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December 26, 1997 - 27 Kislev 5758

499: Mikeitz

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


  498: Vayeshev500: Vayigash  

When Oil is not Oil  |  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

When Oil is not Oil

Chanuka, a festival renown for its connection to oil, is the perfect time to ponder the essence of that greasy liquid which is the ruination of dieters and health conscious consumers alike.

When considering Chanuka's slippery quality, we are not merely referring to potato pancakes fried in oil nor jelly donuts similarly prepared. But in order to truly appreciate the slick nature of the festival of lights, we must contrast it with other Jewish holidays.

An important part of most Jewish holidays is the holiday meal, a time when it is truly a mitzva to eat and drink. Chanuka, however, is primarily celebrated by saying special prayers and lighting the Chanuka menora. These activities are how we commemorate the miraculous victory of the small Jewish army overpowering the mighty Greek war machine and the jar of pure oil miraculously keeping the Temple candleabra lit for eight days.

Our Chanuka observances are more "spiritual" because the victory of Chanuka was a victory of the spirit. The Greeks wanted to make the Jewish people forget the Torah and transgress the Divine commandments. Thus, it is fitting to celebrate the holiday with less emphasis on mundane food and more emphasis on spiritual activities.

The difference between other holidays and Chanuka can be better understood by comparing water, bread, and wine, foods served at holiday meals with oil, which is used for the Chanuka lights.

Water, bread, wine and oil are all metaphors for the Torah. There are, of course, differences between them.

Water and bread are the staples of our everyday existence. In contrast, wine is not a daily necessity, it is used to contribute an element of pleasure to our existence. Oil is not required for our day to day existence. It is never served as a food in its own right. Rather, it is used in minute quantities to add flavor to other foods. Thus, it too, is associated with the quality of pleasure.

Bread and water are metaphors for the revealed dimensions of the Torah, the concepts of Torah which are necessary in order to know how to observe the mitzvot properly. Like bread and water, this knowledge is necessary for our very existence.

In contrast, wine and oil are metaphors for the inner dimensions of Torah (such as Chasidism), for like these two substances, the study of the inner dimension of the Torah adds pleasure and vitality to our observance of the Torah and mitzvot.

Taking this a step further, there is a difference between oil and wine. Wine is drunk as a beverage in its own right, while oil it not. In regard to the symbolic meaning of the two, wine refers to those dimensions of the Torah's secrets which are close to revelation and can be perceived by a sensitive eye. In contrast, oil refers to the deepest secrets of the Torah, those that transcend revelation. And Chanuka is associated with these deepest levels of Torah.

Chanuka is the perfect time to slowly begin adding the "oil" of Torah study to our daily diets of Jewish living.


Living with the Rebbe

We read in this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, that when Joseph's brothers began to be plagued by troubles in Egypt, they realized that they were being punished for having sold him. The effect this had was that they started to regret what they had done. "And they said to one another, 'Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us and we would not hear.' Therefore is this distress come upon us."

As soon as Reuven saw that his brothers were repenting of their sin he told them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not sin against the lad,' and you would not listen?" Reuven reminded his brothers that he had tried to prevent them from selling Yosef. Unfortunately, they had not been deterred.

A question is asked: Why did Reuven add additional pain and suffering to their already troubled state of mind?

Indeed, the natural inclination when one sees a person regretting his transgressions is to console him and offer encouragement, not to add to his burden of guilt by recounting his misdeeds. Why then did Reuven dredge up the events of the past , rather than attempt to comfort his brothers? What kind of exemplary conduct is this for the "firstborn of Israel?"

To explain:

Reuven deliberately recounted his brothers' sin in order to bring them to genuine teshuva (repentance). Reuven saw that his brothers regretted having sold Yosef only because of their troubles; accordingly, their repentance was not altogether genuine, as it had only been prompted by punishment.

True teshuva is only attained when one recognizes the severity of one's sin and deeply regrets having transgressed, not because one wishes to escape the sin's consequences.

Teshuva that is done because of an external factor is not a true teshuva, for if not for the punishment, the sinner would never have repented in the first place.

Reuven wanted his brothers to regret having sold Yosef not because of their troubles, but because their sin was in fact reprehensible. He therefore recounted the chain of events leading up to their transgression, reminding them that he had counseled them against selling their brother.

Reuven added to his brothers' guilt and remorse for the purpose of bringing them to true repentance. By chastising them instead of offering comfort, he helped his brothers return to G-d with a whole heart.

Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot,Volume 30


A Slice of Life

Chanukah for Inmates
by Rabbi Michael Katz

In addition to being the Rabbi of Pretoria, South Africa, my father, Shabsi Katz, was the Jewish chaplain for S.A.'s department of prisons.

At his third private audience with the Rebbe, which took place a few days before Chanuka in 1978, the Rebbe asked Rabbi Katz what was being done for Jewish prisoners for Chanuka. One must appreciate, the Rebbe said, how important it is for a person sitting alone in a cell to light a Chanuka menora. One cannot fathom the warmth and hope it will bring him and how it will uplift his spirits when he is in such a dark environment.

Rabbi Katz promised the Rebbe that when he returned to South Africa he would begin working on it, so that the following year the inmates could light the Chanuka menora. The Rebbe, however, wanted something arranged for that year!

As it was only a few days to Chanuka and he was in New York, Rabbi Katz explained that he doubted whether it would be possible to do anything. The Rebbe was insistent. He offered Rabbi Katz his secretary's office to make calls. Rabbi Katz noted that in South Africa it was 4:00 a.m., far too late to call General Sephton, the Religious Director of the Prisons. On the contrary, the Rebbe countered, when the general would see that the matter was so important that he called from overseas in the middle of the night, he would be very impressed. He would understand how significant lighting candles was, and would appreciate the need for the prisoners to be able to light this year.

As soon as Rabbi Katz left the Rebbe's room, one of the secretaries led him to an office in 770. Rabbi Katz called his secretary. He asked her to call General Sephton and tell him he would soon be receiving a call from overseas. When Rabbi Katz called the general a few minutes later, the general inquired how he could help.

Rabbi Katz explained that he had just completed a private meeting with one of the foremost leaders of world Jewry, who had expressed concern regarding the Jewish inmates in South African prisons. He had explained how important it was for them to light Chanuka menoras, and how this would bring them warmth, light, and hope.

General Sephton was moved. He said that if Rabbi Katz had called him at that time of night from overseas, he understood how urgent the matter was. In spite of the fact that his office would be closed for their holiday, he would send a telex to all the prison facilities telling them to make it possible for all Jewish prisoners to light menoras.

The next morning, when the Rebbe came to 770, Rabbi Katz told him the news. The Rebbe smiled broadly at Rabbi Katz and asked to see him after the morning prayers.

When Rabbi Katz entered the Rebbe's room, the Rebbe told him that in the fifty United States all but one allow Jewish inmates to light Chanuka candles. "Would you believe it," said the Rebbe, "New York State is the only state that does not allow Chanuka menoras to be lit in the prisons."

The Rebbe asked Rabbi Katz to see to it that the inmates of prisons in New York State should light Chanuka candles that year. "Tell them what you did in South Africa," the Rebbe instructed him, "and that they should do the same here."

The Rebbe told Rabbi Katz that Rabbi J.J. Hecht had been working very hard on this project and would know to whom to turn.

Rabbi Katz contacted Rabbi Hecht who pointed out that it was December 24th, past noon, and nobody would be at their desks. But when Rabbi Katz told Rabbi Hecht that this was a directive from the Rebbe, Rabbi Hecht relaxed. Past experience told him, he said, that if the Rebbe asked one to do something right away, things worked out.

After a few calls, Rabbi Hecht was able to locate the director of the New York State Correctional System. Rabbi Katz told the director that Jewish prisoners in South Africa would be lighting Chanuka candles this year; if this could happen in South Africa, surely it could happen in New York. The director agreed. He promised to attend to the matter in time for Chanuka.

Rabbi Katz hurried back to 770. When the Rebbe came out for mincha (the afternoon prayer), Rabbi Katz indicated that he had done what the Rebbe had asked of him. "I want to see you after mincha," the Rebbe told Rabbi Katz.

The Rebbe said that as Rabbi Katz had done him a personal favor, he would like to do something for Rabbi Katz. "It has been a privilege and an honor to do this for the Rebbe," Rabbi Katz said. "And the Rebbe has already given me so many blessings and so much guidance over the years."

The Rebbe said that he had asked Rabbi Katz to do him a personal favor and wanted to repay him. Rabbi Katz thought quickly, and asked the Rebbe for a Tanya [the basic book of Chabad Chasidut] for his son, who would certainly appreciate it. The Rebbe told him that one would be in the outer office shortly. Rabbi Katz returned later and was given a Tanya for himself, a Tanya for his son, a book for General Sephton and a book for the general's wife.

When Rabbi Katz arrived back in South Africa he called General Sephton. The general reassured him that he had sent out the telex messages the day he received the call from America, and that the Jewish prisoners had indeed kindled Chanuka candles that year. When Rabbi Katz told the general that the Rebbe had sent gifts for him, the general said he would be over soon.

Within an hour the general was sitting in Rabbi Katz's living room. When asked why he had come so quickly, the general said that when a person sitting in New York thinks about somebody living on the other side of the globe -- and especially somebody imprisoned for wrongdoing -- and seeks someone to bring him light and warmth, he is a genuine leader. And the General went on to say, "And if such a leader sends something for me, I want it as soon as possible."

From a tribute journal by the student emissaries to the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in Johannesburg, S.A.

[Editors note: Since by Divine Providence this message is being conveyed today, it is possible for anyone of us to do the same, if we might know someone who is incarcerated physically or maybe spiritually, to get them to light the Chanukah Menorah THIS YEAR.]

A Call To Action

Continually Increase

Take the lessons of the Chanuka candles with you throughout the year, as the Rebbe explained, "A lesson can be taken from the Chanuka candles: that one should not remain content with one's present level of Torah study, prayer, and performance of good deeds, but rather, one must continually increase and grow in these services, as each night a new candle is kindled."

(26 Kislev, 5752)


The Rebbe Writes

10th of Kislev, 5736 [1975]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 26th of Cheshvan, and may G-d grant the fulfillment of your hearts' desires for good in the matters about which you write.

As we are now in the month of Kislev, which is highlighted by the festival of Chanuka, it is well to remember the statement by our Sages of blessed memory, "They (the women), too, were involved in that miracle (of Chanuka)." Moreover, according to Rashi's commentary -- "A woman was instrumental in bringing about the miracle" -- Jewish women had a leading part in the events of those days at this time.

It has often been emphasized that events of the past are remembered and observed in Jewish life not just for the sake of remembering, but in order to apply the lessons which they convey in the pre-sent day, and in the daily life and conduct.

One of the things that Chanuka teaches us, as underscored in the prayer of V'al Hanisim ["And for the miracles..."], is that a Jew is never discouraged by the fact that the Jewish people are a small minority -- a few facing many, and weak (physically) facing mighty. But inasmuch as Jews adhere to the Torah and mitzvot, and are therefore "pure" and "Tzadikim [righteous]," they overcome the mighty forces of darkness, which attempt to make them forget G-d's Torah and mitzvot, until they attain a complete victory, which is celebrated with gratitude to G-d and the lighting of candles, etc.

And one of the teachings of the Chanuka lights is that they are kindled precisely when the sun has set, and when it is dark outside; and they are not satisfied with lighting one candle, although that is all that is required the first night of Chanuka, but when a day has passed they light one more candle the following night, and still one more on the third night, and so on, steadily increasing the candles and the light for a whole week, taking in every day of the week.

The message of the Chanuka lights is clear, for they symbolize the light of Torah and mitzvot. The Chanuka lights tell us that when it is dark outside, that is the time when Jews should brighten things up by spreading the light of Torah and mitzvot in an ever growing measure, to illuminate themselves, their home, the outside and the whole world.

May G-d grant that this should be so with you and yours both spiritually and materially.

Wishing you and all your family a bright and inspiring Chanuka.


In the Days of Chanuka, 5721 [1960]

Participants of the Annual Celebration of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva "Achei Tmimim" Roxbury, MA.

...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 the Torah and mitzvot. 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 particularly 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 a nd 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 ever y effort to maintain and enlarge the capacity of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva "Achei Tmimim" in your community. I trust, more-over, 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 a growing measure of light and happiness into your personal lives and into your homes and families materially and spiritually.


What's New

1000s OF CELEBRATIONS

The 3,000 Chabad-Lubavitch Centers world-wide are all sponsoring Chanuka celebrations this year. Massive public menoras, Chanuka parties in nursing homes and hospitals, Dreidle Houses, Chanuka fairs and Chanuka parades are just a few of the programs which help foster Jewish pride. Call your local Center to find out what's happening near you!


VIRTUAL CHANUKAH ON LINE

Check out the VIRTUAL CHANUKAH SITE - chanukah.chabad.org and enjoy: The Chanukah Story; The Chanukah Guide; The Torah Lights; World Lights - videos; Olive Drops; Mitzvah Lights; Tales of Light; The Chanukah Games.


A Word from the Director

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, taught, "We must listen carefully to what the Chanuka candles are saying."

Throughout the ages, the lights of the Chanuka menora have carried a message of hope, strength, and the eternity of our sacred heritage. The candles carry an additional message, the reminder that we must publicize this message and the miracle.

There is a mitzva on Chanuka of "pirsumei nisa," publicizing the miracle. We fulfill this special mitzva by lighting the Chanuka menora. In fact, many of the laws and customs involved with lighting the menora emphasize this concept of publicizing the miracle. We are told that the menora should be lit "at the outside of the entrance of one's home," and that the candles should burn into the night. Thus, the Chanuka candles illuminate the public domain, especially when it is covered in dark ness

Lighting the candles at night is symbolic of the mission of every single Jew. We live at a time when G-dliness is concealed by the night of exile. By learning the Torah and fulfilling its mitzvot, we illuminate the world and elevate it so that G-dliness may be revealed.

The darkness also recalls the dark situation of the Jewish people in the time of the story of Chanuka. The Greeks physically conquered and controlled the Land of Israel, and they sought to impose their culture upon its inhabitants. The Jews suffered in physical and spiritual darkness under the influence of the Greeks. It was the Maccabees who illuminated their situation, who instilled the Jewish people with both physical strength to fight off their oppressors and spiritual fortitude to withstand their influence.

When Moshiach is revealed, it will be the ultimate "publicizing of the miracle." The entire world will be cognizant of G-d's greatness and dominion over the world. May this happen immediately.


Thoughts that Count

Now Pharoah must seek out a man with wisdom and insight, and place him in charge over Egypt. (Gen. 41:33)

Not only did Joseph interpret Pharoah's dream, but he told him what to do as well. Joseph's advice was connected to the interpretation of the dream. He was telling Pharoah that because of this dream a person will be elevated to a high position in Egypt.

(Yeshuot Yakov)

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

According to Rashi, the foremost commentator on the Torah, Joseph looked exactly like his father, Jacob. Thus, it seems surprising that none of the brothers recognized a man who looked exactly like their father. However, the brothers had never seen their father as a young man as Jacob did not marry until he was 84. Consequently, they did not see the resemblance between Joseph, who was 39 year old at the time, and their father.

(Siftei Tzadik)

Benjamin's portion was greater than the portions of all of them, five times as much. And they drank and were merry with him. (Gen. 43:34)

Joseph had reason to drink and be merry, for he was reunited with his brothers. However, it would seem that the brothers, who did not know Joseph's true identity, had no reason to indulge in drinking and merriment. This can be explained as follows: The major cause of all the trouble between Joseph and his brothers was jealousy. Joseph wanted to see if they had overcome this negative trait, so he tested them by giving Benjamin more gifts than the rest of the brothers. The brothers had learned their lesson and were not jealous. Therefore, they had every right to be merry, as overcoming a negative trait is always cause for celebration.

(Yismach Yisrael)

They had left the city, had not gone far out of the city, and Joseph said to his house steward, "Get up, chase after the men." (Gen. 44:4)

The Torah emphasizes the fact that they had not gone far. When a person travels to another city, he is supposed to recite tefilat haderech, the traveler's prayer, in order to protect himself from unpleasant occurrences. It is to be recited when one is already outside of the city. Joseph sent his servant out after them before they had a chance to recite the prayer and gain protection from it.

(Reb Avraham Mordechai M'Gur)

From Vedibarta Bam compiled by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky


It Once Happened

It was the custom of Rabbi Yitzchak Meir (the Gerer Rebbe, known as the Chidushei HaRim for his famous work by that name) to distribute Chanuka gelt to all of his grandchildren every year. This year was no exception and he summoned his grandchildren to his study where he gave each a sum of money. When they had all received their gifts, the Chidushei HaRim told his grandson Shimon Chaim to call his older brother who had not yet come in to receive his Chanuka gelt. His brother, Yehuda Arye Leib (who later became Rebbe), came at once and stood before his grandfather.

"What would you like me to give you for Chanuka gelt?" the Chidushei HaRim asked the young man.

"What need do I have for money?" he replied.

"Ah, but what you and your wife do need is a child! Your 'Chanuka gelt' shall be that you and your wife will be the parents of a healthy son this year."

Yehuda Leib and his wife had been married for several years and as yet had no children. The Chidushei HaRim perceived the cause of their childlessness in the spiritual realms and he set about making the spiritual corrections which only a tzadik can make. The Chidushei HaRim's blessing soon materialized and Yehuda Leib's wife became pregnant. Her pregnancy, however, progressed with great difficulty. In fact, she became so week that the doctors who were consulted urged that surgery be performed to abort the fetus.

When word of the doctors' prognosis reached the Chidushei HaRim, he was very upset. Why had they consulted doctors, he asked, when he had assured them that they would be the parents of a healthy child. "I have promised them a son, and G-d willing, they will have a son. Has all my work been in vain!?" And he left orders that they go to no more doctors for the doctors could not help them.

Finally the time came and the young woman went into labor. But the hours of labor stretched into days. The midwife insisted that a doctor be called so that both the mother and child not be lost, G-d forbid. The Chidushei HaRim continued to insist that the young woman would be fine and give birth to a healthy son.

By the third day, the midwife had given up hope and was begging that doctors be brought in. The Chidushei HaRim's wife and the mother of the girl ran to the Chidushei HaRim's study weeping and wringing their hands. But the Chidushei HaRim only nodded and replied that he would refuse to begin his morning prayers until the seeming danger had passed and a healthy child was born. A short time later one of his granddaughters ran to him with the good news, "Mazal Tov, Grandfather! She had given birth to a healthy girl!"

He replied, "No, that is not true!"

And it was not true. Soon, someone else entered the room with the information that a mistake had been made and it was a healthy boy. With this news, the Rebbe pronounced a hearty, "Mazal Tov!" and began his morning prayers.

As soon as he finished praying, Reb Yitzchak Meir penned a letter to Reb Yudel, the father of the new mother. "With the help of G-d, your daughter just now gave birth to a boy -- Mazal Tov! -- after several great miracles and acts great kindness by the Almighty, Blessed be He, Who is good, and Who does good."

The circumcision was celebrated in a grand manner and was graced with many guests who delivered stirring and insightful words of Torah. The child was named Avraham Mordechai Alter. He grew up to be a foremost Talmudic scholar whose diligence, alacrity, and purity of speech were legendary. Upon the passing of his father, he became the Gerer Rebbe. He was a gifted organizer who left his stamp on the influential community of Gerer Chasidim, first in Poland, where his followers were numbered in the hundreds of thousands, then in the Holy Land, where he settled in 1940. He was active in establishing schools and youth organizations, as well as in rescue and rehabilition work during and after the Holocaust. He passed away in 1948 and was buried in Jerusalem.


Moshiach Matters

Our Sages associate the number eight -- the number of candles lit for Chanuka -- with the Messianic age. In that era, we will kindle the Menora in the Holy Temple in a manner which will never be nullified. Thus, the miracle of Chanuka -- a miracle of eight days -- contains the potential of the era when the world will be elevated to its ultimate level of perfection in the Messianic age.

(The Rebbe, 2 Tevet, 5750)


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