away from the cheery lobby below, I was soon swallowed into a world of sterile masks and muted voices. And waiting. No matter where in the world, no matter how long the stay, every minute in a hospital ticks by with excruciating slowness.

Even the sight of a band setting up for a Chanukah concert in the lobby below was distracting, but disconcerting. Who wants to spend Chanukah in the hospital?

Still, as the music played loudly via loudspeakers throughout the building, reaching even those confined to bed, the cheer was compelling. Staff members were handing out doughnuts to all, and wishes of Chanukah samei’ach permeated the air.

The fact that a small band of Chashmonaim was able to defeat the Greek army was clearly a major miracle. That a single night’s supply of olive oil burned for eight days and nights was clearly a major miracle. But there were many less-obvious miracles that Hashem wrought for the Chashmonaim. If we’d ignore those “minor” miracles, we’d be missing the point of the “major” miracles, because the open miracles bring us to contemplate Hashem’s ways and discover the more obscure miracles.
Now let’s understand the connection between the two statements in the Gemara above. Chanukah lights mustn’t be placed more than 20 amos above the street, for they must be noticeable to all. Only if passersby can see the lights will they begin to contemplate their purpose, and ultimately, Hashem’s hidden kindnesses.
The statement about Yosef’s pit teaches the same basic lesson. Without the repetition, one wouldn’t realize the “minor” miracle of the snakes and scorpions.
Events that appear to be simply “the way of the world” or “the laws of nature,” are really miracles leading us to appreciate Hashem’s kindness to us constantly.
It’s our duty to contemplate these miracles, both major and minor, to recognize and praise Hashem for all He does for us.

Against the background of Al Hanissim, I was suddenly wrenched away from the music as the surgeon entered the waiting room.

“The surgery was very successful,” he said, pulling off his mask to give a smile. “We accomplished much more than we’d hoped for.”

Sometimes, a hospital really is exactly the right place to understand Chanukah.  


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 871)

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