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Planets. Meteors. Stars.
Every once in a while we hear astronomers predict, and usually pretty accurately, that bodies in space will collide and crash.
Sometimes this has an effect on us earthlings, other times it has no repercussions for us whatsoever.
What happens when it's not two stars or planets, but two worlds that collide? That's exactly what happened a little over 2,000 years ago. The result of this collision is celebrated each year on Chanuka.
Chanuka recalls the clash of two worlds: on the one hand, the Jewish world of faith and Torah, based on pure monotheism, with its concept of holiness permeating daily life down to the minutest detail; on the other hand the Gentile Hellenistic culture, with its polytheistic and largely materialistic concept of life.
By force of arms the Greeks attempted to impose their culture on others. However, their aim was not to eradicate indigenous cultures, but rather to Hellenize and assimilate them.
Thus, the Greeks were willing to recognize the Torah, or even accept it, as a perfect and beautiful literary creation, a work of poetry, wisdom and profound philosophy, provided it was considered a human creation, something like their own mythology.
As such the Torah could be, nay, ought to be, changed and modified from time to time, so as to harmonize with the novel ideas and mores of the period, which, of course, would do away with the permanence and immutability of mitzvot such as Shabbat, the laws of kashrut, circumcision, etc.
Thus it was not the suppression of the Torah that they aimed at, but at its acceptance as G-d-given word, as G-d's Torah.
Similarly, they were not averse to the moral and ethical values contained therein, but they prohibited the Divine statutes -- the so-called "supra-rational" precepts -- which more than any others distinguish the Jewish way of life and make it specifically Jewish, holy and pure.
Moreover -- and this was the greatest danger posed by the Greek penetration of the Sanctuary -- they favored, and actually endeavored to bring about, the rekindling of the menora, specifically in its hallowed place in the Sanctuary, whence it should spread its light everywhere as before, except that its light should come from oil that had the Greek "touch" -- the touch that defiles the oil.
The menora, which was kindled with pure and consecrated oil, was the visible symbol of the purity of the Jewish way of life; its Perpetual Light flashed this message from the Holy Temple to every Jew wherever he might be. The Greeks were resolved to change this.
Indeed, there were Jewish Hellenists who felt that a "touch" of the more "modern" and "sophisticated" Greek culture ought to be applied to Judaism and Torah.
But a handful of Hasmoneans recognized that this "touch" is the fatal blow that strikes at the inner sanctum of Jewish life.
Divine Providence saw to it that a cruse of oil, pure and uncontaminated, should be found with which to rekindle the menora, and that it should not only hold its own, but grow and spread and keep the Perpetual Light burning.
What was true in those days is just as true in this season, in our day and age; what is true of the Jewish people as a whole is also true for every individual Jew.
Under the assault of environmental influences, a Jew may find his "Sanctuary" -- his attachment to and identification with G-d, Torah and mitzvot -- invaded and contaminated by ideas and mores which are alien to the Jewish way of life, incompatible and inimical to it.
But in the inner sanctum of his soul there is always a "cruse of oil" that remains pure and holy -- that spark of G-dliness which is his Divine soul, which is indestructible and beyond reach of defilement.
The Jew has but to kindle it; although it may seem like a tiny light at first and of brief duration, it is sufficient to light up one's whole being until it becomes a Perpetual Light.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, opens with an account of Joseph's two dreams, the subject of which appear to be identical.
Both dreams -- the first concerning the sheaves and the second concerning the heavenly bodies -- allude to Joseph's eventual rise to power and foretell that his brothers would one day bow down to him.
Next week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, also recounts two dreams -- this time of Pharaoh -- that seem similar in content.
First, Pharaoh dreamt of seven lean cows swallowing seven fat ones; then he dreamt of seven thin ears of corn swallowing seven full ears.
The Torah tells us that Joseph interpreted this repetition as indicating that the events they foretold were indeed imminent and about to take place.
Why didn't Joseph apply this principle in interpreting his own two dreams?
The events that occurred in his second dream could just as easily have been included in the first; as nothing new seems to have been added, one dream could have sufficed.
We must therefore conclude that Joseph had two dreams for another reason, one that teaches us an important lesson we can apply every day.
Although Joseph's first dream dealt with worldly matters (sheaves), his second dream involved heavenly bodies (the sun, moon and stars).
Both of Pharaoh's dreams dealt with worldly affairs, the only difference being that the first dream involved the animal kingdom, while the second dream involved the lower level of vegetative life.
The difference between Joseph's and Pharaoh's dreams demonstrates the essential difference between the Jew and the non-Jew:
The Jew, even while living in the physical world, is intimately connected to both the physical and spiritual realms, whereas the non-Jew has no true attachment to spiritual matters.
Even the order of Joseph's dreams -- the first involving worldly concerns followed by the second dealing with spiritual matters -- indicates the Jew's perpetual strive upward toward G-d.
Both of Pharaoh's dreams concerned worldly matters; furthermore, their shift from the animal to the plant kingdom implies a message of spiritual descent.
Only the Jew is granted the power to link both spiritual and physical realms; indeed, his whole mission in life is to transform the physical into the spiritual through Torah and mitzvot.
Because he lives in a physical world, the Jew must engage in mundane acts such as eating, drinking and sleeping, yet, at the same time, he maintains an essential bond with G-d and with holiness. For the Jew, no contradiction exists between the physical and the spiritual, for he understands that the sole purpose of physical reality is to act as a medium for spirituality.
Not only does the physical world not hamper the Jew's spiritual component, it enables him to attain higher levels of holiness than he could without its assistance.
Rabbi Moshe C. Greenwald
Reprinted from Chabad Magazine
My father, Rabbi Avraham Tzvi Greenwald, was born in Lodz, Poland.
When the Rebbe married Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, their wedding in Warsaw was attended by many of Poland's greatest rabbis, among them my father's cousin and surrogate father, Rabbi Menachem Zemba.
Rabbi Zemba took my father with him to see the groom. After a lively discussion on Talmudic issues, the Rebbe suddenly turned to my father, and said, "Do you know why it is customary in Chasidic shuls to celebrate on the fifth night of Chanuka?"
My father and Rabbi Zemba were unaware of this custom.
The Rebbe continued: "The fifth day of Chanuka can never occur on Shabbat, a phenomenon representing great darkness. The fifth candle symbolizes that the light of Chanuka can illuminate even such intense darkness. This is the duty of every Jew, wherever he may find himself, be it in Warsaw or in London -- to illuminate even the greatest darkness."
Years passed. My father went through the horrors of the ghetto and then the death camps. His first wife and five children were killed in front of his eyes. At the end of the war, he was broken in body and spirit. He emigrated to America in 1948 and settled in Philadelphia. Relatives arranged for my father to meet my mother, also a survivor, and they decided to get married.
But my father needed encouragement to begin his life anew. He travelled to New York to receive the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's blessing.
The Previous Rebbe gave his blessings.
Before leaving, my father mentioned that he had attended his daughter's wedding in Warsaw.
The Previous Rebbe's eyes lit up and he said: "Since you were present at my son-in-law's wedding, it would only be fitting to stop in and visit him, now, too."
My father went to the Rebbe's office. The Rebbe recognized my father, and said, "Since my father-in-law, the Rebbe, told you to come to visit me, I must impart to you a Torah concept. We are now close to Chanuka. It happens that the fifth day of Chanuka can never occur on Shabbat. This represents a great darkness. The fifth candle thus symbolizes the great light of Chanuka, which can illuminate even such an intense darkness. It is the duty of every Jew, wherever he may find himself, be it in New York or in London, to illuminate even the greatest darkness."
My father was stunned. These were the same words the Rebbe had uttered nearly 20 years ago.
After getting married, my father served as a rabbi and teacher in New York, where I were born. Several years later we moved to Toronto.
Before my marriage in 1969, my father said that, although we were not Lubavitcher Chasidim, he wanted me to receive the Rebbe's blessing, just as he had done before his own wedding.
Our turn finally came and we entered the Rebbe's room. My father gave the Rebbe a note with our names and requested that we should merit to build a Jewish family.
The Rebbe looked up at my father and smiled. "It is now more than 20 years since you came here, when my father-in-law sent you to me," he said.
The Rebbe gave his blessing for my marriage, and also blessed my father, saying: "Just as you attended my wedding, may G-d give you strength to attend your grandchild's wedding."
My father was very moved. Before going out, my father dared to ask the Rebbe a question.
He began: "Living in a Satmar community, I often hear criticism of Lubavitch. They ask me: 'How can they associate with irreligious people who defy the Torah? Does it not state in Psalms, "Whoever hates You, O G-d, I will hate"?' I do not mean to criticize; I only want to understand this and explain it to others," my father concluded.
The Rebbe replied: "Suppose the daughter of your very religious neighbor were to abandon Judaism, G-d forbid. What would he do? Would he try to bring her back to Torah and mitzvot, or would he say, 'Whoever hates G-d, I will hate'?"
The Rebbe continued: "Of course, his own daughter is different, as it says, 'Do not remain oblivious to your relatives' plight.' But in G-d's eyes, every Jew is as precious as an only child. To my father-in-law, every Jew is a relative who cannot be ignored."
The Rebbe concluded, "Among Chasidim, the fifth night of Chanuka is celebrated because it can never occur on Shabbat. This represents a great darkness. The fifth candle... This is the duty of every Jew, wherever he may find himself, be it in Toronto or London. Every Jew is a part of G-d above, His only child. When you illuminate his or her soul, every Jew can be awakened."
My father was totally taken aback.
In 1979 our family planned to fly to London for my younger brother's wedding. Just before leaving, our neighbor spoke to my father, confiding in him that his daughter had forsaken Judaism.
Two weeks ago she had run off to London with a non-Jewish boy. Their efforts to locate her were unsuccessful. The man pleaded with my father to try to find his daughter while in London and to save her.
After my brother's wedding, my father related the story to the bride's father and asked his advice. He told my father that a Lubavitcher friend of his, Rabbi Avraham Gluck, had helped many lost souls find their way back. My father immediately contacted Rabbi Gluck.
A few nights later my father received a call. Rabbi Gluck had located the girl and she was in his house. My father went there and found the girl weeping uncontrollably. As he looked around the room, his eyes fell on the Chanuka menora, with its five candles burning. He was stunned, recalling the Rebbe's words of 50, 30 and 10 years before.
"The fifth candle symbolizes the great light of Chanuka... This is the duty of every Jew, wherever he may find himself, be it in Warsaw... in New York...in Toronto or in London...If his daughter strays from Judaism... In G-d's eyes, every Jew is an only child..."
The girl returned to her family and to Judaism.
My father passed away on the 14th day of Kislev, 1989, following the wedding of my eldest daughter, thus fulfilling the Rebbe's blessing to rejoice at his grandchild's wedding -- exactly 60 years to the day since the Rebbe's wedding.
Light the Chanuka Menora
Kindle the menora on each of the eight nights of Chanuka using oil or candles large enough to burn until half an hour after nightfall.
On Friday, the menora is lit before the Shabbat candles, and on Saturday night, after Shabbat has ended.
TO ILLUMINATE THE OUTSIDE
20 Kislev 5736 (1975)
This is to confirm receipt of the correspondence and report of activities. May G-d grant that the past success should increase the desire to work even more energetically to spread even more light.
This is especially emphasized in the forthcoming days of Chanuka in which Jewish women played a significant role, as our Sages of blessed memory declared, "They [the women], too, were involved in that miracle [of Chanuka]," and even more so according to Rashi's commentary: "For a woman was instrumental in bringing about the miracle."
It has often been pointed out that observances such as Chanuka and Chanuka lights, which are observed from year to year, are not just a remembrance; their memory and observance should bring out their intent and purpose in a way that affects one's daily life and conduct in a practical manner.
One of the things Chanuka teaches us, as underscored in the prayer "Ve'al HaNisim," is that a Jew is never discouraged by the fact that Jews are "weak" and "few" (physically), facing the "mighty" and "many."
On the contrary, inasmuch as Jews are "pure and tzadikim [righteous] and dedicated to Your Torah," they overcome all obstacles without and within which might make them forget G-d's Torah and mitzvot, until they attain a complete victory, with the lighting of candles, etc.
The Chanuka lights are kindled when the sun has set, when it is dark outside; their light is to be displayed so as to illuminate the outside.
Furthermore, it is not enough to light one candle.
Although lighting one candle the first night is all that is required to fulfill the mitzva to perfection, and the person is regarded among the "mehadrin-min-hamehadrin" [most scrupulous], he lights an additional candle the second night; but even this additional effort is not sufficient once another day has passed. One must add yet another candle and more light, and so on, consistently increasing the candles and the light for an entire week.
The message of the Chanuka lights is clear: In all matters of "ner mitzva veTorah ohr" ("a mitzva is a candle, and the Torah is light") -- especially in our present time, it is necessary to go about spreading light in the same increasing manner, to light up one's personal life, and to light up the home and the street, that those who walk in darkness should see the bright light of the Torah and mitzvot, so that they, too, will light up their lives and conduct with the Divine Light ever more and more.
5th Chanuka Candle, 5709 (1948)
On the occasion of Chanuka I wish to send you a word of greeting. It is a good opportunity to strengthen our bonds.
On Chanuka we celebrate two miracles: the victory of the Maccabees over the forces of Antiochus on the battlefield, and the miracle of the oil at the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, following the victory.
The former is expressed in a prayer which we recite during Chanuka -- privately. The latter is expressed through the lighting of the Chanuka candles -- for public display.
The form of our Chanuka celebration thus emphasizes the relative importance of the material and spiritual in our lives. The victory in the battlefield, although miraculous, was a material one. The miracle with the oil, on the other hand, enabled our people to observe the mitzvot of lighting the menora in the rededicated Holy Temple.
Thus it is also in the life of the individual.
Material blessings are only used to their fullest extent if they serve as a means to enable us to live our spiritual life in accordance with the dictates of the Torah. The material must be subordinated to the spiritual; the body to the soul. "The soul of man is G-d's candle," and it fulfills its purpose by spreading the light of the Torah and mitzvot in its entire environment. This is the symbol of the Chanuka lights.
WORLD'S LARGEST MENORAH
Be a part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at 5th Ave. and 59th St. in NYC.
The Menora will be lit at 5:30 pm from: Sunday, Nov. 27 to Thursday, Dec. 1. On Friday, Dec. 2 at 3:30 pm. On Saturday night, Dec. 3 at 8:00 pm; and on Sunday, Dec. 4th at 5:30 pm.
For more information please call Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000.
This year's Chanuka Live program, "A Tribute to the Rebbe," will air from 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm (EST) on Sunday Nov. 27.
Joining Lubavitch World Headquarters in New York live via satellite will be celebrations in Moscow, Paris, and Jerusalem.
For local PBS or cable station call 1-800-CHANUKA.
The mitzva of lighting the Chanuka menora contains special comprehensive instructions for our daily life and conduct.
In this vein, a thought for each night of Chanuka:
- Judaism teaches that the main thing is the deed. Thus, the actual lighting of the Chanuka menora comes immediately after sunset, as soon as the holiday has commenced.
- The Chanuka lights, which are placed at the entrance of the home, outside, remind us that every one of our actions must contribute light to the world.
- The candle contributes physical light, but, in the words of the Chanuka prayer "HaNeirot Halalu" -- these lights are holy. Thus, we contribute spiritual light to the world by performing mitzvot.
- The first blessing we say, "Who has sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Chanuka light," should be the guiding principle in our lives -- to fulfill G-d's commandments.
- The second blessing, "Who wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days at this season," should also guide us in that if we find it difficult, in the natural order of things, to do a mitzva, we should not feel discouraged, for G-d performed miracles for our ancestors and performs miracles for us.
- A third blessing (said only the first time one lights the menora), "Who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season," encourages us to fulfill the mitzvot with joy and thanksgiving to G-d.
- After the Chanuka menora lighting, the evening service containing the "Al HaNissim" prayer is recited.
This prayer emphasizes that although we are "weak" and "few" we are a holy nation; G-d not only performs miracles for us but "miracles, deliverance, mighty acts, salvations, wonders...a great salvation and deliverance."
- "Al HaNissim" further teaches that although we have to do what we can in the natural way, we must also have absolute trust in G-d, for success is from G-d.
May we merit, this very Chanuka, to rededicate the Holy Temple, with Moshiach himself lighting the menora there.
And his master saw that G-d was with him, and that G-d made all that he did prosper in his hand (Gen. 39:3)
Blessing and abundance from Above are directly contingent upon one's Torah and mitzvot, as it states, "If you will go in My statutes...I will cause it to rain in the proper time."
Nowadays, this cause and effect relationship is often obscured by our sins and by the concealment of G-dliness that characterizes the exile.
For Joseph, however, there was no such concealment; it was obvious to all that his righteousness and good deeds were responsible for his success in all areas of life.
(Sefer HaMaamarim, 5672)
When she gave birth there were twins...and he called his name Peretz, and afterwards his brother...and he called his name Zerach (Gen. 38:27-30)
Peretz is the direct ancestor of King David and Moshiach.
The Midrash notes that "Before the first enslaver of Israel (Pharaoh) was born, the ultimate redeemer of Israel (Moshiach -- Peretz) was already born."
G-d thus brought about the remedy and cure before the affliction - before the Egyptian exile and all the exiles that would follow thereafter - including our own.
This "light of Moshiach" that was created with the birth of Peretz confers upon Israel the strength and ability to succeed in their exiles to "break through" (the meaning of the name "Peretz") all the obstacles that try to impede their service of G-d until Moshiach is revealed.
(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev, 5751)
Our Sages compare Zerach to the sun and Peretz to the moon.
The sun continuously shines in an unchanging manner; thus it symbolizes the stable manner in which tzadikim (the righteous) serve G-d.
The moon's appearance keeps changing; it continually waxes and wanes.
The moon thus symbolizes ba'alei teshuva (penitents), who "slipped" and strayed and then returned and regained their spiritual stature.
The royal house of David, the very source of Moshiach, is precisely from Peretz (the moon), because Moshiach will bring even tzadikim to do teshuva, to return to their Divine source.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. XXX)
Everyone knew of the tzadik from Sassov, Rabbi Moshe Leib.
Thousands of people constantly streamed to him to ask for blessings and advice on personal and business matters, and he never refused them his precious time.
Once, when Rabbi Moshe Leib was visiting the town of Brod, a wealthy woman came to him to ask him to pray for the recovery of her daughter who was seriously ill. When the woman introduced herself and mentioned her father's name, Rabbi Moshe Leib realized that he knew of her family, who were famous for their generosity to the needy.
As the conversation progressed the wealthy woman described her child's illness, and the tzadik promised to pray for her.
As it was customary to give the tzadik a monetary donation to distribute among the poor or for a specific urgent cause, the woman removed an envelope from her purse and placed it on the table, but Rabbi Moshe Leib refused to accept it. "I don't want money from you!" he said.
"But Rabbi, what do you mean? What is it that you want from me? I will do anything in the world to help my daughter!"
"I know that you have a very beautiful and precious menora. That is what I want!"
"Rabbi, I do have the menora you describe, but it is a family heirloom and my most precious possession. However, if you want it, I will gladly give it to you!"
The Rebbe listened carefully, nodding his head. "I am aware that the menora is very special and precious to your family. If you agree to let me have it, you must mean this most sincerely; you must give it to me with no compunctions or inner doubts whatsoever."
"I understand completely, and I agree with all my heart. The menora is yours, and I will bring it to you today," the woman said in a strong, firm voice.
That evening, when she came and presented the menora to Rabbi Moshe Leib, his students were buzzing with amazement. How had the Rebbe known about the menora's existence? Why had the Rebbe asked for a gift, something so far out of character? And why in the world did he want it anyway, when it was a known fact that he used only the menora he had received from his teacher and Rebbe, Reb Shmelke of Nicholsburg?
On the first night of Chanuka, as the Rebbe prepared to light the first wick, Reb Yechiel Tzoref the silversmith stood at his side. He had no idea why he had been chosen for this great honor, but he was beaming with happiness.
After the light was kindled, the Rebbe beckoned to Reb Yechiel to enter his study. "I want to tell you a story about your grandfather, may he rest in peace, for whom you were named.
"When the time came for your grandfather to arrange a match for his daughter, he was so poor, he couldn't find a suitor. No one would lend him money, since it was obvious he could never return the loan. After exhausting all of his acquaintances he decided to approach a certain very wealthy man. When he asked him to lend him money to arrange a marriage for his daughter, the wealthy man replied, 'I know you will never be able to repay me, but I will make a deal with you. I know that you own a very beautiful menora, the likes of which I have never seen. If you will give it to me, I will give you 10,000 gulden, enough for the marriage and even more!'
"When Reb Yechiel heard the demand, he was shocked. It was his most precious possession, something which was infinitely precious to him. Every year, his Rebbe, Reb Zushe of Anipoli, had distributed silver coins to his Chasidim. Reb Yechiel had collected the prized coins year by year, and they were dearer to him than anything in the world.
"When he had amassed quite a collection, Reb Yechiel melted them down and formed from them a magnificent menora. It was this menora which the rich man wanted. No, thought Reb Yechiel, he couldn't even think of relinquishing it.
"Having refused the rich man's offer, Reb Yechiel went everywhere to try to borrow the money, but in the end he failed. He had no choice but to accept the rich man's terms and part with his beloved menora.
"When the wealthy man passed away and stood before the Heavenly Court there was great confusion as to how to rule in his case. On the one hand, the rich man had certainly performed the mitzva of giving money to help poor brides. But on the other hand, he had coveted the prized possession of a poor man and caused him great pain.
"Finally, the Court reached a decision. The wealthy man's reward would be withheld, since the mitzva was intertwined with the sin of coveting the possession of another.
"That is why I have arranged to return the menora to you, his grandson. The sin has now been atoned for, and the wealthy benefactor of your grandfather will rest in peace, enjoying his eternal reward."
This is the teaching of the Chanuka lights:
Although the situation is that of "after sunset," particularly in the present bleak darkness of the last days of exile (preceding the coming of Moshiach), a Jew must not permit himself to be overawed by the darkness outside, but must illuminate his home with the light of Torah and mitzvot (symbolized by the Chanuka lights), and moreover, not rest at that, but let the light shine forth "outside" to let the world see that the light of Torah and mitzvot irradiates Jewish life.