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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 697
                           Copyright (c) 2001
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        December 7, 2001        Vayeshev         22 Kislev, 5762


                         by Rabbi Mendy Herson

Challenges vary from one place and time to another. Problems come in
different shapes and sizes. When we celebrate the Chanuka victory, we
are rejoicing at the triumph over an unusual enemy, an adversary that is
at once historically atypical yet disturbingly familiar.

Jewish sources describing the Chanuka story indicate that the
Syrian-Greek oppressors weren't completely anti-Semitic. When the
ancient Greeks conquered geographical areas, they were generally careful
not to destroy the indigenous cultures. They just wanted the vanquished
ethnic groups to meld into the larger mosaic of the Greek Empire. Their
handling of the Jews was really not an exception.

The Greeks had no intrinsic problem with the Jews' adherence to most
Jewish practices. They found this respect for tradition and history a
praiseworthy trait.

What stuck in their throats was our "obsession" with G-d and the
super-rational. Compassion for one's fellow human? Beautiful. Family
gatherings to celebrate ethnic pride? Splendid idea. But why do we keep
bringing G-d into the mix?

The word "mitzva" doesn't mean "good deed," as it's often colloquially
used; no etymologist could ever make that mistake. Mitzva means
"commandment" and commandment presupposes a Commander, in this case G-d.

So, when I teach my child that "it's a mitzva" to provide for the needy,
I'm saying a lot more than "it's a nice thing to do." I am telling him
that G-d has told us to donate to charity. There's a big difference.
Religion is defined as adopting a way of life in deference to a Supreme
Being. It's losing our own selfish desires in favor of G-d's will. That
may grate against the common "I'll do whatever I want" psyche, but-like
it or not-that's what religion is.

Doing  good things because we find them meaningful and beautiful isn't
what a Jewish life is all about. Conducting ourselves properly because
we're trying to get to heaven is also missing the point. These are both
self-centered attitudes. If I help a poor person because it gives me a
good feeling or adds "meaning" to my life, what should I do if I feel
nothing for the needy or don't feel good through giving? Should I
refrain from helping? Absolutely not, according to Jewish teachings.

If I choose not to steal solely because I feel it's wrong, what happens
when I think I can rationalize it, when it seems "appropriate"? If I
don't take someone else's property because I don't think I should-I'm
the sole arbiter-then I will steal when I think it's justified-except if
there's fear of getting caught. If I refrain because G-d told me to,
then it's a different story. If I think this case is an exception, then
I still need G-d's approval (good luck with that one). The primary
thing, however, is that the good be performed, even if it's for selfish
reasons. But let's not mistake the tolerable for the ideal.

That's what the Greeks were after. They idolized beauty and intellect,
and they wanted the Jews to operate on that level. They encouraged the
Jews to retain what they considered palpably beautiful and
intellectually stimulating. And Judaism has plenty of that!

But they had no need for human surrender before G-d, for mitzvot which
have no given reason-and there are those in the Torah. They had no use
for a supra-natural Presence. They focused exclusively on the
pleasurable, the sensual, the creature-comforting, the hedonistic.

We allude to this in the paragraph inserted into our thrice daily Amida
prayer during Chanuka- v'Al Hanissim. We refer to "the wicked Hellenic
government who rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget
Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will." What they were out to
eradicate from society was the idea of Your Torah and Your will.

Everybody knows that we celebrate our freedom of religion on Chanuka.
The Supreme Court of the United States has even declared the menora a
universal symbol of that freedom. But what kind of freedom did we really
fight for?

This Chanuka, look past the glitz of gifts. Enjoy yourself, but remember
what we battled for, and give G-d some thought.

In this week's Torah portion, Vayeisheiv, the Torah narrates the story
of Judah and Tamar. "And it was told to Tamar, saying: 'Behold, your
father-in-law is going up to Timnah.'"

Why is it important for us to know that Judah was "going up" to Timnah?
Why doesn't the Torah simply inform us that Judah was "going"?

As noted by Rashi, the foremost Torah commentator, in a later book of
the Bible where the name of the city again appears, the association is
one of descent rather than ascent. "And Samson went down to Timnah."
From this we derive that Timnah was located on the slope of a mountain.
A person approaching Timnah from below had to climb up; anyone
approaching it from the top of the mountain had to walk downwards. When
Tamar was told that her father-in-law was going up, it indicated which
direction he was coming from.

When ascending a mountain, it is not a good idea to pause in mid-climb.
Neither is a mountain slope an appropriate place to stop and rest. If a
mountain climber stops in the middle, not only is he likely to lose
momentum, but he also risks losing his footing and falling backward.
When a person is headed upward, he must always go forward and persevere.

A Jew's Divine service is likened to climbing a mountain, as it states,
"Who will ascend the mountain of the L-rd." When it comes to spiritual
matters, one cannot be sluggish or take "time off." An individual who
declares himself satisfied with the spiritual level he has already
attained and does not strive for even higher levels will eventually lose
his footing and tumble, like the mountaineer who decides to take a break
in the middle of his climb.

When engaged in the service of G-d, it is impossible to remain in the
same place. One must always make an effort to go from strength to
strength. Merely "treading water" on the same level ultimately leads to
spiritual regression and decline; lack of upward movement invariably
results in a downward trend.

During Chanuka, it is customary to light an additional candle each night
of the holiday, according to the principle of "increasing in holiness."
If one evening we were to kindle the same number of lights as the
previous day, it would indicate a state of spiritual decline or

In matters of holiness, we must never content ourselves with yesterday's
achievements. For the service of G-d requires perpetual upward motion.

                           Adapted from Volume 10 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                           The Power of Light
                            by Marcela Rojas

Menorahs out of bullet shells?

The ancient idea makes perfect sense to Rabbi Avrohom Levitansky of Bais
Chabad in S. Monica.

"In the Torah, it says weapons of war will ultimately be used for
peace," he said. "So I put 3 and 3 together and got 16."

Six years ago, Levitansky called the S. Monica Police Department and
requested hundreds of bullet shells left over from target practice. The
idea of making menorah candleholders out of the spent shell casings
would be a hit, he thought.

He was right.

"The empty shell casings are not worth anything to us," said Lt. Gary
Gallinot, a department spokesman. "It makes a nice product out of
something that is used. No one has ever complained about it."

Since 1994, Levitansky has been going back to the police department
every Hanukkah to collect the ammunition casings for 9mm and .38-caliber

He brings them back to Bais Chabad, where dozens of children glue the
bullet shells to pieces of painted wood to make menorahs for their

During the 15-minute process, the children learn about the meaning of
the holiday, which begins at sundown Sunday, December 9 and continues
through Monday evening, December 17.

"I don't exactly approve of having bullets in my house, but it does have
meaning," said Eric Merenstein, 11, of Beverly Hills, one of the Bais
Chabad students.

"There was a war where the Maccabees fought off the Greeks. That was one
event that brought about Hanukkah. So it's kind of appropriate to use
bullet shells for the menorahs."

Twenty-two centuries ago, during the time of the Second Temple in
Jerusalem, an important part of the daily service was to fuel the
menorah with sacred olive oil.

When the Syrian Greeks waged a spiritual war with the Jews and invaded
the Holy Temple, they left the Jews with only one day's supply of oil.

The Maccabees lighted the menorah with this small vial of olive oil and,
miraculously, the candles burned for eight days and eight nights. For
this reason, Hanukkah lasts eight days with one candle lighted each day.

To further the historical significance of the holiday, Levitansky also
shows children at Bais Chabad how to press olives to get oil from a
wood-barreled presser.

"This is all part of the lesson," he said. "Pressing olives is hard
work. It symbolizes that in order to get to the good, you have to go
through hard times. Good will always prevail. It may not look like that,
but it will. That's what Hanukkah is all about."

Making menorahs out of bullet shells is for big kids too.

At Chabad Residential Treatment Center in the Miracle Mile district,
about 40 residents recently made menorahs out of tiles and bullet shells
donated by a Los Angeles Police Department pistol range.

One resident, Yaakov Zimmerman, 43, said he remembers that when he was
in the army in Israel in the 1960s, tank missile shells were used to
make menorahs. The same concept is being applied at the six-month drug
and alcohol recovery program.

"Everything this program is about is connecting with the spirit of
light," said Rabbi Yosef Cunin.

'We don't do many arts and crafts activities, but this is an important
one to show the residents how taking something used in violence can be
used to contact the spiritual side of ourselves."

                               Reprinted from the Los Angeles Times

                               WHAT'S NEW
                        Lighting Up the Darkness

Bringing the light and hope of Chanuka to Israeli soldiers, whether on
remote military bases or in the center of the country, has been an
outreach program of Chabad-Lubavitch in Israel for decades. This year
will be no different, though our prayers will be even more fervent that
we finally merit the Messianic era of world peace that we long await.

                         World's Largest Menora

Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka
Menora at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. in New York City. The menora will be
lit on Sunday, Dec. 9-Thursday, Dec. 13 at 5:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 10 at
3:38 p.m.; Saturday night, Dec. 11 at 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 16 at 5:30
p.m. On Saturday night, a Chanuka Parade of cars, vans and mobile homes
topped with menoras will travel from Lubavitch World Headquarters to the
lighting in NYC. On Sunday there will be live music, free latkes and
Chanuka gelt. For more info call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at
(212) 736-8400. For public menora lightings in your area call your local
Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

                     Tzivos Hashem Chanuka Contest

"The Chanukah Challenge" is an international contest for children under
the age of Bar/Bat Mitzva. The Challenge encourages children to light
the Chanuka menora, eat latkas, play dreidle, and attend a Chanuka
party. Great prizes are being raffled off. The contest can be entered at or by sending a list of activities performed
with a parent's signature to: Chanuka Challenge, 332 Kingston Ave.,
Bklyn., NY, 11213

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                         Chanukah, 5715 [1954]

...In this connection, and apropos of Chanukah, it would be timely to
reflect on the significance of the Chanukah Lights. Although all
Mitzvoth issue from One G-d, the perfect Unity, there are many aspects
to every Mitzvah, just as the complexity of our physical world is
likewise created from His Mitzvah. Nevertheless, the performance of the
Mitzvah, accompanied by an appreciation of its significance, is
definitely beneficial.

With this in mind, I wish to point out what I consider very significant
in connection with the significance of Chanukah, as it is emphasized by
the Chanukah Lights, specifically by the two conditions attending the
performance of this Mitzvah: (a) The light is to shine forth "outside"
and (b) the light is to grow every night by the addition of one more
candle each night of Chanukah. Thus, the message of Chanukah is to bring
home to every Jew his duty to spread the "light" of the Torah and the
"candles" of the Mitzvoth, especially in times of darkness, and to do so
with ever growing effort.

A man's influence is generally limited, either to his immediate
environment, his family and friends, or if he is a teacher or lecturer,
to a wider circle. The journalist, however, whose words and thoughts
enjoy wide currency through the printed word, enjoys a much greater
influence; he is less limited in space, since the printed word travels
far, and in time, since it endures on record.

Thus you are privileged to have far greater opportunities in exercising
influence than the average person, to help illuminate the darkness of
the night with, I trust, ever growing effect. These are not mere
opportunities, for as everything in Nature strives to transform itself
form a state of potentiality to actuality, so all human potentialities
must be actualized for the general good, the true good. The way of
Providence is inscrutable. Although logically, as the Chanukah candles
indicate, one should begin by lighting up his home first, and then
seeing to it that its light dispels the darkness outside as far as
possible, the process is sometimes reversed; bringing light to others
far away, brings success in carrying the light closer home.

I send you my prayerful wishes for success in your personal affairs,
which is closely associated with your public work and your influence,
all the more so, since in addition to being a son of the "kingdom of
priest and a holy nation," you are actually a kohen among Jews.

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                      23rd of Kislev, 5713 [1952]

Sholom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:

...With the approach of Chanukah, I extend to you herewith my sincere
wishes for a happy and inspiring Chanukah.

The message of Chanukah is important and timely to all Jews, but even
more so to Jews living in surroundings with comparatively little Jewish
vitality and activity. It is precisely in such circumstance that
Chanukah offers many a useful lesson. One such lesson I wish to make the
subject of this message.

It is noteworthy that the Chanukah lights must be kindled after sunset,
when it is dark outside, unlike the lights that were kindled in the Beth
Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] much earlier, or the Sabbath lights kindled on
Friday before sunset.

There is another difference: the Beth Hamikdosh-and the Sabbath-lights
have their place indoors, while the place of Chanukah lights is at the
entrance to the home (when Jews lived freely in their land, the place
was outside the entrance). Finally, there is yet another distinction: in
the former two cases the lights remain the same, while the Chanukah
lights are increased every night.

The lesson which seems to be indicated by the Chanukah lights is that
besides lighting up the home (Sabbath lights) and the synagogue and
Yeshiva (substituting for the Sanctuary of old), the Jew has the
additional responsibility of lighting up the "outside," the whole
environment. Moreover, when conditions are unfavorable (it is "dark"
outside), it is then not enough to make a light and maintain it, though
it is also an achievement in view of the darkness; but it is necessary
to steadily increase the lights, through steadily growing efforts to
spread the light of Torah and mitzvoth, to illuminate not only one's
home, but the whole environment as well...

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
15 Kislev 5762

Prohibition 318: cursing parents

By this prohibition it is forbidden to curse one's parents (with the
Divine Name). It is contained in the Torah's words (Ex. 21:17): "He that
curses his father of his mother shall surely be put to death." (The
Torah is sever with respect not only to striking or cursing a parent,
but also to any act of contempt.)

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Sunday night we will kindle the first light of Chanuka, the literal
meaning of which is "inauguration" or "dedication." Chanuka celebrates
the purification and rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, after
its defilement by the Greeks.

Whenever we celebrate a Jewish holiday, the same spiritual forces that
came into play thousands of years ago are reenacted, as we say in our
prayers, "In those days and in our times." During Chanuka, we are imbued
with an extra strength to renew and rededicate the spiritual "Holy
Temple" that exists within each of us. Today, the enemy is the Evil
Inclination and the difficulties of the exile, which threaten to "defile
the oil" and "cause us to forget Your Torah." On Chanuka, our eternal
bond with G-d is reinforced and fortified.

"Chinuch," which is also translated as "education," means becoming
accustomed to something new. Whenever we embark on a new course, we need
extra strength and incentive to succeed. For example, it is a Jewish
custom that when a Jewish boy is brought to "cheder" for the first time,
we throw candies at him and tell him they are from the angel Michael.
The candies make the child happy, and instill in him the desire to
learn. After the Holy Temple was defiled, an extra measure of holiness
was required. The self-sacrifice of the Jewish people for the
sanctification of G-d's Name provided this extra spiritual power that
allowed the Temple to be rededicated and renewed.

The miracle of Chanuka involved light, which is symbolic of an
intensification and increase in Torah and mitzvot, as it states, "For a
candle is a mitzva, and the Torah is light." On each day of Chanuka we
light an additional candle, increasing the illumination in the world.
Indeed, this is the service of the Jew throughout the year: to
successfully utilize the strength we derive from Chanuka to rededicate
ourselves to Torah and mitzvot, in an ever-increasing manner.

May the lights of Chanuka culminate in the light of the era of Moshiach,
when "the night will shine like the day; darkness will be as the light."

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
These are the generations of Jacob, Joseph (Gen. 37:2)

The name Joseph (Yosef) comes from the Hebrew meaning to add or
increase. Jacob is symbolic of every Jew. The lesson to be derived is
that a Jew must never allow himself to stagnate, but must always climb
upward along the spiritual "ladder" of Yiddishkeit.

                                 (Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Riminov)

                                *  *  *

And they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him (Gen. 37:4)

The main component of all controversy is the absence of dialogue, the
unwillingness to listen to what someone else has to say and understand
it from his perspective. If people would really know how to talk to each
other, most of the time they would discover that they have nothing to
argue about.

                                         (Rabbi Yonatan Eibeschitz)

                                *  *  *

In my dream, behold, a vine was before me (Gen. 40:9)

Why did Joseph interpret the chief butler's dream optimistically,
whereas the chief baker's dream received a negative interpretation? The
chief butler had dreamt about the fruits of the Land of Israel, which
are the handiworks of G-d rather than of man. The chief baker, by
contrast, dreamt about baked goods, which are made by man and symbolize
an arrogant attitude of "my strength and the strength of my hands." Such
a dream, Joseph figured, could not bode well for the future.

                                                     (Nahar Shalom)

                                *  *  *

And Joseph went into the house to do his business (Gen. 39:11)

According to the Targum (translation into Aramaic) of Onkelos, Joseph
went in to "examine the accounts" (for which he was responsible) of
Potiphar's household. Indeed, this was the greatness of Joseph: the
ability to maintain the highest level of attachment to G-d even while
actively involved in worldly pursuits.

                                               (Derech Mitzvotecha)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Avraham Pinchas lived 100 years ago in Baghdad. The wealthy Jewish
merchant usually had a table full of guests, but this Shabbat he only
had one, a poor man he had invited home from the synagogue. The guest
was awed by the plush richness around him: the thick Persian rugs, gold
inlayed dishes and beautifully decorated walls. Only one thing perplexed
him: in the middle of the table stood an old, empty, broken bottle that
looked as if it had once contained olive oil.

When Mr. Pinchas noticed his guest's interest in the odd artifact, he
told him the following story.

"My father was a respected businessman, but he was always busy and left
me in my grandfather's care. Every morning my grandfather would wake me,
make sure I washed my hands, said the morning blessings and didn't
forget my lunch. Then just before I left for school, he would give me a
kiss on my forehead, raise his hands and say, 'Va'ani ana ani ba' ['And
I, where will I go?' (Gen. 37:30)]. Later, I learned that this is what
Reuven cried out when he discovered that Joseph was no longer in the pit
and it was impossible to save him. But I had no idea why my grandfather
always said that.

"Then, when I was 14 years old, tragedy struck: my grandfather passed
away. I began to accompany my father to work. My father tried to make
sure that I prayed and studied Torah but he was always very busy. I was
so fascinated by his business that I didn't pay much attention to my

"Two years later, my father died suddenly. Besides the fact that I was
now alone, I had to decide what to do with the business. I was given the
choice of selling it, or trying my luck as a manager. Against the advice
of lawyers, I chose the latter.

"Well, I took to it like a fish to water. It wasn't long before I was
quite successful. But I began to feel out of place as an observant Jew.
I felt that keeping Shabbat and eating kosher prevented me from
expanding my business. Slowly but surely I became less observant, and I
discovered that the more commandments I dropped, the more successful I

"Several years passed. One day I was walking in the street when I
noticed a Jewish boy, maybe 13 years old, sitting on the sidewalk
crying. I asked him what was wrong. 'Oh thank you, sir,' he said 'but
this is something only Jews would understand.'

"His words stabbed me in the heart. 'I am also Jewish...' I stammered.

"'Oh, I'm sorry,' he answered, 'I didn't mean to offend you. It's just
that I'm very sad about my home situation. We are very poor...' The boy
looked up at me and wiped his eyes with his shirtsleeve. 'My father died
a while ago and my mother works hard to support my six brothers and
sisters. Well, this morning my mother told us that tonight is Chanuka.
We prayed for a miracle, that we might find some money with which to buy
oil. We were so happy when my sister found a coin behind a drawer! I ran
right to the store and bought a small bottle of oil. I was walking home,
holding the bottle and dreaming about Chanuka. I was even imagining that
Moshiach might come now, and my mother will start to smile again.
Unfortunately, I wasn't looking where I was going, and I tripped. I
watched in horror as the bottle flew from my hands and landed on a
stone. It broke, and all the oil spilled out. 'Va'ani ana ani ba!' With
these words, the boy began to wail.

"At that, I suddenly realized what my grandfather had meant. He must
have known that this would happen. That broken bottle is me! And the
spilled oil is my Jewish soul - I've lost my Jewish soul!

"As if in a trance, I withdrew some money from my pocket and handed it
to the boy. 'Go back to the store,' I told him. 'Buy what you want, and
have a happy Chanuka! Go!'

"When the boy was gone, I carefully picked up the bottle and carried it
home, still in shock. I sent the servants away and when I was alone, I
just stood there, looking at it and weeping. Then the thought struck me,
'A Jew can't lose his Jewish soul.' Maybe I had ignored it for a while,
but I'm sure it's still there. I took my grandfather's menora out of the
cabinet, dusted it off, found some oil and a wick and lit the first
Chanuka candle.

"Its light made me feel alive again. I even decided that the next
morning I would begin putting on tefilin. The following night I lit two
candles and decided that from now on I would eat only kosher. The third
night, I decided to begin learning Torah. The night after that I made
the decision to keep Shabbat. By the end of Chanuka I had become a new
man. A renewed man. The Chanuka lights had saved me.

"So that is the reason I keep that broken bottle: to remind me how the
miracle of the oil saved my life."

        Reprinted from the Ohr Tmimim Newsletter,

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Through lighting the Chanuka candles, we bring out the quality of light
that exists in all the mitzvot and thus, hasten the coming of the time
when we will merit the kindling of the menora-and the Chanuka lights-in
the Third Holy Temple. Then, the entire world will be illuminated with
the light of Torah.

       (From a talk of the the Rebbe, third night of Chanuka, 5751)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 697 - Vayeshev 5762

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