This week’s Parsha begins with the following words: “These are the “toldos” – generations of Yaakov.”
Rashi explains that the word “toldos” normally would mean children. Yet here, if must mean “happenings,” and not generations, because Yaakov had more children than just Yosef.
What is the significance for the Parsha beginning this way?
A Father’s Image
Later in the Torah portion we read of the episode between Yosef and Potifar’s wife.
Potifar’s wife was attracted to Yosef, and she used every method possible to seduce him. The Torah states that one day, Yosef entered the palace, knowing that everyone except his master Potifar’s wife had left. In a moment of weakness, the Talmud in Sotah teaches that Yosef made the fateful decision to give in to her wishes. Just as he was about to commit a sin, an image of Yaakov his father, appeared to him, and he was able to resist his urge and refrain from sin.
The Torah clearly indicates that Yaakov thought that Yosef was dead. The brothers had convinced their father that he had been savagely killed by a wild animal.
Therefore, the question is: how could Yaakov have known to send such a message to his son, to dissuade him from sin? After all, Yaakov thought Yosef was dead!
My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Shapiro, zt”l, explained that the image that Yosef saw was NOT sent from an external source to aid him, as we might assume.
Rather, the image came from deep within Yosef himself. Yosef realized that committing this sin would be tarnishing his legacy and the legacy of his family, and diminishing the treasured relationship that he had with Hashem and his father.
It was the image of his father, of his history and of his destiny, that reminded him that this sin would be too onerous to bear. Yaakov had successfully left an everlasting impression upon his son.
Connection to Chanukah
It is no coincidence that the holiday of Chanukah falls on the days when we read of Yosef and his trials, for that message is applicable to Chanukah as well.
The miracle that we celebrate and remember by lighting the Menorah is all about a small flask of oil. This flask had the seal of the Kohen Gadol on it, left pure and intact.
That small flask is a symbol to the Jews of that time – and to all future generations – that there will always be a continuity of holiness and purity unaffected by the evil in the world around us.
As Yaakov had deeply influenced his son Yosef with the courage to act properly in the most difficult of times, the flask of oil with the Kohen Gadol’s holy seal continues to leave an impression on Jewish people throughout history.
Rabbi Berger spent fifteen years living in Eretz Yisroel learning under Rav
by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Berger
Rav of Village Green Shul
Moshe Shapiro and Rav Asher Arieli. Rabbi Berger is currently the Rabbi of the Village Green shul and a Maggid Shiur at Yeshivas Ohr Reuven. He has spent many years building Torah in the community and guiding his Talmidim to become the best that they can be."