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Devarim Deutronomy

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Devarim Deutronomy

December 11, 1998 - 22 Kislev, 5759

547: Vayeshev

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Published and copyright © by Lubavitch Youth Organization - Brooklyn, NY
The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  546: Vayishlach548: Miketz  

Just Scratch The Surface  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Rambam this week  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Just Scratch The Surface

Just scratch the surface of anything and you find out what it really is. Like furniture, for instance. Is it solid wood or veneer? Are those shoes vinyl or leather? Is the jewelry 14 karat gold or vermeil?

Just scratch the surface of Chanuka and you find out what it really is-Moshiach.

Because, in essence, everything is Moshiach. Let's take Chanuka as a prime example.

First of all, you're right that Moshiach is not explicitly mentioned in the story of Chanuka or any of the Chanuka customs, blessings or traditional prayers.

But, to prove a point, let's recount that story of Chanuka you know so well, in a nutshell.

It's the story of the Jewish people under the domination of the Greeks. The Greeks encouraged the Jews to assimilate, enacted decrees against the Torah, and desecrated the Holy Temple.

Many Jews were content to accept the Greek lifestyle.

But one proud Jew, Matti-thias, wise and learned, a leader of the people, called upon his brethren to fight G-d's battle, saying, "Whoever is for G-d, join me."

Together the small army fought under the holy banner that proclaimed "Who is like You among the mighty ones, O G-d?"-a phrase whose Hebrew initial letters form the word "Maccabee."

The Jewish army managed to miraculously conquer its bitter enemy, purified and rededicated the Temple, relit the menora and the Jewish people renewed its commitment to G-d and the Torah, etc., etc.

So again, you're wondering, what does Moshiach have to do with the story?

Maimonides tells us that Moshiach will fight "G-d's battles." Sounds pretty much like what Mattithias did.

He also explains that the only difference between exile and the times of Moshiach is that we won't be under the yoke of foreign governments: the Maccabees conquered the Greek army and threw off their rulership, at least temporarily.

When Moshiach comes, he will rebuild the Holy Temple; when the Jewish army purified and rededicated the Holy Temple it was as if they had rebuilt it, since it was not usable in its desecrated state.

Also, with the complete Re-demption, may it come speedily, we will once again fulfill all the various observances of the Holy Temple, like lighting the menora as our ancestors did on Chanuka.

Lastly, our Sages teach us that when Moshiach comes the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d and G-dliness and we will pursue this recognition. That is exactly what the Jews did when they renewed their commitment to G-d and the Torah.

Just scratch the surface of Chanuka, or anything for that matter, and you find out what it really is-Moshiach! Why? Because the ultimate reason for the creation of the entire world is the perfect state the world will realize only when Moshiach comes.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, we read about Joseph's famous dream, in which he and his 11 brothers were "binding sheaves in the field." This activity alludes to the Divinely-appointed mission of the Jew and the nature of his service: to reveal the sparks of holiness that are hidden within the physical world and elevate them to their Divine Source. Moreover, the Jew's service is not just a personal matter, as he is also obligated to go out into the "field" and spread holiness wherever he goes.

This idea is something to which we have been accustomed by the leaders of Chabad, who sent emissaries around the world for the purpose of spreading Chasidut and uncovering its wellsprings in a wide variety of diverse locations.

At the end of Joseph's dream his brothers' sheaves had placed themselves around his and were bowing down. The ultimate objective of the emissary is to bring all Jews to a state of "bowing down" to Joseph's "sheaf": recognition of the Nasi, the one true leader of the Jewish people that exists in every generation. When another Jew has become self-nullified before the Nasi, the emissary's mission in going out into the "field" to spread the light of Torah and mitzvot and draw his fellow Jews closer to Yiddishkeit has been perfected.

* * *

The Torah portion of Vayeishev is always read between Yud Tet Kislev (the 19th of Kislev - the anniversary of the Alter Rebbe's release from prison and the Rosh Hashana of Chasidut) and Chanukah, and is relevant to both of these events.

One of the Alter Rebbe's primary activities was encouraging Jews to greater religious observance, an end to which he endeavored with outstanding effort. The Alter Rebbe would travel from place to place, both openly and in a concealed manner, in order to arouse the hearts of his fellow Jews and bring them closer to Torah and mitzvot.

This was true even before the redemption of the 19th of Kislev. However, after the Alter Rebbe's liberation his efforts to go "outward" and further "afield" continued with even greater intensity.

Similarly, on Chanukah the menora is placed "at the entrance of the house," allowing its light to illuminate the darkness outside. The intention is to spread the menora's sanctity throughout the environment, as far afield as its light will shed.

Vayeishev is thus intimately connected to the time of year when it is read - the days between Yud Tet Kislev and the festival of Chanukah.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Volume 10

A Slice of Life

What better items for children (and parents) to spend their "Chanuka gelt" on than Jewish toys?

by Moshe Parelman

Around the world, regardless of differences in culture and language, one thing that most children share is that they like to play games, put together puzzles, make arts and crafts and hug cuddly stuffed animals. Across North America, in Europe, Australia, South Africa and South America, wherever Jewish children are found the toys they are playing with may actually have Jewish content, thanks to Jewish Educational Toys.

Twin brothers Yaakov and Avrohom Blumberger, owners of JET, have created a new category in the toy market that's helping educate Jewish kids on their own turf-in the playroom.

Wherever the Blumbergers and their toys go in the toy world, they make an impression just by being Jewish. At trade shows, for instance, buyers who stop by at their booth usually assume that Yaakov and Avrohom are rabbis (they both actually do have Rabbinic ordination). Yaakov says that upon seeing their beards and yarmulkes, buyers stop to chat and "share that they are Jewish."

When JET purchases a booth at these trade shows, they are charged for the entire weekend. So their competitors react like Barney finding out he's not a real dinosaur when the Blumbergers announce they are closing down for Saturday-the busiest trade show day-to observe the Sabbath.

JET sells 60 of its own products and distributes 75 other Jewish products manufactured by other Jewish companies to a broad Jewish audience. The toys, sold primarily in synagogue gift shops and Judaica stores, can be anything from a board game called "Magical Mitzva Park" to a cuddly stuffed (kosher) animal holding a Hebrew alef-bet block.

Yaakov explains that since many Jewish parents never venture into a synagogue gift shop or Judaica store, JET sells to buyers who place JET toys in larger chain stores. JET toys have even sold in the Kosher section of supermarkets during the "holiday" seasons of Passover and Chanuka.

In addition to a team of designers and educators who are involved in producing new toys, consumers also have a say in developing JET's fast-growing inventory. A suggestion from a parent concerning the company's alef-bet floor mat prompted the Blumbergers to create a brochure explaining the Hebrew letters which is now being shipped together with the mat.

JET's perennial big sellers are its two Jewish Bingo games, and arts and crafts are also hot. Sand art, a popular item in the toy market these past 10 years, is a popular JET product. Children pour colored sand onto an adhesive surface which is divided into numbered areas corresponding to the different colors. The artwork they create in Jewish Sand Art includes scenes from Chanuka, Rosh Hashana and Shabbat.

Yaakov points out that the Shabbat picture in the Jewish Sand Art has three candles. "In accordance with the Rebbe's directive that girls, starting at age three, should light candles with their mothers," he explains.

JET is best known for its board games "Torah Slides and Ladders" and "Magical Mitzva Park," which invites players to "hop aboard a dreidel and spin your way through the amusement park filled with magic!" "Jewish Old Maid," "Jewish Picture Bingo," and "Lotto Fun" have also helped put JET on the Jewish map.

Though puzzles are not among their strongest sellers, it was a puzzle that got Yaakov and Avrohom started in the toy business.

In 1982 Yaakov, then a student at Yeshiva Tiferet Bachurim in Morristown, N.J., was spending Shabbat in Crown Heights, when his host showed him a puzzle he had made. The puzzle was an inspiration to Yaakov, who had left the University of California in Los Angeles where he was an economics major to learn more about Judaism, but whose passion for business had not cooled. Yaakov immediately came up with the idea of making a puzzle of the Rebbe's shul, 770.

Yaakov enlisted the talents of his equally business-minded brother, also a former UCLA student, who was studying with Yaakov in Morristown and would later study for rabbinic ordination with him in the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in 770.

Yaakov and Avrohom were born and raised in San Diego. In 1976, while studying at UCLA, Yaakov met Rabbi Ben Zion Kravitz, an emissary of the Rebbe. Over the next few years, Yaakov studied Torah in his "spare time" and slowly began observing mitzvot. In 1979 he decided to study full-time in yeshiva and the following year Avrohom followed his brother to Morristown.

JET grew slowly in the early days. It started as more of a hobby than a business with Yaakov working full-time selling office supplies while Avrohom served as an emissary of the Rebbe in Michigan and then in Columbus, Ohio. Whenever they created a new toy, the first one always went to the Rebbe.

In 1990, Avrohom left outreach work and turned his full attention to the company. That's when JET really took off. Today Avrohom handles design and sales in JET's Chicago office, while Yaakov, who recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA, takes care of the shipping from their Pennsylvania warehouse.

One toy at a time, the Blumbergers are helping build Jewish awareness around the world in a fun and exciting way.

JET can be contacted via e-mail at

Adapted from an article in Beis Moshiach Magazine.

What's New


Be a part of the celebrations this Chanuka at 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. 13 through Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m. On Friday, Dec. 18 the lighting will be at 3:39 p.m. Saturday evening, the Menora will be lit at 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 20 the Menora will again be lit at 5:30 p.m. Free latkas on Sundays. For more info call Lubavitch Youth at (718) 778-6000.

The Rebbe Writes

20th of Kislev, 5732 [1971]

I am in receipt of your letter of the 22nd of Cheshvan, and may G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all the matters about which you write.

Now that we are in the days between the 19th of Kislev and Chanukah, the history and significance of which are surely known to you, may each and every one of us be inspired to intensify the efforts to spread the fountains, both the fountains of Torah in general and the fountains of Pnimius HaTorah [the inner dimension of Torah] in particular, in a growing measure.

Indeed, the Mitzvah of the Chanukah lights brings us vividly the three fundamental aspects of such activity:

  1. to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvos in a growing measure from day to day, as indicated by the addition of a candle each succeeding night of Chanukah;

  2. to do so not only within one's own home, but to spread it also "outside," as indicated by the fact that the original place of the Chanukah lights is "at the entrance of his home, outside;"

  3. when it is dark outside, one must not be discouraged, and that is precisely the time to start kindling the lights - as the Chanukah candles have to be kindled after sunset.

Wishing you and yours a bright and inspiring Chanukah.

Kislev, 5741 [1980]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good in all the matters about which you wrote. Especially as we have now entered the bright month of Kislev, highlighted by Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

As has been pointed out before, the kindling of the Chanukah Lights, which is the first of the special Mitzvos connected with Chanukah, is unique in the way it is performed, namely, in that a light is added each night of Chanukah. Although when one has kindled two Chanukah Lights on the second night, the Mitzvah was performed mehadrin-min-hamehadrin (par excellence), yet the following night, the number of Chanukah Lights is increased to three, and the next night - to four, and so on.

Thus, the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah is especially significant in its message in regard to all matters of "ner mitzvah v'Torah or [a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light]:

That even though a Jew has attained excellence in the performance of the daily Mitzvos, one must not stop at that; for as a Jew grows older and wiser each day, he (or she) is expected to do even better than the day before.

And, of course, there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvos, which are infinite in their scope and depth, being connected with the En Sof (The Infinite).

There is a further significance in that the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah requires that the lights should be displayed also for the "outside." The meaning of this, among other things, is to show that no matter how dark it is in the outside world-and never has it been darker than in our time - Jews are not disheartened.

On the contrary, by strengthening our adherence to the way of the Torah and Mitzvos, both at home and outside, and also spreading the eternal values of the Torah in terms of morality and justice which the Torah makes incumbent upon all humanity (the so-called Seven Mitzvos given to the children of Noah, i.e. all mankind), Jews can confidently look forward to the time when the darkness of our Golus [exile], and the darkness of all the world, will soon be totally dispelled, with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

Rambam this week

in memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman (yblc"t)

22 Kislev 5759

Negative mitzva 269: ignoring lost property

By this prohibition we are forbidden to shut our eyes to lost property; we must pick it up and return it to its owner. It is contained in the words (Deut. 22:3): "You may not hide yourself." (This commandment includes the prohibition against passing by a lost child or a person who has lost his way.)

A Word from the Director

As we light the first Chanuka candle this Sunday night, we will be commemorating the Jewish victory over the Greeks and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. The miracle of Chanuka occurred in the holiest place on earth: in the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, in the Holy Temple where G-d's Presence was revealed.

The miracle of the oil involved the menora, which in the times of the Temple was lit specifically by a kohen. Nowadays, however, the mitzva of lighting the menora is no longer expressly connected to the Temple, and everyone, even a small child, may do so. We light the menora in our homes, "at the entrance of the house facing outward," so that its light can illuminate our surroundings.

G-d has given us a truly an amazing capability. Just think about it: Everyone, not only a kohen, can transform his home into a Holy Temple by lighting a Chanuka menora! By kindling the menora's lamps, which remind us of the lights of the Temple that illuminated the entire world, we suffuse our surroundings even in exile with holiness and purity. Furthermore, the menora's light accompanies us throughout the year, until the following Chanuka, when we can observe the mitzva anew.

Every year before lighting the first candle we recite the "Shehecheyanu" blessing, "Blessed are You...Who has kept us alive and sustained us, and allowed us to reach this time," thanking G-d for enabling us to perform this mitzva and turn our own private homes in to Holy Temple. And when a Jew transforms his home into a Temple, G-d does everything - even performing miracles, if necessary - in order to enable him to continue bringing light into his personal life and the world at large.

Happy Chanuka!

Thoughts that Count

And he made him a coat of many colors (Gen. 37:3)

Chasidut explains that the coat was symbolic of a particular aspect of G-dliness (makif - which "envelops" creation like a garment) that is drawn into the physical world. Jacob bequeathed this ability only to Joseph, as he was the only one of the 12 brothers who was capable of accepting it. The brothers' jealousy of Joseph was, in actuality, envy of his superior spiritual abilities, which was later expressed on a more mundane level. (Torat Chaim, Bereishit)

And he was in the house of his master the Egyptian...and he was there in the prison (Gen. 39:2, 39:20)

The phrase "and he was" ("vayehi") is used to indicate something that is consistent and without change. Joseph was the same righteous person in Potiphar's home as he was in prison, for "the righteous person is the foundation of the world" regardless of circumstance. (Sefat Emet)

And the L-rd was with him, and the L-rd caused all that he did to prosper in his hand (Gen. 39:3)

In principle, the measure of blessing and success we receive from G-d is directly dependent on our Torah study and observance of mitzvot, as it states, "If you will go in My ways...and I will cause the rains to fall in the proper time." In other words, the spiritual light and abundance created by our service is transformed into material blessing in the physical world. At present, however, not all of this spiritual light becomes physically revealed. Only in the Messianic era will the light that is reflected below perfectly mirror its spiritual counterpart. (Hemshech Tav-Ayin-Reish-Beit, Vol. 3)

And on the vine were three branches (Gen. 40:10)

According to the Midrash, "the vine" is symbolic of the Jewish people, as it states in Psalms (80:9), "You have brought a vine from Egypt." For just as wine "brings joy to G-d and man," so too is there an aspect of love for G-d hidden within every Jew-an inheritance acquired from our forefathers. (Torah Ohr)

It Once Happened

The period which led up to the Maccabean revolt began with the conquests of Alexander the Great. The young Alexander had succeeded in conquering the Persian Empire and then all of the civilized world of his time. In the wake of his armies, the Greek culture was spread among the conquered peoples.

The situation in the Land of Israel was not at all secure even before the advent of Alexander. Many close to Alexander were attempting to persuade him to curtail the freedoms the Jews possessed, particularly in regard to the Temple service. Then a miracle occurred which prompted Alexander to grant even greater dispensations to his Jewish subjects.

The Talmud records the encounter of Shimon HaTzadik, the High Priest, with Alexander as the young Emperor entered Israel. The High Priest, leading a delegation of distinguished elders, went out to meet the Emperor. To the utter amazement of everyone present, upon seeing the High Priest, Alexander dismounted and bowed to the ground. He explained that the apparition of this holy man appeared to him before each battle and led his troops to victory. It is further recorded that Alexander asked Rabbi Shimon why he had brought such a large body of great men to greet him. Rabbi Shimon replied, "Can it be that idolaters will convince you to destroy the Holy Temple where we pray that you and your empire not be destroyed?"

Alexander was enraged and asked who would dare to conspire to destroy the Holy Temple. Shimon pointed to the Emperor's Cuthean advisors (the Cutheans being sworn enemies of the Jews). That remark ended the long harassment of the Jews by these enemies.

This happy state of affairs ended abruptly with Alexander's sudden death at the age of 33 in the year 313 b.c.e. His vast empire was divided amongst his generals, with Israel falling from one tyrant to another and the Jews living under repressive conditions, with few periods of respite. Attempts to spread the prevalent Greek culture continued, as it was advantageous to rule a homogeneous empire. Thus began the battle to eradicate the Jewish religion. Tragically, the most dangerous foes came from within. The powerful Hellenized Jews, who strove to be more Greek than the Greeks, brought disaster to their own brethren.

The Sages of the time instituted various laws designed to preserve the integrity of the Jewish people. But the problem was not to be solved easily. Treachery arose from the segment of the Jewish people who curried favor with the foreign conquerors, and they successfully purchased the rights to collect taxes and even purchased the High Priesthood itself.

In the year 3586 (175 b.c.e.) Antiochus IV became the ruler of a portion of Alexander's kingdom which included Israel. Although his coinage read "Antiochus Theos Epiphanes" [G-d Made Manifest], the people referred to him as "Epimanes," the Mad One, which more aptly described his erratic behavior.

In the name of unifying his realm, Antiochus issued an edict forbidding the practice of all national religions. To the Jews the edict was specific: the Temple sacrificial services must be halted and sacrifices to the pagan deities were to be initiated. Observance of the Sabbath, circumcision, mikva and even the use of G-d's name were all prohibited on pain of death. Anyone in possession of a Torah would be put to death. Any woman who circumcised her child was executed, together with her entire family and the mohel who performed the brit.

Antiochus became increasingly more determined to break the Jewish people. Elazar, an elderly, respected Sage was given a choice: bow down to an image of the king and to partake of a pig, or die. When he refused, he was given the option of pretending to eat pig, although he would be permitted to substitute kosher meat. Again, the sage refused, saying "Many of the young people would suppose that Elazar, at the age of 90, had gone over to the religion of the heathen... To the young people I will leave an example of strength to die willingly with courage for the perfect and holy Torah." Elazar was executed.

The persecutions continued taking a toll in martyrs. It was at this time that Mattithias, the son of the High Priest Yohanan, moved to the small village of Modi'in. Before long the king's enforcers entered the village and demanded that the people offer a sacrifice to the pagan deities. Mattithias was singled out and promised the special designation "friend of the king" if he would obey. He proudly refused. At that point, a Jew who was a well-known Hellenist came forward who desired to ingratiate himself with the authorities by sacrificing a pig. Mattithias grabbed a sword and killed the man and Antiochus' emissaries.

Uttering the words, "Whoever is for G-d, follow me!" Mattithias led his sons and other Jews to the Judean hills where they lived in caves and plotted the destruction of their enemies. Eventually, they massed a force of 6,000 who struck at the enemy in nocturnal raids, inflicting grievous losses and demolishing their pagan altars. The revolt had begun. Mattityahu did not live to see the successful completion of the struggle, but before he died his five sons gathered at his bedside and he entreated them to continue the fight against the Syrians.

There were years of struggle before the enemy was routed from the Holy Temple, and decades before Jewish sovereignty was established in the land.

Moshiach Matters

The holy Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz, a leading disicple of the Baal Shem Tov, said: "Every Chanuka as the Chanuka lights are kindled, the hidden light is revealed-the light of our righteous Moshiach."

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