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Breishis Genesis

   289: Lech Lecha

290: Vayeira

291: Chayei Sara

292: Toldos

293: Vayetzei

294: Vayishlach

295: Vayeshev

296: Miketz

297: Vayigash

298: Vayechi

Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
December 10, 1993 - 26 Kislev, 5754

296: Miketz

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  295: Vayeshev297: Vayigash  

Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  Rabbi Avrohom and Rus Daniella Weisman  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

"Listen to the Chanuka lights," Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn used to tell his chasidim. Each one of them has a unique tale and a profound message.

  1. The Hebrew word "Chanuka" shares the same root as the word chinuch--education. During Chanuka we focus our attention on matters affecting the Jewish education of children. For this reason it is also traditional to give "Chanuka gelt" to children after testing them on Jewish subjects.

  2. Women played an integral role in Chanuka. The heroic stories of Chana and Yehudit are well known. Lesser known is the following tale:

    If a boy was born to the wife of one who was hiding to avoid the decrees of the Greeks, the mother circumcised the child on the eighth day though the Greeks had forbidden circumcision. Then she went up on the wall of Jerusalem and hurled herself and her child from the wall to certain death. According to our Sages, she was thereby saying to her husband and brothers who had gone into hiding to escape war: "If you will not go out to fight, you will have neither children nor wives, and you will be annihilated. We will observe what is holy to us, not in hiding, but publicly. If you intend to save us, emerge from your caves, and fight against the enemy till you destroy him. G-d will be with you!" It was only after some women did this that Matithias and his five sons arose like lions.

  3. There are allusions in the Torah to Chanuka, though the events leading up to the festival occurred much later:

    "In the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the earth... and G-d said, 'Let there be light...' " Light--ohr--is the 25th word in the Torah. The rededication of the Holy Temple and the relighting of the Menora took place on the 25th of the month of Kislev.

    When the Jews traveled through the Sinai desert, they stopped 42 times. The 25th place where they encamped was Hasmona. Matithias, the head of the Hasmonai family, led the revolt against the Greeks.

    The Sanctuary in the desert was completed on the 25th of Kislev, eight months after the Exodus from Egypt. But it was not dedicated until three months later. Jewish teachings explain that the 25th of Kislev was set aside for the future rededication of the Holy Temple by the Maccabees.

  4. One of the greatest miracles of the oil that lasted for eight and not one day was the miracle of Jewish Faith. That the Jews did not despair from lighting the menora even the first day, though knowing that they would be unable the following day to fulfill the mitzva of keeping a perpetual lamp burning, was in itself a great miracle.

  5. Under the circumstances, it was permissible to use the impure oil found after the war to keep the menora lit. But, the Jews insisted on using only undefiled oil, which was not obtainable for eight days. They were declaring: "We're not interested in the compromises that the Hellenists have been trying to sell us." For the decrees of the Greeks were intended to reduce the emphasis on the holiness and Divinity of the Torah.

  6. Oil, upon which the miracle of Chanuka is based, is an interesting substance. It is not required for our day-to-day existence and is never served alone as a food. It is used to add flavor and is thus associated with pleasure. Oil is a metaphor for the inner teachings of the Torah--Chasidut. Study of Chasidut adds pleasure to our observance of mitzvot. Oil, like Chasidut, has the potential to illuminate. When we light a candle in a room, the contents of the room are revealed. Similarly, studying Chasidut serves to reveal not only more of our own personal potential and energy but also helps to reveal the G-dliness in the world around us.

  7. "In those days at this time." These words, recited on Chanuka, hint at an amazing Jewish mystical concept. The spiritual energy that was evident during a particular event is reinstated in the world on the anniversary of that event. "At this time" we can draw on the energy of "those days." The eight days of Chanuka are an auspicious time to wage spiritual battles against evil, impurity and corruption within and without. And certainly we will be victorious, as in those days.

  8. The light created by G-d on the first day of Creation was not the light of the sun, moon or stars; those heavenly bodies were not created until the fourth day. The light of the first day was a spiritual light, hidden when Adam and Eve sinned and which will be revealed for eternity in the Messianic Era. Within each Jew is a spark of this holy and eternal light which will ultimately be fully revealed within each of us, with the imminent revelation of Moshiach.


Living with the Rebbe

When famine threatened, the nations of the ancient world converged on Egypt, center of the civilized world, to purchase grain. Thanks to the resourcefulness of Joseph, the storehouses were filled with corn in abundance. But the sons of Jacob, still in possession of some food, were in no hurry to leave Canaan. "Why do you look at one another?" asks Jacob in this week's Torah portion, Miketz, upon noting their reluctance to go to Egypt. "Why do you go about as if satiated before the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Esau?" elucidates Rashi, the great Torah commentator.

Jacob's words seem odd. The descendents of Ishmael and Esau lived nowhere near the area inhabited by the fledgling Jewish nation. Why did Jacob worry about arousing their jealousy, and not the jealousy of the Canaanites, in whose close proximity he and his family lived?

Odd, too, is the reluctance of Jacob's sons to go to Egypt. Why would they wait until the last grain was gone before making provisions for the future?

Jacob's sons were motivated by their absolute faith in G-d. They were sure that G-d would provide for them, either naturally or supernaturally, without their having to journey to Egypt. Jacob worried that his sons' unequivocal trust in G-d might arouse jealousy in the eyes of others. Jacob did not concern himself with the possible envy of his neighbors; indeed, the amount of food his sons still possessed was negligible and unlikely to arouse jealousy. His fear was spiritual: He worried lest the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau, both descendents of Abraham and Isaac, demand that Jacob's sons be forced to wander like their forefathers when faced with similar circumstances. Jacob therefore instructed his children to go to Egypt, to prevent this spiritual accusation from being leveled against the Jewish people.

In a deeper sense food is symbolic of wisdom. Just as food is ingested and becomes the very flesh of the individual, so too is knowledge internalized and united with the person's mind. Egypt, the ancient world's source of physical sustenance, was its source of spiritual nourishment as well. The reluctance of Jacob's sons to partake of Egypt's food was indicative of their recognition that Jews have no need to consult the wisdom of the nations, for the Torah contains all wisdom.

In fact, although many sections of the Talmud discuss secular sciences--most notably in the spheres of astronomy, medicine, and the like--this is only a result of the darkness of the exile. In the Messianic Era there will be no further need for these, as the world will be "filled with G-dly knowledge as the waters of the sea cover the ocean bed."

Adapted from Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 30.


A Slice of Life

Rabbi Avrohom and Rus Daniella Weisman

by Tzvi Jacobs

It was two weeks before Chanuka. Avrohom Weisman was wondering what the grand opening project for the Chabad House of Waterbury should be. Avrohom had returned to his hometown of Waterbury after a year of learning in the New Direction Program of the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, New Jersey. Waterbury, nestled in the foothills of the southwestern corner of Connecticut, had boasted a thriving Jewish community in the first half of this century. However, by 1985, even finding ten men for the daily minyan at the solitary Orthodox shul had become a struggle.

And so, Avrohom founded a Chabad House in Waterbury to attract and enlighten his fellow Jews. "What could be a better grand opening than a Chanuka menora on the Waterbury Town Square Green!" Avrohom said to himself.

It sounded like a great idea--after all, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was strongly encouraging the lighting of public menoras. Avrohom went straight to the office of his Uncle Joe, a well-known lawyer in Waterbury. By good fortune, his cousin Glen was also at the office. Glen was a local home builder, who retained Uncle Joe's legal services for his construction business.

"I need help from both of you," Avrohom explained. "I want to put up a Chanuka menora on the Green!"

"Allan," Uncle Joe said patiently to his newly religious nephew, "isn't Chanuka just two weeks away? Waterbury may be small, but things don't move that fast. We would have to present our case at town meetings, file for permits, and play politics."

"Let's wait till next year," Glen agreed. "You can't build that overnight. Besides, my men are in a race with winter, trying to get roofs on a dozen houses."

It's tough being one against many. But if there was one thing Avrohom had learned during his year in yeshiva, it was that a chasid is never alone. The Rebbe is always with him. So Avrohom, who is built like a former high school quarterback, wasn't knocked down so easily. He spent the following Shabbat in Crown Heights and davened in "770," the Lubavitcher Rebbe's shul. On Shabbat afternoon, Avrohom sat through the crowded farbrengen (Chasidic gathering). Just seeing the Rebbe and being with thousands of other chasidim gave Avrohom strength and inspiration, but provided no clear solutions to his problems.

When Shabbat ended, Avrohom found himself on the sidewalk in front of "770." A small group of people had crowded around the Rebbe's car. The Rebbe nodded to each of them. Avrohom caught a glimpse of the Rebbe as he lowered himself into the car. But before sitting down, the Rebbe raised himself up and turned his head in Avrohom's direction.

"He looked straight at me, for what seemed to be an eternity," Avrohom said. "I knew the Rebbe was trying to tell me something. But what?"

First thing Monday morning, Avrohom called the office of Waterbury mayor Joseph Santopietro. He spoke with the Mayor's assistant and explained his idea. A short while later the Mayor's assistant called.

"The mayor thinks it's a wonderful idea," he said. "Let us know what we can do to help you."

Avrohom rushed to Uncle Joe's law office. Coincidentally, cousin Glen was there again working on some legal papers with Uncle Joe.

"You won't believe it! The mayor said we can put up a menora!" Avrohom announced as he ran into the office. "Uncle Joe, all I need is a letter formally requesting a menora. And Glen, just sketch me a plan showing how a menora is built," Avrohom said, handing Glen a pencil and paper. At first Glen said he was too busy, but he finally gave in and drew up a plan for an 18-foot-high menora.

"I can't believe it, Glen," Avrohom said. "Your diagram, with its straight branches coming out of the main shaft, matches Maimonides' description of the menora from the Holy Temple!"

As Avrohom reached out to take the diagram, Glen folded it and put it in his pocket. "You'll never be able to build this," Glen said. "I'll do it. You'd better start making a big batch of Bubby's latkes."

Two days before Chanuka, Glen and his construction crew erected a magnificent 18-foot-high, 2,000-pound menora on the Green. It was (and still is) the largest menora in the state of Connecticut.

On the first night of Chanuka, a large crowd came to celebrate Waterbury's first public menora lighting. A band played live music, and Avrohom's relatives served latkes and distributed menoras and Chanuka gelt for the children. It was a great success!

The next morning, Waterbury's Republican-American featured a full-color picture and story about the town's first public Chanuka menora on its front page. The Chabad House had gotten off to a great start.

One mitzva leads to another. That year Avrohom flew to Miami to witness the largest menora lighting ceremony since the times of Judah and the Maccabees. The late Mr. Joe Robbie, the father of Avrohom's college buddy, gladly granted Avrohom permission to allow Chabad of Florida to hold a menora lighting ceremony at the new Joe Robbie Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. A crowd of 70,000 football fans witnessed the event during the pre-game show.

Putting up menoras in the towns around Waterbury is Avrohom's Chanuka goal. Last year, the town of Naugatuck granted permission. After that lighting, a businessman from Watertown approached Avrohom, asking for help in erecting a menora in his town.

This Chanuka will be the eighth year that Avrohom's menora is being lit on the Green in Waterbury. That small cruse of pure oil, which the Rebbe uncovered in the heart of Avrohom Weisman, is still burning bright. No one thought that the Chabad House of Waterbury would last even one year; miraculously it has lasted eight. And new oil is being discovered and refined every day.

With the help of his wife, children, and many new friends, Avrohom may just light up the whole western corner of Connecticut...and fly this year to Jerusalem, to see the menora lighting in the Third Holy Temple.


What's New

CHANUKA LIVE

Get connected this Chanuka with the annual Chanuka Live Intercontinental Satellite. Chanuka Live will connect Lubavitch World Headquarters with massive menora lighting spectaculars in Paris, Moscow, Jerusalem, Washington and other locations in between this Sunday, Dec. 12 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. est. For T.V. channel information in the U.S. call 1-800-CHANUKAH.

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

Pushing Away Darkness with a Little Light is the theme of the upcoming Shabbaton in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The weekend, from Dec. 24- 26, features guest scholar Rabbi Manis Friedman. For more info call (718) 953-1000.

BAIS CHANA

It's known simply as "Bais Chana" by the over 10,000 women who have participated in the Bais Chana Women's Institute in Minnesota. The Bais Chana program for women runs from Dec. 29 - Jan. 19. Participants can attend for a weekend, a week, or the entire session, to live and learn Judaism. A program for married women, with accommodations for pre-school age children, will be offered Jan. 20-27. For more info call (718) 756-2657.


The Rebbe Writes

LIGHT DISPELS DARKNESS

From a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

15 Kislev, 5738 (1977)

In connection with the forthcoming days of Chanuka, I extend to each and every one of you my heartfelt wishes for a bright and inspiring Chanuka, coupled with the fulfillment of your hearts' desires for good in every respect.

Chanuka brings a message of encouragement, in keeping with all the festivals and commemorative days in our Jewish calendar, which are meant to be observed not just for the sake of remembrance, but also for the practical lessons they provide in our daily life. One of the practical teachings of Chanuka follows:

The special mitzva pertaining to Chanuka is, of course, the kindling of the Chanuka lights, which must be lit after sunset--unlike the Sabbath candles, which must be lit before sunset, and unlike the lights of the menora in the Holy Temple, which were kindled even earlier in the day.

This emphasis on kindling the Chanuka lights after sunset teaches that, if a person finds himself in a situation akin to "after sunset," when the light of day has given way to gloom and darkness--as was the case in those ancient days under the oppressive Greek rule--one must not, G-d forbid, despair. On the contrary, it is necessary to fortify oneself with complete trust in G-d, the Essence of Goodness, and take heart in the firm belief that the darkness is only temporary, soon to be superseded by a bright light which will be seen and felt all the more strongly by the intensity of the contrast.

This, then, is the meaning of the kindling of the Chanuka lights, done in a manner which calls for lighting an additional candle each successive day of Chanuka--demonstrating plainly to oneself and to others passing by in the street that light dispels darkness, and that even a little light dispels a great deal of darkness--how much more so a light that grows steadily in intensity! And if physical light has such power, how much more so eternal spiritual light.

All of this pertains to the Jewish people as a whole, as well as to each individual Jew, man or woman, in particular. Although the Jewish people is still in a state of Exile, and "darkness covers the earth," a time when "nations rage and people speak vain things," etc., there is no reason to be overwhelmed; we have only to strengthen our trust in G-d, the "Guardian of His people Israel, Who slumbers not, nor sleeps," and be confident that He will protect His people wherever they are, and will bless them with success in all things, and in a growing measure; and that He will hasten the coming of our Righteous Moshiach to bring us the true and complete Redemption which is fast approaching.

Similarly, in regard to individuals who find themselves in a state of personal Exile--there is no cause for discouragement and despondency. On the contrary, one must have complete trust in the Creator and Master of the Universe, that personal deliverance from distress and confinement is speedily on the way.

Furthermore, one will draw increasing strength when this trust is expressed in a growing commitment to the fulfillment of G-d's will in daily life and conduct in accordance with His Torah and mitzvot--of which the mitzva of kindling the Chanuka lights is particularly significant in that it symbolizes the illumination of the soul, the "lamp of G-d," with the light of the Torah and mitzvot, "for a mitzva is a lamp and the Torah is light"--illuminating it in increasing measure from day to day, to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy: "The people walking in the darkness of Exile will see a great light"--the light of the Redemption.


Rambam this week


A Word from the Director

The kindling of the Chanuka lights teaches us a deep and inspiring lesson that serves us well throughout the year.

On the first night of Chanuka we kindle one light, on the second night we kindle two, on the third night three, and so forth, until, on the eighth night of Chanuka, we are kindling a total of eight Chanuka lights.

By kindling the Chanuka lights in ever-increasing numbers we are presented with the profound idea that the light that we bring into the world--through our study of Torah and observance of mitzvot--should be in ever-increasing quantity.

On the first night of Chanuka, it was perfectly sufficient and acceptable to light one Chanuka candle. But, on the second night, if we were to light just one we would not be performing the mitzva properly.

Just as this is true with each night of Chanuka, so is it true with every day of our lives. What was sufficient and acceptable in the way of Torah and mitzvot yesterday is not necessarily acceptable today. Today is a new day, which brings its own new energy and G-dly vitality. Our task is to use today's energy appropriately and to its maximum potential.

One might wonder if this lesson is, perhaps, only directed at those who do not necessarily observe all of the Torah's mitzvot. Certainly not! Increase can be not only in quantity but in quality as well. Thus, when speaking about ways to prepare ourselves for and hasten the imminent Redemption, the Rebbe included the concept of performing those mitzvot we already do in an enhanced manner.

This year on Chanuka, as we increase our mitzvot observance or enhancement, as we increase the Chanuka lights, may we merit to see the total fulfillment of the Chanuka "Al Hanisim" prayer in our own days, "You delivered the many in the hands of the few...the wicked into the hands of the righteous...and You effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people," with the building of the Third Holy Temple, where we will light the seven-branched menora for all eternity.


Thoughts that Count

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they recognized him not (Gen. 42:8)

Joseph's brothers never expected that a man as involved in worldly affairs as the viceroy of Egypt could be their brother. In their world view, the only way to serve G-d properly was to divorce oneself from worldly matters and pursue a life of spiritual contemplation, much as they were able to do in their chosen profession of shepherding. Joseph, however, was on a higher level of spirituality, able to maintain his attachment to G-d even while involved in the day-to-day affairs of state.

(Torah Ohr)

Your G-d, and the G-d of your fathers, has given you a treasure...and he brought Shimon out to them (Gen. 43:32)

This verse alludes to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who would one day reveal the treasures hidden within the Torah in his holy book, the Zohar.

(Ma'ayana Shel Torah)

Chanuka

On Chanuka it is traditional to play with the dreidel, or sevivon, a four-sided top whose sides are marked with letters spelling out the Chanuka miracle. Some, however, see the dreidel as a symbol of the Jewish people:

Just as the dreidel spins, falls down, and is spun around once more, so too is the fate of the Jews during the long exile: Driven from nation to nation, the Jewish people--belittled, oppressed, and in constant danger of assimilation--always rights itself and continues spinning.

(Peninim Yekarim)

The proper time to light the Chanuka menora is "when the sun goes down," when night begins to descend upon the earth. For a Jew is never to fear darkness, even a spiritual one, as even a little light of Torah and mitzvot dispels much gloominess.

(Likutei Sichot)


It Once Happened

by Gershon Kranzler

The brightness of the first Chanuka lights had dwindled down, but the holy fire on the altar burned again in the Holy Temple, from morning to morning, as prescribed by the Torah. The priests were once again busily officiating in the old customary ways. Day in and day out they prepared the offerings. Order and peace seemed established.

The Jewish farmer longed to return to his land after two years of hardship, privation and danger in the victorious Jewish army. It was high time to break the ground and to till the soil, if the barley was to grow and ripen in time for the "omer offering" on Passover. The Jewish farmers had left their ploughs to rally about the heroic Hasmoneans. The first victories had drawn even the hesitant into the ranks of the enthusiastic Jewish rebels, led by the sons of Matathias. Farmers had forsaken their land, and merchants and tradesmen their stores and shops. Even Torah students had emerged from the four walls of the yeshiva to join the fight against the oppressors.

But the songs of victory which had filled the reclaimed Holy Temple with praise and gratitude to the merciful G-d had ceased. The goal of the battle seemed to have been attained, and Torah was again supreme in Israel.

One man, though, realized that the time for the return to normal living had not yet come. Israel could not yet afford to relax; it would have to stand ready and prepare to carry on the fight against the overwhelming odds of the enemy. This man was Judah Maccabee, a man whose name was upon everyone's lips and in every Jewish heart. He was admired as a hero, as a man with the heart of a lion and the simple piety of a child; as the one whose mighty armies fought and conquered, yet who never failed to pray to G-d, the Master of all battles, before he entered the fray.

It was not the spirited warrior's joy that made Judah Maccabee stay in camp. His heart, too, longed to return to his former peaceful life, to Modiin, the quiet town of priests, which held the grave of his adored father. Bloodshed and battle were a hard and unwanted profession for the men of Judea, who preferred peace to strife. Yet this was no time to relent. Not only must he stay, he must also convince his comrades at arms to do so as well, with all the persuasion of his magnetic personality. Only the first phase of this war of liberation had passed; hard and desperate times were yet to come. Clever enemies could seize an extended lull to prepare new assaults with more troops and better equipment. And there was no shortage of enemies all around Judea, besides the defeated Syrians. Old hatreds were revived. The descendants of Edom, the Idumeans, the Ammonites, the Philistines and Phoenicians all revived their ancient jealousies.

Messengers arrived from Gilead. The pagan peoples had joined forces to destroy Judea. From Galilee came the bad news of similar evil intentions and active preparations for war in Ptolomais, Tyre and Sidon. The messengers found Judah Maccabee already at work. Fortifications had to be built around Zion. Towers, walls, battlements and moats had to be constructed opposite the fort still held by their worst enemies, the Hellenist Jews, under the leadership of Menelaos, the false priest. These Jews hated everything Jewish, and lived hoping for the return of the Syrian masters. Judah Maccabee prepared Jerusalem for imminent assault by the troops of Antiochus. Under his supervision, the Jewish people worked feverishly to refill their arsenals and transform the whole country into a stronghold.

Once this most important task was accomplished, Judah Maccabee led his freshly trained troops to the aid of the regions and villages harassed by the spiteful neighbors of Judea. He drove the Idumeans from Hebron, which they had annexed, and punished those people who had acted hostilely towards the Jewish settlers. Then he led his army across the Jordan River against the Ammonites. Their capital fell before the furious onslaught of the Jewish troops, and so did their fortress Yaeser. Judah's brother Simon led an army north to help the beleaguered Jews of Galilee. He defeated the enemy and cleared the Jewish land. At his urging, a great many of the Jewish settlers who had fled to Jerusalem returned to rebuild in safety what had been destroyed during the years of turmoil. Judah Maccabee and Jonathan joined forces and marched against Gilead, where they were met with the toughest resistance. By Shavuot their campaign was successfully concluded.

Judea was again free, and all parts of the land captured by the neighboring nations was recovered. Celebrations and festivities transformed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, barely half a year after the victory over the Syrian armies. The Jewish people expressed their joy and gratitude in the form of alms and offerings, for G-d had once again restored glory and liberty to the Jewish land.

From The Jewish Companion, Kehot Publication Society.


Moshiach Matters

Chanuka, being a holiday of eight days, is associated with the Redemption. For, whereas seven alludes to what is timebound, eight is always an allusion to eternity, to what is timeless. In addition, our Sages have said, "Even if all the other festivals will be annulled [in the Messianic Era], Chanuka and Purim will not be annulled." For Chanuka and Purim were given to Israel by the merit of their own deeds.

(Book of Our Heritage)


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