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Devarim Deutronomy

Breishis Genesis

   588: Bereshit

589: Noach

590: Lech-Lecha

591: Vayera

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597: Miketz

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Shemos Exodus

Vayikra Leviticus

Bamidbar Numbers

Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
December 3, 1999 - 24 Kislev, 5760

596: Vayeshev

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


  595: Vayishlach597: Miketz  

Chanuka Report Buying Guide  |  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

Chanuka Report Buying Guide

by Rabbi Yisroel Rubin

A seasonal item that goes on sale a week or two before Chanuka, the assortment of dreidels on the market can make your head spin. First used by Jewish children to divert the Greek-Syrian soldiers from catching them studying Torah, the dreidel is the oldest toy still in use today.

Basically, all dreidels operate on the same principle. But as it turns out, newfangled ingenious dreidel contraptions keep appearing every year.

Dreidels range in size and cost. The smallest dreidel is only about two inches tall, which is dwarfed by "The Dreidel House" found at certain shopping malls and sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch Centers. This is a dreidel you can really get into.

A small dreidel can cost as little as a nickel, while some of the bigger sizes will cost several dollars. Most dreidels are manufactured in Taiwan; the Israeli production can be identified by the different "Pay" serial letter.

To help consumers choose the dreidel that suits them best, this report records the results of Dreidel strengths/weaknesses, tested in actual conditions.

We have rated the dreidels by the letters: N,G,H,S.

Caution: A Dreidel bearing less than all four serial letters is defective.

Unlike other merchandise that cannot be used before sale, the basic rule of thumb is that the consumer can give the dreidel a whirl, to try it out before buying. Take it for a test spin before making the final decision.

Metal: Some very expensive models are made of silver, but metal dreidels are usually made of lead. An old fashioned type, it is considered a heavy-weight among dreidels. Popular in the 40's and 50s, it has since been replaced by plastic.

Wood: Natural material of original dreidel first used by the Maccabees. Olivewood available.

Transparent Plastic: 4" hollow cube. Refillable with candy. Sweet, but wobbly. Also available in collapsable/refillable.

Solid Plastic: Most popular brand. Available in 2 sizes.

Chocolate: Melts in mouth. Edible and delicious, but high in calories.

Cookie Cutters: Will not spin, but in very good taste.

Paper Mache: Large. Decorative. Filled with sweets and used as pinate.

Space age: Top Resembles UFO or streamlined space station.

Mechanical: Walking Dreidel works as wind-up toy. Walks slowly in straight line rather than spinning in circles. Some models also sing and talk.

Clay: Popularized in song. Home or school made, not available commercially.

Ceramic or Crystal. Expensive, Dreidel available as artistic rendition.


Living with the Rebbe

Last week's portion, Vayishlach, ends by enumerating all of Esau's generations until the times of King Saul. However, we are only given their names. By contrast, this week's portion, Vayeishev, begins with a detailed account of Jacob and his sons.

Our Sages explained this difference with a parable: A king drops a pearl into a pile of dust and pebbles, and must search through the pile to retrieve it. Once he finds the pearl, he sets the dust and pebbles aside, giving the pearl his full attention.

Metaphorically, the "princes of Esau" are dust and stones; we do not need to know much about them, as the information is irrelevant. But Jacob and his sons are "pearls," so the Torah goes into great detail.

The same principle holds true in the Torah's account of the ten generations between Adam and Noah. The narrative is extremely concise until the story of Noah. Similarly, we are told virtually nothing about the next ten generations. But after Abraham is born, the Torah is rich in detail.

A question is asked: An overview of the generations that lived before the Patriarchs adds context to our understanding of their lives. But why do we need to know the names of the "princes of Esau"? Furthermore, why do our Sages liken them to "dust and pebbles"?

The answer lies in the nature and ultimate purpose of the Divine service of Jacob and his sons. Not only were they required to perfect themselves, but their mission in life was to purify the world at large and reveal its hidden good. This process of correcting the "princes of Esau" will reach its culmination in the Messianic era, when "The saviors will ascend the Mount of Zion, to judge the Mount of Esau."

Accordingly, the Torah enumerates the leaders of Esau up until the times of King Saul, as Saul was the "anointed (Moshiach) of G-d." Had the Jewish people been worthy, King Saul would have ushered in the Messianic era, and Esau's purification would have been complete.

This is alluded to in the metaphor of "dust and pebbles." When a pearl is covered with dust its beauty is concealed. Yet it is also protected, in the same way an outer peel protects a fruit. Pebbles, however, have no such positive connotation, and cause only damage.

"Dust and pebbles" thus refers to the dual nature of Esau, who contains both good and evil. The good aspect of Esau will be ultimately refined in the Messianic era. But there is also an evil aspect to Esau, which is impossible to elevate and must be consumed, as the Torah states, "The House of Jacob will be fire...the House of Esau will be straw...and they will burn them and consume them, and none will remain." This too will be accomplished in the Messianic era, when G-d will remove "the spirit of impurity" from the earth, may it commence at once.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, Vol. 15


A Slice of Life

THE YOM KIPPUR WAR MENORA

Sa'id and Yihya the sons of Yosef the silversmith, lived in the city of Sanaa, Yemen. They were beautiful children, with brilliant dark eyes and long curly peyot in the style of the Yemenite Jews.

Every morning Sa'id, who was older than Yihya by a year, would take his younger brother to their teacher's house, where they would learn Torah for hours on end. The children sat on mats arranged in a circle, their legs folded under them. Everyone would read from the one book that was placed on a small stool in the center.

In the evening, Sa'id and Yihya arrived home at the same time their father was returning from his workshop in the marketplace. Together they would go to pray the evening service at the Sallah synagogue, not far from their home. Afterwards, they would all sit down to enjoy the delicious evening meal their mother Saada had prepared.

Life continued as usual, until rumors began to circulate that giant "metal birds" were taking Jews from Yemen to the Holy Land. Yosef wanted very much to emigrate, but was reluctant to give up his steady source of income for the great unknown. He continued to weigh the pros and cons but could not come to a decision.

In the meantime, Yemen was plunged into a state of political turmoil. The king was overthrown in a bloody coup by his second-in-command, who was then promptly overthrown by the murdered king's son, Prince Ahmad. In a beneficent gesture, the new ruler announced that Yemen's Jews were free to leave the country.

The situation in Yemen was very unstable. No one could predict how long the latest regime would last, or if the newly-opened gates to freedom might suddenly come crashing down. It was a very frightening time for Yemen's Jews.

In the end, Saada and Yosef decided that they couldn't leave just yet. But they would send their two children, Sa'id and Yihya, on to Israel ahead of them. It was a daring and brave move, but the anguished parents felt that it was the best alternative. G-d willing, they would join the children in a short while.

But life in the Holy Land wasn't exactly what the two brothers had anticipated. For a few months the boys were in a temporary transit camp. Then, tragically, the brothers were separated and sent to different kibbutzim. Sa'id, who had meanwhile changed his name to Chaim, was taken to Kibbutz Ein Shemer. From that day on he lost contact with his younger brother.

The only memento Chaim had of his former life was a small silver Chanuka menora his father had fashioned especially for him. Right before leaving, Yosef had hastily thrust it into the boy's knapsack. Chaim remembered that his father had also made one for his younger brother. Every year on Chanuka, when Chaim took it out and kindled its lights, he would be filled with sad and distant memories.

Years passed. Chaim grew up and served in the Israeli Defense Force. Soon afterward he married and became a father. Then the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Chaim was again called upon to defend his country. At first his regiment was stationed in the north, but a few days later it was sent to the Egyptian front. With G-d's help, the Jewish soldiers were able to fight off the enemy.

When Chanuka arrived, Chaim was still stationed in the Sinai Desert. Luckily, he had remembered to pack in his small silver menora. That night, as he lit the first candle, his thoughts as always returned to the past. He missed his wife and children, but at that moment he longed for his childhood home more than anything. Oh, how he missed his mother and father, his younger brother Yihya, his beloved teacher, his native Sanaa...

For a long time Chaim sat in front of his tent, staring into the candles. Then, when they had almost burnt down, he decided to stretch his legs and go for a walk. Wandering about the campsite, Chaim didn't realize that he had covered quite a distance. Suddenly, he noticed a tiny light flickering in a tent doorway. He ran over and saw that it was a Chanuka menora.

He was about to turn away and return to his tent when he noticed something that stopped him in his tracks. Why, that menora looked very familiar... He bent down to take a closer look and his heart began to pound. The menora before him was the exact duplicate of his own.

"Whose menora is this?" he called out in a trembling voice.

"Yaron's," a soldier answered from within the tent.

"Yaron?" Chaim repeated the name. A moment later a soldier appeared at the entrance and stuck his head outside. "Did someone call me?" he asked.

It was the sound of his voice that confirmed it, the familiar inflection that brought back a flood of memories. A second later the two men were staring at each other, their eyes locked. "Yihya?" Chaim whispered. For a split second there was no reaction, then a shiver went through Yaron's body. "Sa'id, my big brother..." he said in a voice choked with emotion. The two brothers fell on each other, crying and embracing.

Tears flowed freely throughout the entire camp when word spread of the brothers' reunion.

Translated from L'Chaim's sister publication in Israel, Sichat HaShavua.


What's New

WORLD'S LARGEST MENORA

Be a part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. The menora will be lit on Friday, Dec. 3 and 10 at 3:38 p.m.; Sat. night, Dec. 4 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday - Thursday, Dec. 5 - 9 at 5:30 p.m. On Sunday there will be live music, free latkes and Chanuka gelt for the children. For more info call Lubavitch Youth Organization at (212)736-8400. For locations of public menora lightings in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


The Rebbe Writes

In the Month of Kislev,

In the Days before Chanukah, 5739 [1978]

To the Sons and Daughters of our people Israel who are, at present, in Correctional Institutions,

Greeting and Blessing:

With the approach of Chanukah, bringing blessing to all our Jewish people, I extend to each and all of you prayerful wishes for a bright and happy Chanukah. This is also to acknowledge receipt of your letters, and to respond to the request of many of you for a word of encouragement and hope. For various reasons it is impossible to reply to each one individually, which you will surely excuse.

The Mitzvah of kindling the Chanukah Lights is unique in that it becomes due immediately "after sunset," prior to the other observances connected with Chanukah (special prayers, etc.). This pointedly emphasizes the concept of "light" in human life in general, and in a time of crisis - "after sunset" - in particular.

Although man was, of course, created to be free in all his affairs, with freedom of will and freedom of action, including personal freedom in the ordinary sense, without being subjected to external constraints even for a short period of time - the real bright light in human life is the ability to see the right path in life, and follow it faithfully in terms of daily conduct, filling it with all that is bright and good, in a state of consistent inner peace and tranquillity.

This has to do, and is dependent upon, a person's world outlook, including a full measure of Bitachon (trust) in G-d, the Creator and Master of the world, which has to be expressed in appropriate conduct, in actual practice, for the essential thing is the deed.

And this is largely up to the person himself, regardless of circumstances. For it is a matter of common knowledge that there are people who, considering their external circumstances, should be content and happy, yet they are not; while there are those whose external circumstances are just the opposite, yet they are at peace with themselves, are cheerful, and are strong in their confidence that the external circumstances will also change for the good very soon, the kind of good that is manifest and obvious.

Moreover, and this, too, is an essential point, this very confidence and feeling hastens and brings closer the day when the undesirable circumstances will be over and done with, if not all at once, at least gradually, and in a satisfactory manner in all respects.

I am strongly confident that the Almighty will bless each and every one of you in your needs and will fulfill your hearts' desires for good, particularly - to regain your freedom, in the good and proper way; freedom from all constraints and distractions, including full personal liberty in the ordinary sense.

And, at the same time, true inner freedom in the spirit of the Festival of Chanukah and the Chanukah Lights, which are kindled in increasing numbers and getting ever brighter from day to day.

May G-d grant that the message of Chanukah and of the Chanukah Lights should serve as a guiding light for all our Jewish people, and for you in particular even in your present situation.

To increase and spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvos ("for a Mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah is light") in all aspects of Yiddishkeit, and G-d, on His part, will increase His blessings to each and every one of you, and all yours, both materially and spiritually.

With blessing for a bright Chanukah, illuminating all the coming days throughout the year,


Rambam this week

In memory of Yosef Yitzchak ben Shlomo Shneur Zalman yblc't

28 Kislev, 5760

Positive mitzva 236: the penalty for inflicting injury

By this injunction we are commanded concerning the law of a person who wounds his fellow man. It is contained in the words (Ex. 21:18): "If men contend, and one smites the other, etc." The scriptural basis for all "penalty" laws is (Lev. 24:19) "As he has done, so shall it be done to him," which refers to monetary compensation.


A Word from the Director

According to the Talmud, the proper time to light the Chanuka menora is "when the marketplace is cleared of merchants from the city of Tarmud."

But a closer look at this peculiar definition reveals a deeper meaning, one that goes beyond merely indicating the proper hour one should kindle the Chanuka lights. In fact, the Talmud's statement alludes to the very message and purpose of the Chanuka candles themselves.

The task of every Jew is to bring the light of holiness that illuminates the Jewish home to the "doorway" - the place where the Chanuka menora is kindled - in order to allow it to light up the outside world. Despite the fact that outside the home there are "mordim" (those who rebel against G-d, from the same Hebrew root as the name "Tarmud"), the Jew must endeavor to shine this light upon them as well, until "the marketplace is cleared of merchants from the city of Tarmud" - until all rebellion against G-d has disappeared.

Furthermore, the Talmud's use of the Aramaic term "kalya" ("has ended"), alludes to a state of "kelot hanefesh," longing and yearning for G-d, that this will bring - the exact opposite of rebellion!

Thus we see that the Chasidic interpretation of the Talmud's words sheds light on the hidden, inner meaning of the mitzva of Chanuka, and by extension, the aim of all the Torah's mitzvot: the illumination of an entire world that has been darkened by exile, and its preparation for the coming of Moshiach.

Happy Chanuka!


Thoughts that Count

And he said, I seek my brothers (Gen. 37:16)

When a Jew prays, he should try to connect his personal requests to the needs of the Jewish people. For example, when praying for the recovery of an ill person, we say, "May G-d show you mercy, along with the rest of the ill of Israel." Joseph prayed to be saved together with his brethren. (Ohr HaTefila)

And we will say, An evil beast devoured him (Gen. 37:20)

If the brothers' intent was to ease their father's pain over Joseph's disappearance, what possible benefit could there be in telling him that he had been eaten by an animal? Rather, the brothers realized that Jacob would suspect them in Joseph's death, the thought of which would be even more painful than the loss. Telling him an animal was responsible would remove any trace of suspicion. (Ma'ayanot HaNetzach)

And Reuben said...Throw him into this pit...that he might deliver him out of their hand to return him to his father (Gen. 37:22)

According to the Talmud (Shabbat 21), the pit was full of snakes and scorpions. Nonetheless, Reuben felt it would be the safer alternative for Joseph, as animals have no free will, and G-d would surely protect him. The brothers, by contrast, might very well decide to kill him. Reuben sought to remove Joseph from the control of entities with free will, and "return him to his Father"-place him under the direct mercy of his Heavenly Father. (Otzar Chaim)

When the brothers threw Joseph into the pit full of snakes, they were alluding to his having committed the sin of lashon hara (slander), the punishment for which is being bitten by a snake. "If the serpent bites because no one has uttered [a charm], there is no advantage in the man who can use his tongue" (Ecclesiastes 10:11). (Siftei Kohen)


It Once Happened

Reb Moshe Leib Sassover was a student of the great tzadik, Reb Shmelke of Nickolsburg, who was a student of the great Maggid of Mezritch.

Once, Reb Moshe Leib was traveling with some of his students and passed through the town of Brod. When the people heard that Reb Moshe Leib was in town, they all wanted to go and ask his advice and blessing.

A woman came to ask for a blessing for her sick daughter. Weeping, she placed a small bag of coins for charity on the table, and told Reb Moshe Leib that the doctors had given up all hope of her daughter's recovery.

Reb Moshe Leib looked at the poor woman and said, "I don't want this money you have given me, but there is something else I would like. I believe you have a silver menora in your house."

The woman was surprised. How did Reb Moshe Leib know that she had a silver menora? It had been passed down in her family from her grandfather! Why would Reb Moshe Leib Sassover want her grandfather's silver menora? And how could she give it away?

Despite these thoughts, she decided to do exactly as Reb Moshe Leib asked, and give him the menora. In her heart, she prayed that everything would turn out for the best! "I will go and get the menora for you at once," she said.

"Wait a minute," said Reb Moshe Leib. "I don't want you to just give me the menora. I want you to give it to me happily."

The woman answered, "All right. I will get it right away. Please pray for my daughter."

Quickly, the woman went and brought back the menora for Reb Moshe Leib. "Thank you," said the tzadik. "May your daughter have a speedy recovery."

By the time the woman arrived home, her daughter was already beginning to feel better. It was a miracle! In Brod, everyone began speaking about the great miracle that had happened.

Everyone wondered, "Why did Reb Moshe Leib want this woman's menora? Didn't he already have his own menora, which had been given to him by Reb Shmelke of Nickolsburg?"

Chanuka came. Everyone was curious to see which menora Reb Moshe Leib would use. Lo and behold, Reb Moshe Leib's secretary set up the same menora he always used, the one that had been given to him by Reb Shmelke of Nickolsburg.

Just before he lit the menora, Reb Moshe Leib turned to the Chasidim who were present, and said, "Is Reb Yechiel Tzoreif here? Reb Yechiel, come and stand next to me."

Reb Yechiel was very surprised at such an honor. After Reb Moshe Leib lit the menora, he said, "Now I am going to tell you a story about your grandfather, whose name was also Reb Yechiel Tzoreif.

"Your grandfather was a very poor man. When it came time for him to marry off his daughter, he could not pay for all the expenses. He had no choice except to try to borrow money for the wedding.

"But everyone knew that Reb Yechiel was very poor, and no one wanted to lend him money. They thought he might never pay it back. So he started traveling from city to city, trying in vain to collect a few coins here and few coins there. The little he made was far from what he needed.

"One day Reb Yechiel heard about a very rich man who gave a great deal of charity specifically for poor people to marry off their children. He made his way to the man's house, and asked him for help with his daughter's wedding.

"The rich man wanted to know who he was. When he heard that he was Reb Yechiel Tzoreif, the silver smith, he said, 'Oh! I've heard of you! Don't you own a silver menora which you made from coins that you had from the great tzadik Reb Zusia of Annipoli?'

"Your grandfather answered that he did. 'If you will give me that menora, I will pay for your daughter's wedding,' the rich man said.

"Reb Yechiel did not want to give away the menora, since the coins had been given to him by his Rebbe, the holy Reb Zusia. But the rich man insisted. And so, with a broken heart, Reb Yechiel gave away the menora, in order to pay for his daughter's wedding.

"Some years later, the rich man passed away. When his soul went before the Heavenly Court, many angels that had been created by his charitable acts came to testify on his behalf.

"There was only one problem. He had done a very selfish thing. He had taken the menora away from Reb Yechiel. He had acted callously and thoughtlessly, and he had broken the heart of Reb Yechiel. Despite all his mitzvot, he could not go into the Garden of Eden.

"Do you see this menora?" Reb Moshe Leib asked Reb Yechiel Tzoreif.

"Yes," he answered.

"Take it. It belongs to your family. It was made by your grandfather. Recently the granddaughter of the rich man gave it to me. He deserves his reward in Heaven. This way the menora returns to you, and the rich man will have his reward, as it should be."

Reprinted from the Tzivos Hashem Newsletter www.tzivos-hashem.org/


Moshiach Matters

Everything is connected to Moshiach, even playing dreidel! The B'nei Yissachar explains: There are four Hebrew letters written on the dreidel - Nun Gimmel Heh Shin. This is an abbreviation for the words "nes gadol haya sham-a great miracle happened there." When adding up the numerical value of the four letters on the dreidel one comes up with the total of 358. This is also the numerical value of the word "Moshiach"!


  595: Vayishlach597: Miketz  
   
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