Driving a car on Shabbos is not recommended, to say the least. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that cars have been very helpful for us – Jews – on Shabbos. Let me explain. Especially since the advent of tinted windows, parked cars have become a beacon for a Jewish man’s shul physical appearance. When you walk to shul on Shabbos, and you slow down as you pass each and every parked car, just admit that you were not looking through the window to see if the owner left coffee in the cupholder, but rather, you were looking at the window to see yourself; to fix your hair, to adjust your tie, and to check out your newly tailored suit!
It is human nature that when we are in the scope of the public eye, we want to look good. And the truth of the matter is that we should look good. We should look put together and kempt. The Rambam in Hilchos Dei’os (5:9) discusses how a Talmid Chacham should make sure that his clothes are in accordance with his importance and to be neat and clean and make sure his clothing is not torn or stained.
But like everything in life, we have to make sure we are not too much involved with physical appearances and the like. Rashi points out that when the Torah (37:2) says the words והוא נער – and he (Yosef) was youthful, it is actually faulting Yosef for inclining toomuch towards the physical drive. Yosef was acting youthful (read: immature) in the sense that he would fix his hair and touch up his eyes, in order to appear attractive – כדי שיהיה נראה יפה.
Parshas Vayeishev always falls out around the holiday of Channukah. The words והוא נער contained in this week’s Parshah sum up the Greek philosophy and mentality. The Greeks were smart, intellectual, and revolutionary. But they were extremely immature, almost lad-like, in regards to their mentality and approach to life. Who was the strongest? Who was the fastest? Who was the best of the best? Survival of the fittest was first and foremost. This philosophy is vibrant and even attractive, but it is ridiculously immature and childish.
The Jew understands that instead of remaining in a lifelong state of והוא נער, we can actually grow up and cultivate that inner נער and become something so much bigger. The opposite of והוא נער is חנך לנער, as it says it Mishlei (22:6): חנך לנער על פי דרכו – educate the youth according to his way. We believe that the inner נער can be educated and matured.
The Bnei Yessachar (Maamar 3 – Ner Channukah) points out that the word חנך is the same as חנוכה. The holiday of חנוכה breeds the notion of חנך – education, maturation, growth. Channukah is a חינוך – an education and preparation – for the ultimate redemption. On some level, we can tap into the sparks of clarity and holiness that will be manifest in the future.
One of the main differences between an immature child and a mature adult is how we approach the here and the now. An immature child just sees what is in front of him, whether that be a lollipop that he really wants to savor or a shot at the doctor’s office that he really doesn’t want to receive. A mature adult, however, is able to see far beyond what is right in front of him; he realizes that what he does now will impact the future! The adult can see that the lollipop can lead to a cavity, and that the shot can lead to better health.
As we approach Channukah, let us strive to leave the והוא נער philosophy and embrace the חנך לנער philosophy. Let us nurture that inner נער and become mature and growing people.
Have a holy Shabbos!