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December 6, 1996 - 25 Kislev 5757

446: Vayeishev

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


  445: Vayishlach447: Mikeitz  

Let There be Light  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  A Call To Action
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Let There be Light

Halogen, fluorescent, incandescent, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, candles. The options for lighting, though limited, are numerous. The type of lighting you choose, and even what kind of lighting fixture you use, are determined by the mood you want to create, the room in which they will be found, and, of course, your taste.

Chanuka, the Festival of Light, begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev.

The 25th word of the Torah is "ohr" -- light, for, on the first day of creation, G-d said, "Let there be light, and there was light."

Judaism teaches that nothing is random or arbitrary: everything is part of the Divine Plan. Thus, it is no coincidence that Chanuka, which begins on the 25th of Kislev, revolves around light and that the 25th word of the Torah is light. In addition, just as G-d's act of creation began with "Let there be light," so the mitzva of Chanuka begins with the lighting of candles.

Exactly what kind of light was it that G-d created on the first day? The sun, moon and stars were not created until the fourth day of creation; the light created on the first day was a spiritual light.

The Midrash explains that the light of the first day allowed Adam to see from one end of the universe to the other. But upon Adam and Eve's sin G-d chose to conceal this light, in order to prevent its misuse, and to unveil it in the future, in the times of the Redemption.

Physical light enables us to see our surroundings, the outer shell of everything that exists. Spiritual light, however, enables us to uncover the inner beauty and divinity existing at the core of every being or object created.

Jewish mysticism explains that each time one performs a commandment, in addition to establishing and strengthening the connection to the "Commander," one also brings spiritual light into the world. The special mitzvot involving physical light -- such as lighting Shabbat candles and Chanuka candles -- actually bring an even greater spiritual light into the world as well.

When we kindle the Chanuka lights on the Festival of Light we are availing ourselves of a stronger potential to unveil and actually see the Divine spark within every person and all of creation. Thus, Chanuka is a prelude to and foretaste of the Messianic Era, when the Divine core of everything will be revealed.


Living with the Rebbe

The Maggid of Mezeritch offered the following explanation on the verse in this week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, which reads: "And Yaakov dwelt in the land of his father's sojourning, in the land of Canaan":

"And Yaakov dwelt" implies the act of settling in, an active investment of one's energies;

"In the land" alludes to the material realm, to the physical world and its affairs.

In Charan, the Maggid explained, our Patriarch Yaakov involved himself in mundane matters, utilizing simple physical objects in his service of G-d. The Hebrew word for sojourning, megurei, is related to the word agar, to hoard or to store.

Yaakov's work in Charan consisted of collecting and refining the sparks of holiness that were concealed within the physical world and obscured by its gross materiality. Through his service Yaakov elevated these sparks and returned them to "his Father"---to G-d.

Divine service of this nature is derived from our acceptance of the yoke of heaven, without consideration for individual understanding.

The Jewish people is called "the Army of G-d." A soldier in the army must obey without question. He does not act at his own discretion, nor does his commander explain his reasoning when issuing an order. A soldier demonstrates pure obedience and acceptance of authority; so must every Jew in his G-dly service.

Yaakov left Be'er Sheva for Charan to begin his work of elevating the sparks of holiness. Yaakov understood that he and Esau could not live in close proximity, but he did not question why he was the one who would have to depart, uprooting him self from a life of Torah study in the yeshiva of Shem and Ever. Rather, he accepted G-d's command without protest, and acted with joy and enthusiasm.

For Yaakov, going to Charan represented a very great descent, for it required him to abandon the rarefied world of the yeshiva and involve himself in mundane matters in order to elevate them. Yet we see that Yaakov's spiritual stature was not damaged by this in the least. On the contrary, by serving G-d with true acceptance of His authority, Yaakov experienced a very great ascent, both in the spiritual sense and in the material wealth that he accrued.

From Yaakov we can derive a lesson for every Jew: When it comes to serving G-d, it is not necessary to look for grandiloquent actions and methods. A Jew's task is to properly utilize even the most mundane of physical objects in his Divine service, elevating the hidden sparks of holiness they contain out of a sense of acceptance of the yoke of heaven.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol 1


A Slice of Life

Chanukah
by Rabbi Eli Hecht

My sweet grandmother is a small woman, barely five feet tall. Her candelabra, which is two feet tall, isn't just a candleholder used for Sabbath and Chanuka lights. It is a family symbol.

The candelabra was a magnet that brought family and friends together. On Sabbath evenings, Bubbie would don a special Shabbos kerchief. With great fanfare she would light each candle. When she finished lighting the last candle, she stood in front of the candelabra and closed her eyes. Tears ran down her cheeks. She spoke in Yiddish, "Dearest Father, watch and protect my children and grandchildren. May it be Your will that they grow up to be good people and are loyal to our religion. Please grant my dear husband a livelihood and patience. Watch over us all."

We all stood by the Shabbos table in awe. Bubbie looked like a queen speaking to the King of Kings, the Alm-ghty G-d. When she finished her prayer, we began our Sabbath.

As our family grew, Bubbie spent more time with her candles. She now had many married grandchildren and even great grandchildren. When lighting the candles, Bubbie prayed for each family member.

Her candelabra was made of solid silver with a heavy silver base. All year-round it had three branches of two candlesticks. In the middle was a stem for another candle. The traditional custom for Shabbos eve is to light one candle each for the father, the mother and the children. As each child is born, another candle is added to the Shabbos lighting. Throughout the year, Bubbie's candelabra was fitted for five candles.

During the week of Chanuka she added another branch of two candlesticks each, making a total of nine candles. The candelabra was built in such a way that the candleholders could be removed and oil cups could be inserted for the special lighting of Chanukah. Our Shabbos candelabra became a menora.

During the holiday of Chanuka, the prized candelabra was given to my grandfather. He used it to fulfill the commandment of lighting the candles for the holiday. Chanuka was the happiest time for the family. All the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren came to Bubbie and Zadie to receive holiday gifts of Chanuka gelt (money) and joined in the lighting of the menora.

Imagine the two-foot menora lit with nine candles, shining in its glory. Zadie stood like a Kohain, the Jewish high priest, when he lit the menora. He would be dressed in a special fur hat, called a streimel, with a magnificent, long, silk caftan.

When Zadie died, Bubbie would spend her winters in Miami Beach. She took her candelabra with her. Before every Shabbos Bubbie would shine the silver candelabra and pray, "May my mazel (luck) always shine!"

All this came to an end when someone stole her candelabra. Bubbie was livid. Her small body shook like a willow in a storm as she spoke about her most prized possession, her candelabra. How could anyone steal it? Her only concern was how she would light her candles.

She believed the menora would return. "I have prayed that the menora would protect us, and I'm sure that the menora has done just that. Now I pray that the menora protect itself and be returned to me."

With silent determination she prayed and prayed. We, the family, did not know what to do. Unexpectedly, a childhood friend from Austria, Bubbie's birthplace, visited us and announced, "I have never seen another menora like yours until today. I always wondered if there was a second majestic menora. Surprisingly, I saw a menora just like yours in the window of a gift store. It is a replica of yours."

We were dumbfounded. Could it be that our guest had seen the stolen menora? Bubbie jumped up and said, "Let's get my menora back! It soon will be Chanukah and I need the menora."

Bubbie, my parents, Bubbie's friend and a policeman made their way to the gift shop. With a gleam in her eyes, and a shout of joy, Bubbie pointed to her menora and said, "Yes, you have done well. You have protected us and now you have protected yourself. Come back home to my family and me."

Before anyone could say anything, Bubbie grabbed the menora off the shelf and held it close to her heart. Nobody was going to stop her. Neighbors, Jewish and non-Jewish, joined Bubbie on her triumphant walk home. As she got closer to her home, more and more people joined her. Bubbie, dressed in the European manner, with her slight frame, carrying a menora that was almost as big as herself--with a procession of excited family and friends following her--was a sight to see. It truly was a Chanukah parade.

Needless to say, the menora was given a special cleaning. That Chanuka was the brightest in Bubbie's home. Who says that miracles can't happen anymore?


A Call To Action

Publicize the Miracle

One of the special aspects of lighting the Chanuka menora is to publicize the miracle that took place for our ancestors "in those days at this time." In addition to lighting your own Chanuka menora each night of Chanuka, help publicize the miracle in a big way by encouraging friends and relatives who might otherwise not be kindling the Chanuka lights to do so.

A box of candles and tin menora cost as little as $2, so this is one mitzva that won't strain the budget!

You can share the joy of Chanukah on the Internet by visiting the "Festival of Light!" at festival.chabad.org and light up the world with a Mitzvah.


The Rebbe Writes

CHANUKA AND SELF-SACRIFICE

In The Days of Chanuka, 5721 [1960]

To the Participants at the Annual Celebration "Achei Temimim," Massachusetts

Chanuka recalls the critical period in Jewish history when a ruthless and overpowering enemy made an attempt to suppress G-d's Torah and mitzvot and the Jewish way of life. But there was a handful of Jews, faithful to the Torah and mitzvot to the point of real self-sacrifice, who turned the tide and rekindled the true faith and the observance of Torah and mitzvot. Thus, with G-d's help, the few were victorious over the many, and the physically weak over the strong, bringing a great and everlasting salvation for our people.

The message of Chanuka is especially important for us here and now. We are fortunate to live here in a country where there is freedom of worship. Jews do not have to risk their lives to study the Torah and observe its sacred commandments. Nevertheless, the number of the faithful is, sad to say, by no means adequate; Jewish children attending a Yeshiva and receiving a full and kosher education are still not in the majority. But these few are destined to rekindle the light of the Torah and mitzvot in the hearts and homes of many.

However, in order to accomplish this task, a spirit of dedication and selflessness is necessary, something of the Mesirat Nefesh [self- sacrifice] of the Hasmoneans "of those days at this time."

I hope and pray that each and every one of you will rededicate yourselves to the sacred cause of spreading the light of Torah and mitzvot, upon which our very life and existence depends. One of the activities in this direction is to make every effort to maintain and enlarge the capacity of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva "Achei Temimim" in your community.

I trust, moreover, that you will do so in an ever-growing measure, as symbolized by the candles of Chanuka which we light each day of Chanuka in steadily growing numbers.

May G-d bless you all and send you a growing measure of light and happiness into your personal lives and into your homes and families, materially and spiritually.


20th of Kislev, 5725 [1964]

I received your letter, in which you write about some individuals who are trying to discourage you from the fulfillment of the mitzvot with hiddur [enhancement].

Surely, with your background, it is unnecessary to emphasize to you that the reason Jews observe the mitzvot is because G-d commanded them to do so and not, G-d forbid, to find the approval of other people. If some difficulties arise, at one time or another, it is necessary to look at them as a challenge and a test of one's devotion and adherence to the Torah and mitzvot, as the Torah itself forewarns us, "For G-d tests you, to know if you love G-d your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul." It is only a pity for those who choose to act as the distracting agencies, to make it more difficult for a fellow Jew, whereas this test and agency could just as well be carried out through others, while they could, on the contrary, serve as an encouragement, instead of a discouragement, for their fellow Jew.

It is surely also unnecessary to remind you that the first of all the four parts of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] begin with the imperative, "One should not pay attention to the scoffers," indicating that this is a basis for the whole of the Shulchan Aruch.

As we are soon to celebrate the days of Chanuka, it is well to remember that the events of Chanuka emphasize the self-sacrificing devotion of Jews to the Torah and mitzvot. What they had to contend with in those days at this time was not a prohibition to study Torah in general, or to observe the mitzvot in general, but to study Torah as G-d's Torah, and to observe the mitzvot which are specifically beyond human reason (chukim).

This is why the text in "v'al hanisim [and for these miracles]" says, L'hashkicham Toratecha [to forget Your Torah], etc. It was when the Jews were absolutely determined to adhere to G-d's Torah and mitzvot at all costs, that the miracle for Chanuka took place,

Wishing you an inspiring Chanuka,


What's New

BE A PART OF IT!

Be a part of the celebrations this Chanukah. Visit the "Festival of Light!" site on the Internet - festival.chabad.org and join in the family fun..... And if you're in New York.....visit the lighting of the World's Largest Chanuka Menora on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Ninth Street in New York City. The Menora will be lit each evening from Dec. 5 -12 at 5:30 p.m., with the exceptions being on Friday at 3:38 p.m. and on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. Sunday's festivities include free dreidels for the kids and hot latkas for everyone. For more information call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000. Call your local Chabad Lubavitch Center for the candle-lighting closest to you.

MORE NEW CENTERS!

In a recent report from the "Shluchim (emissaries of the Rebbe) Placement Department" of the Shluchim Office, it was announced that the following families have opened new Chabad Lubavitch Centers:

Rabbi Zalman and Sarah Deitsch in Clintonville, OH; Rabbi and Mrs. Sholom Gotlieb in Nikolayev, Ukraine; Rabbi Sholom Yeshaya and Devorah Leah Deitsch in Blue Bell, PA; Rabbi Yossi and Mariashi Deren in Greenwich, CT; Rabbi Yaakov and Shterni Kagen in Walnut Creek, CA.

In addition, the following emissaries have gone out to enhance the outreach work in various cities: Rabbi Shneur Zalman and Toba Leah Grossbaum in Livingston, N.J.; Rabbi Shmuel and Tzippy Mann in Miami Beach; Rabbi Akiva and Rochel Wagner, Rabbi Dovid Leib and Devorah Chaikin, and Rabbi and Mrs. Boruch Shmuel Liberow in Toronto; Rabbi Mendel and Dina Blum in Ottawa, Canada; Rabbi Yehuda Leib and Devorah Leah Vorst in Bournemouth, England; Rabbi and Mrs. Moshe Leib Weber in Cherson, Ukraine.


A Word from the Director

This week begins Chanuka, when we celebrate the miracle of the small Jewish army's victory over the powerful Greek war machine. Just as importantly, it is the miracle of a small cruse of oil, enough to last for one day, remaining lit for eight days until new oil could be procured. Our Sages in the Talmud describe the miracle of the oil as follows:

"During the occupation of the Holy Land by the Greeks, the latter entered the Hechel [Inner Sanctum of the Holy Temple) and defiled all the oil in the Hechel. When the Hasmoneans defeated them, one cruse of oil was found, however, which had not been touched by the Greeks. It contained oil sufficient for one day only. The menora was rekindled and the oil miraculously lasted for eight days."

If the Greeks wished to prevent the Jews from lighting the menora, why did they merely defile the oil and not destroy it? The Greeks did not want to prevent the rekindling of the menora. Rather, they wanted the menora to be rekindled, but with defiled oil. They purposely left a supply of defiled oil in the Hechel -- rather than in its regular storage place -- to make it easily available for this purpose.

Moreover, they actually wanted to bring about the rekindling of the menora, in its holy place in the Hechel, whence it should spread its light everywhere as before, except that its light should come from oil that had the Greek "touch."

Thus, the battle of the Greeks was not merely a physical battle but a spiritual battle as well. The Greeks were willing to recognize the Torah, or even accept it, as a work of profound philosophy and wisdom, provided it was considered a human creation. It was not the suppression of the Torah that they desired, rather, they strove to deny its Divine origin.

The insistence of the Maccabees to use only pure, consecrated oil was the visible symbol of the holiness of the Jewish way of life.

May we rekindle the lights in the Holy Temple this very Chanuka and celebrate the holiday of light in a world illuminated with the light of Moshiach -- may it be now.


Thoughts that Count

Come let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let our hand not be upon him. (Gen. 37:27)

According to Jewish law, the sin of kidnapping is punishable by death only if the kidnapper makes his captive work for him and then sells him. Yosef's brothers captured him and wanted to sell him to the Ishmaelites. "Let our hand not be upon him" means "Do not make Yosef work for us." The brothers knew that if they made Yosef work for them, their punishment would be death.

(Yismach Moshe)

The butler was returned to his position...and the baker was hung in accordance with Yosef's interpretation. (Gen. 40:22-23)

There were specific clues in the butler's and baker's dreams that led Yosef to correctly interpret them. In the butler's dream, the butler actually saw himself squeezing grapes and serving wine to Pharoah; only a living person can act. In the baker's dream the baker was simply standing--not doing any type of action--while birds ate the bread. The fact that the birds were eating shows that the birds perceived the baker as dead, since a bird will not generally go near a living person, even for food.

(Iturei Torah)

Yehuda took a wife for his firstborn...her name was Tamar. (Gen. 38:6)

Yehudah knew that Moshiach would be descended from him. He was in Canaan when he chose Tamar for his son. Yet, the people of Canaan had been cursed to ultimately be slaves to the Jewish people. So how could Yehuda choose a Canaanite woman to be an ancestor of Moshiach? Tamar's family was not originally from Canaan. Therefore, it was acceptable for Moshiach to be descendant of Tamar.

(Ramban)

The butler did not remember Yosef, and he forgot him. (Gen. 40:23)

To say that the butler didn't remember Yosef and that he forgot him seems to be redundant. Yosef had asked the butler to mention him to Pharoah in return for interpreting his dream. When the butler failed to return the favor, Yosef realized that he couldn't rely on any human being to help him. He in turn forgot about the butler and put all of his faith in G-d.

(Yalkut Meam Loez)

Reprinted from Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

Life in the Siberian work camps was generally difficult for the Jewish prisoners, but during the holidays it was even more so, because it was nearly impossible to perform the mitzvot of each holiday under those terrible conditions.

Reb Asher Sosonkin was exiled to Siberia for the "crime" of spreading Torah throughout Russia. Even under the harsh conditions of the work camp, he did his best to continue to observe the Torah and mitzvot. In the camp with Reb Asher was a Jew by the name of Nachman Rosemann. He had been brought up in an observant home, but when he grew up he became an ardent communist, rising in the ranks of the Russian army. After serving in the army, he was arrested for illegal business dealings, and was sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor in Siberia.

It was there in the work camp that Nachman felt a renewed interest in Judaism, and this led him to befriend the devout Reb Asher. Nachman was determined to learn all he could from Reb Nachman, and to do the mitzvot as carefully possible.

Chanuka was approaching, and Reb Asher asked Nachman to get a tin can to use as a menora, in order to fulfill the mitzva of kindling the Chanuka lights. Reb Asher emphasized that it should be small, so that their activities wouldn't be noticed by any of the labor camp officials.

"On Chanuka we celebrate a tremendous miracle, the triumph of the small Jewish army over the enormous Greek army. It is the victory of the spiritual over the physical. To simply make a menora out of an old can wouldn't properly honor this holiday. I'm going to order a beautiful menora!" Nachman proclaimed.

Reb Asher was amazed at his determination. Nachman found a prisoner who happened to be a tinsmith and paid him several rubles to make a beautiful menora. He did this knowing that if the authorities found out, he would be punished severely. And on the day before Chanuka, Nachman approached Reb Asher with a big smile. In one hand he held a menora, and in the other hand he held a bottle filled with oil.

On the first night of Chanuka, Reb Asher and Nachman placed the menora by the doorpost of their barrack and prepared a cotton wick. The other prisoners watched curiously as the two men commenced this "dangerous" act. Reb Asher recited the three blessings over the lighting of the menora, and lit the wick with tears of joy and gratitude.

They continued to light the menora in this way until the fifth night of Chanuka. Just as Reb Asher and Nachman had lit the menora, an armed guard appeared at the entrance of the barracks, announcing roll call. The prisoners were stunned. Roll call had never been announced at that hour before! The other prisoners told Reb Asher and Nachman that someone must have reported them, which would explain the unusual roll call. They advised the two men to hide their menora in the snow, before the officer arrived. They refused to bury the menora.

When the officer entered the barrack, everyone stood still, anticipating the worst. After the officer finished counting the prisoners, he noticed the menora.

He stared at it for a moment, and then he asked Reb Asher, "Five?" "Five," replied Reb Asher, confused. The officer nodded his head, and without another word, turned and left the barracks. The prisoners were shocked. They were all wondering the same things: Who was the officer? Why did he come to them at such an unusual hour and ask about the candles?

Reb Asher was sure that the "officer" was none other than the Prophet Elijah.


Moshiach Matters

As is widely known, in future times, Jewish law will follow the view of the school of Shammai. The question thus arises: If Moshiach arrives on the eve of Chanuka, will this reversal in legal rulings take effect immediately, so that on the first evening of the festival we will kindle eight lights?

(The Rebbe, on the eve of Chanuka, 5750-1989)


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