Parshas Miketz and Chanukah The Zimras HaAretz

Written by Rabbi Rudman, 3/12/2018

 This weeks Parsha of Miketz is almost always in the week of Chanukah. There are many hints and Drashos that connect them. I would like to add to this collection, by explaining a unique phrase in the Parsha, and then connecting it to an idea of Chanukah.

The main focus of the Parsha is the beginning of the descent to Egypt, which comes along with the reconnection between Yosef and his brothers. [It seems that even though we need to go into Galus, but it still needs to be as a nation, having overcome the Sinas Chinam that began the process of Galus with the sale of Yosef.] In the first meeting between them, Yosef takes Shimon and sends the rest of the brothers back to Yakov to bring Binyamin. At first Yakov refuses to send him, but when the food begins to run out, he acquiesces to allow Binyamin to return with his other brothers. Yakov makes significant preparations to find favor in the eyes of the viceroy of Egypt. He instructs his sons to prepare a double amount of money, and a significant gift[1]. This gift is described as from the Zimras HaAretz. Rashi[2] based on the Targum[3]explains this as The fruit which the land is praised for. Why is this word used here, rather than the phrase used in describing the good of Egypt[4] Tuv HaAretz- the best of the land? And what is the connection to the plain meaning of the word singing?

Rav Nachman (whose idea was pointed out by my dear friend R Elchonon Ehrman) explains this at great length[5]. He translates the phrase in its simplest meaning; Yakov sent a Zimra Nigun of Eretz Yisroel, in the instruments of the brothers to the viceroy of Egypt. What is the significance of this?

Every blade of grass and every living creature has a song. Some of these songs we learn in Perek Shirah. The song of all the creations is hinted in the Midrash[6] that every blade of grass has a Malach who causes it to grow. Every Malach has their song. That song is the song of each blade of grass, as it grows.

The shepherd who grazes the flocks and herds through the land moving from place to place, gathers these songs together. That is why the two brothers who descend from Kayin[7]; one is a shepherd, and the other is the progenitor of song. (I am not aware of any connection between Hevel and song. The Netziv[8] does describe Hevel as connected to the idea of beauty and aesthetic, maybe there is a connection there.) Dovid is the shepherd of Yisroel, and the pleasant singer of Yisroel. He is able to gather all the songs of Eretz Yisroel joing them together, and the hand of HaShem in everything.

This song is the recognition that all comes from HaShem, and all is directed by HaShem. The place where this song is most apparent is in Eretz Yisroel. Eretz Yisroel is the place where we look to Heaven and understand all our sustenance comes from there[9]. There we are able to sing best. The center of this song is in the Bais HaMikdosh, when the Leviim sing. As the Leviim say when they go into Galus and are commanded to sing by Nebuchadnezzar,[10] How can we sing the song of HaShem on a foreign land. Eretz Yisroel is where we can see the Hand of HaShem most clearly and be able to sing the purest song, and when we go into Galus, the song dies.

We can see this idea also in the attempts of Nebuchadnezzar to coopt the song of Eretz Yisroel. The first is in the demand that the Leviim sing the song of the Mikdash in Bavel after the Churban. Their mournful response is that your request is impossible. What you want to do, to transplant the song of belief in HaShems control of the world to Bavel, cannot be done. The instruments are hung upon Aravim, the trees of the Aravah. The Aravah has neither taste nor smell, and is the lowest of the four species taken on Sukkoth. How can we sing when our instruments have no connection to anything spiritual?

In Sefer Daniel[11], Nebuchadnezzar again tries to vanquish HaShems control of the world. After he is shown the dream of the statue which is ultimately destroyed and scattered to the winds; he constructs his own statue. This statue is all gold, and is to represent his domination of the world, and his rejection of the prophecy that was revealed to him. Nebuchadnezzar gathers all the nations and commands them that when they hear the sound of a myriad of musical instruments, to bow down to this golden statue. I would venture to say that he is trying to show that the music of the world now comes through him, and not Eretz Yisroel.

Yakov thus sends the viceroy of Egypt the music of Eretz Yisroel. It could be he is saying, that since Egypt has now become the source of sustenance for the world, the music has been transferred from Eretz Yisroel to Egypt. And if so, you need to deserve this music, and treat people correctly. Yakov was correct that the music is now in Egypt. But What Yakov did not know, was that since the Mashbir to all the world is actually Yosef, the source is really within Klal Yisroel, and the true source is from our connection to Eretz Yisroel.

This idea might explain a fascinating phrase in the Daf Yomi of this week. One of the issues discussed is the way to consecrate and expand the Halachic borders of Yerushalyim and the Bais HaMikdosh. The Gemarra says[12] that there is a procession around the newly expanded border of Yerushalayim, accompanied by song. Mizmor LTodah and Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis are said; and musical instruments are on every corner and every large stone of Yerushalayim. The requirement for instruments is obviously a Din of Simcha, but based on what we have already said maybe we can clarify further.

The language of the Gemarra is unusual, every corner and large stone. What is taking place at this inauguration, is that the level of Kedusha of part of Eretz Yisroel is being raised. That means that the song that emanates from that part of Eretz Yisroel will be raised to a new level. In order to accomplish that, we need to bring that song out from our efforts. Then it can be established as such in Shamayim. So there needs to be a new song played down here in this world, so from now on a new song can be attached to that part of Eretz Yisroel. In the Sefer Ohr HaMeir[13], he brings this idea in connection with the phrase of Zimra HaAretz, that Yakov taught his sons the approach of Tefila, that through our songs we arouse the song in Shamayim, and bring out the words of Torah in Eretz Yisroel.

Chanukah are the days of Simcha and Hallel. [It is not called a Yom Tov or Chag in Chazal.] It is not coincidental that the place where the Rambam explains in detail the Halachos of Hallel is within the Halachos of Chanukah. These are the days of singing to HaShem. The days of Chanukah are also the days of the dedication of the second Bais HaMikdosh[14]. When the Greeks entered the Bais HaMikdosh they defiled it by removing the Chail which separated the Kedusha from the nations around. Therefore, it required a rededication. As we saw above the dedication of the Bais HaMikdosh requires song, to bring out the Kedusha of the Land. Therefore, Chanukah is the time for the song of Hallel, which is described in the Bracha which concludes Hallel, And to your name it is correct to be say Zemer.

Our song on Chanukah is the Zimras HaAretz. The day of Chanukah was when the Mishkan in the desert was actually completed. But HKBH desired to wait till Nissan, so He promised that there would be a second dedication to replace the one that Kislev missed[15]. This dedication is the lighting of the Menorah and the Hallel. But just as the Mishkan was portable and travelled so too the dedication of Chanukah is portable[16]. We can recognize the song of Eretz Yisroel wherever we may be, just as Yakov could send the song of Eretz Yisroel to Egypt. But ultimately it needs to reconnect to Eretz Yisroel, to bring out the true connection to the Hashgacha of HaShem.

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