By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
“And it happened, at the end of two years” [Bereisheet 41:1]. “In all toil there is something gained” [Mishlei 14:23]. Every sad event will in the end lead to a benefit. And that is how Yosef’s salvation came about, from within the Egyptian prison. (Bereisheet Rabba 89:2).
“Happy is the man who put his trust in G-d” [Tehillim 40:8]. This refers to Yosef (Bereisheet Rabba 89:3). Yosef is the essence of the trait of faith, and he was able to find solace from within his troubles. In fact, the deepest part of the trouble was the beginning of his salvation.
The Chassidim claim that the passages of rebuke – “tochachah” – will eventually be revealed to be blessings. “The stranger in your midst will rise up higher and higher, and you will descend lower and lower” [Devarim 28:43]. This too is a source of consolation for Yisrael, like when a point on a spinning wheel reaches the bottom and it immediately starts to rise.
“‘She has fallen and will not rise, the virgin of Yisrael’ [Amos 5:2]. In Eretz Yisrael this is explained as follows: She will fall and not fall any further. Let the virgin of Yisrael rise up.” [Berachot 4b].
In the thirteen traits of mercy, one trait seems at first glance to be completely out of place. “And He will not forgive a sin at all” [Shemot 34:7]. This would seem to mean that G-d will never relent from punishing the sins. However, we are taught in the name of the ARI, “Do not look at a jug but only at what is inside it.” But this statement is not very clear.
In his book Gelilei Zahav, Rebbe Moshkowitz from Transylvania explains this as follows: “For I will destroy all the nations except for you, and I will not leave you unpunished” [Yirmiyahu 30:11]. Rashi notes that this is referring to destruction – that is, G-d will not remove them from the world. In this way, this trait is indeed an element of mercy, it does not mean that Yisrael will not be forgiven for their sins but rather that they will never be removed from the world.
If we look at the letters of the words “Nakeh... Yenakeh” we find that they are made up of the letters of G-d’s name (yud-heh-vav-heh) and the letters kuf-nun twice. And that is what the ARI meant: Do not look at the “kankan” (the jug) but what is inside it. Look for the holy name which appears together with “kankan.” Even at a time of exile and punishment, G-d’s name remains with them. As is written, “I will descend with you, and I will surely raise you up again” [Bereisheet 46:4].
And that is the meaning of the line quoted above from the song “Maoz Tzur” -
“From what remained in the jug a miracle was performed for the ‘roses.’” Chanukah was a miracle performed for Yisrael, who are nicknamed “roses,” by the name of G-d left over from the letters “kankan” in the trait, “Nakeh Yenakeh.”
The Beit Yosef asks a famous question: Why do we celebrate eight days of Chanukah, if the miracle was only seven days (since there was enough oil to burn for the first day)? The TAZ replies that on the first day a small bit of oil must have been left over, since a miracle would not take place in a vessel that was completely empty, as can be seen from the story of Elisha and the oil. Thus, a miracle already took place on the first day too. But we may well ask: This might be true for a miracle performed by a prophet, but how can we suggest that G-d cannot create a miracle starting from nothing? The answer that is given is that a miracle performed with the Name yud-heh-vav-heh can indeed be a creation of something out of nothing. Thus, when the people poured out the oil into the Menorah on the first day the container immediately filled up again. And in this way the miracle was indeed for eight full days. “And from the remains of the jug a miracle was performed” – “kankan” which is the remainder of the holy name of G-d. Therefore we add, “Wise sons called for song and praise for eight days” – and not only for seven days.