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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 698
                           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 14, 2001        Miketz          29 Kislev, 5762

                          Listen to the Flames
                        by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

If we look closely at the details of Chanuka - the menora, the history,
the number of flames - they can reveal the nature of our soul.

As the sun sets and the shadows of night descend, we kindle the menora
creating light in the darkness. Listen carefully to the flames and they
will tell you a story, a story that will empower you to live a more
profound meaningful life, enabling you to rise up toward challenge and
overcome difficulty. Sit near the flames and study them quietly.

"The flame of G-d is the soul of a human being," says the Torah. As
flames warm and illuminate their environment, so too you can use your
soul to infuse life with warmth and light. Unlike all other physical
entities that are drawn earthward, the dancing flames flicker upward
defying gravity. Likewise your soul, not satisfied with mere physical
comforts, aspires up toward something beyond.

Chanuka is not just about lighting up our own lives. By placing the
menora in the window of your home or at your doorpost, you allow the
light to radiate into the dark street, illuminating your surroundings.
Chanuka reminds us of our ability and responsibility to effect the world
around us and prompts us to shine light into the lives of others with
daily acts of goodness and kindness. Just as a flame lights another
without diminishing itself, so too by sharing yourself you become
enhanced rather than diminished. Every day we must increase illumination
of ourselves and our environment - each day adding another good deed,
lighting an additional flame.

Chanuka tells yet a deeper story, a story that penetrates the darker
shadows of our lives. The menora shines a tunnel back through time to
the aftermath of a great victory in which a small band of Jews defeated
the might of the Greek Empire. In amongst the debris of the desecrated
Temple the Maccabees searched ceaselessly until they found a single
sealed cruse of oil that miraculously burnt for eight days. When you are
defiled, when your inner Temple has been desecrated and there is no oil
to be found, you have the power to reach deeper inside and discover
light. The soul always remains intact like a "pilot light." When you
light your menora under such difficult circumstances, creating light in
the darkest moment, that light can never be extinguished. The light that
has dealt with challenge, that has transformed pain into growth, is a
light that transcends nature and transforms darkness into light.

This power to transform darkness must come from a place beyond the
conventional. We therefore light eight candles, the mystical number of
transcendence and infinity, one beyond the number seven that represents
the natural cycle. In order to pierce darkness with light, you can't
just rely on the natural, you need to reach a deeper resource which is
the eighth dimension.

These elements of Chanuka - the eight flickering flames, the miracle of
the oil, the light shining into the dark street - beckon us to connect
to the power of our soul. Our soul rises like a flame toward that which
transcends itself, not only repelling darkness as is the nature of all
light, but transforming the darkness into light.

    Rabbi Jacobson is the author of Toward a Meaningful Life and founder
    and director of The Meaningful Life Center:

In the Torah portion of Mikeitz, Joseph orders his servants to hide his
goblet in his brother's bags. He then sends a messenger to overtake them
on the road. When the brothers learn that they are accused of stealing,
they reply, "Far be it ("chalila") from your servants to do such a

One of the explanations offered by Rashi on the word "chalila," which is
generally translated as "G-d forbid" or "heaven forefend," is derived
from its root in the word "chulin," meaning profane or derogatory. The
word also connotes common, i.e., anything that is not related to
holiness. The brother's reply to Joseph's messenger thus not only denied
their participation in the theft, but expressed a much deeper concept:
that the very idea of their involvement in anything other than the realm
of holiness was absurd. In other words, the brothers were on such a high
spiritual level that relating to the mundane, physical world was somehow

Each one of the Twelve Tribes embodied a different path in the service
of G-d. And while not every individual Jew is blessed with all of their
unique character attributes, there are certain general aspects of their
service that we all share in common. The brothers' declaration of
"chalila" thus contains a practical lesson to be applied in our daily

A Jew must know that his entire being - his very essence - is holiness.
The Jew and the secular realm are two entirely different worlds. The
mundane level of existence does not truly pertain to the Jew, to the
point that involvement in the material realm is essentially foreign to

This extremely high level is not only something the Jew must feel
inwardly, but must also be reflected in all of its external
manifestations. The nations of the world should be able to see that, to
the Jew, the very notion of "mundane" is just as incongruous as the
notion of stealing. Indeed, it is this concept that was proudly
articulated by Joseph's brothers to the Egyptian messenger.

Of course, the Torah commands that a Jew work within the framework of
the physical world. "Six days shall you labor, and do all your work."
But the intention is not that the Jew lower himself to the level of the
profane; on the contrary, it implies the exact opposite. A Jew is
required to involve himself in the world for the purpose of elevating
the material plane of existence to holiness. This demonstrates that all
his deeds are for the sake of heaven, and brings sanctity into the

                           Adapted from Volume 15 of Likutei Sichot

                             SLICE OF LIFE

                      Tehilah: Our Answered Prayer
         This article originally appeared in McCall's Magazine

My name-Chava-means "mother of all living" in Hebrew. As a little girl,
I remember learning from my parents, both deeply religious Jews, that
names are very meaningful. Quoting the Jewish sages, they told me that
parents are granted a moment of prophecy when they choose their
newborn's name.

I took their words to heart. Not surprisingly, children have always made
me weak in the knees. The fact that a 1955 bout with polio made me very
weak in the knees never deterred me from my dreams of motherhood.

At 15, I remember asking my doctors, "Will I be able to have children?"
They explained that polio had no effect on the reproductive system. One
doctor found my question amusing. "First, see if you can find a

By the time I was 30, I was beginning to think he was right. My social
life in the Big Apple was active, but my dating life was nearly
nonexistent. Then, in 1982, a miracle happened: I met a wonderful man
named Michael Levy. We began dating that December, during the Chanuka

What a glorious Chanuka that was! We were head over heels in love,
learning how many things we had in common: similar religious values, a
passion for words and music and, since Michael is blind, hands-on
experience with disability. Married in August, we prayed that G-d would
grant us our deepest wish: to bring a child into His world.

In November 1984, when doctors informed us that-due to infertility
problems unrelated to our disabilities-our chances of having a child
were nearly nil, we were engulfed by anguish.

That Chanuka, still stunned by the doctor's verdict, we hardly felt like
celebrating. Each night, as I lit the menora and recited the blessing,
"...Who created miracles for our ancestors, in days gone by and in our
own time," I could barely hold back the tears. Would the miracle we
prayed for ever come?

Three months later, I was pregnant. Our jubilation knew no bounds. The
doctors groped for scientific explanations, but as far as we were
concerned, this was the miracle we had been hoping for.

At the end of my third month, we lost our baby. This emotional
rollercoaster ride sent us reeling. We struggled with painful
questions-Why did this happen to us? What did we do to deserve this
agony? If we were not meant to  have children,  why would G-d "tease" us
with such short-lived joy?-but the answers eluded us. We tried to keep
our faith and trust that G-d's love, although hidden, was still with us.

Then in February of 1986, Michael and I learned that I was pregnant
again. After months of mourning and attempting to make sense of our
loss, I felt that all was right in the world once more. There was a G-d
in the universe after all.

My optimism swelled the next day when a man and his three-year-old son
passed me on the street and noticed me struggling to get myself and my
motorized wheelchair into a taxi. The man brought his son over to me,
placed the boy's hand in mine, and told him, "Now, hold on to this lady.
I'll be right back." While he proceeded to put my wheelchair into the
cab, I marveled at the feel of this child's hand in mine, the look of
his lovely face. It was a sign, I remember thinking as I looked at my
deformed hand holding his perfect one and noticed how he didn't pull
away. This time the little one wouldn't leave me.

The next day, I started staining. My euphoria turned to dread. It took
several weeks to discover that I had an ectopic pregnancy: If left
unchecked, it could have killed me.

It took several months to recover from our loss, but Michael and I were
soon back on the infertility circuit. By the time Chanuka of 1988 rolled
around, I was overwhelmed by failure. Adoption became our goal. In
mid-February, in need of a break, we decided to spend a few days in
Florida. While there, I began to experience symptoms similar to those of
my ectopic pregnancy. As we flew home, I said to Michael, "First thing
tomorrow, I'm going for a blood test. I can't have this anxiety hanging
over my head."

The next morning, I made my way across town to the lab where I'd gone so
often. That afternoon, just as I was about to light the Sabbath candles,
the phone rang. "Congratulations, Mrs. Levy. You're pregnant!" a cheery
voice announced.

Following that extraordinary phone call, Michael and I were too stunned
to speak. We sat together and, with tears  in our eyes, prayed  that
this  time  the  Alm-ghty would help us bring a child into His world.

He did. The pregnancy had its rough moments, but G-d did not abandon us.
(Neither did our many friends and relatives whose prayers, good deeds
and optimism helped us through months of anxiety and anticipation.) On
October 17, 1989, our beautiful daughter was born. We named her Tehilah
Sarah. Tehilah means many things: praise, a song, a poem to G-d. And the
Bible paints a poignant picture of Sarah (a name shared by my two
grandmothers), the matriarch who knew the heartbreak of childlessness
but lived to build a dynasty.

Today, as I watch our little one blossom, I remember my doctor's dire
prediction: "And let's not forget your arms; they're too weak to care
for or carry a baby." He was half-right: I can't carry Tehilah, but I
can care for her.

When Tehilah was seven months old, I discovered that I can carry her
with the help of a baby carrier called Sara's Ride. I sit in my
motorized scooter and, once Tehilah is secured on my lap, we roam the
streets of New York unaccompanied! At day's end, we often head for
Broadway and wait for Michael to emerge from the subway station. When
Tehilah spots her Daddy approaching, she gurgles excitedly. Passersby
smile at us as we head for home.

People often ask us if Tehilah knows yet that her parents have
disabilities. The answer is yes-and no. When she was only seven months
old, I discovered that Tehilah's "pick-me-up" plea is never directed to
me. And one evening, Tehilah started whimpering while we were watching
television. We had no idea what was wrong. Suddenly, our little girl
gave me a pleading look, turned back toward Michael and then my way once
more. "Michael," I said, "could it be that you're blocking her view?"
Michael moved slightly and Tehilah was content once more.

So yes, Tehilah has learned that her parents have disabilities. But she
has not learned that, in the eyes of most people, her parents are
"different" or even "unfortunate."

Seeing a wheelchair, a Braille book, unfocused eyes or an assymetrical
body is commonplace for our little girl. And Michael and I think that
makes Tehilah a very fortunate person. As she gets older, she will
discover society's misconceptions about disability. But, happily, those
who lack Tehilah's enlightened upbringing will encounter a refreshingly
bemused response from her. We pray that Tehilah will teach them all that
disability need not be an obstacle to successful parenthood.

As Michael and I anticipate Chanuka, we remember past Chanukas. This
year as I light the menora for my husband and daughter, I know my eyes
will well up once again-this time with tears of thanksgiving. Each night
as I recite the blessing, "...Who created miracles for our ancestors, in
days gone by and in our own time," I will thank G-d for our miracle. And
each night I will add a special prayer: May our Tehilah grow up knowing
that, as her name signifies, she is a song, a poem to G-d.

    Chava Willig Levy lectures around the world. Her book, Deeper by the
    Dozen, is soon to be published. She can be contacted at

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                            THE REBBE WRITES
                       7th of Teves, 5740 [1979]

Greeting and Blessing:

...I take this first opportunity after Chanukah to convey to you my
feelings in connection with your warm response and generous contribution
towards the latest Lubavitch Project in our Holy Land. I was both
gratified and impressed by the spirit of your response. For, since I
characterized the project as a seemingly "Wild Project," your response
in fulfillment of a "Wild Thought," as you described it, is truly a
response in kind.

The term "wild" in this context can best be explained in terms of the
teachings of Chanukah, when the Project was announced:

It is significant that the Chanukah Menorah has eight lights, although
it reflects the Miracle of the Oil which occurred in connection with the
rekindling of the Menorah in the Beis Hamikdosh [Holy Temple], which had
only seven lamps. As explained in our sacred sources, there is an inner
symbolic significance in the numbers seven versus eight. Seven
represents the natural order, since G-d created the world in six days
and rested on the seventh, thus completing the natural order in seven
days and imbuing it with the holiness of Shabbos. Eight, on the other
hand, represents the supra-natural, the extra-ordinary.

Thus, the seven-lamp Menorah, corresponding to the seven days of the
week, symbolized the natural world order, which is geared to, and must
be perpetually illuminated by, the light of the Torah and Mitzvos during
each and all of the seven days of the week. Chanukah, on the other hand,
recalls a very extraordinary situation in Jewish history, when the
Jewish people faced a crucial challenge that threatened them not with
physical, but with spiritual extinction, to be engulfed by the pagan
Hellenistic culture that had swept the world at that time. The danger
was all the more insidious because it happened while the Jewish people
were in their own land, the Holy Land, and the Beis Hamikdosh was in
existence; and the enemy did not aim to destroy the Beis Hamikdosh, nor
to put out the Menorah, but "merely" to contaminate them with their own
ideas and more.

This extraordinary situation therefore called for an extraordinary
response in terms of real Mesiras Nefesh [self-sacrifice]. Hence
Chanukah is celebrated for eight days, and the lighting of eight lights,
in a manner of increasing them in number and brightness each night of
Chanukah until all the eight lights of the Chanukah Menorah shine
brightly on the eighth night of Chanukah.

We find the same thing in other aspects of Torah and Jewish life. For
example, the dedication of the Mishkon [sanctuary] and Mikdosh [Temple]
took eight days because the idea of a House of G-d for the Divine
Shechinah (Presence) within the confines of a measured and limited space
is most extraordinary, as King Solomon, the builder of the first Beis
Hamikdosh expressed it: "Surely, the earth and all the heavens cannot
contain You, yet this House will!"...

In all these instances (and others too numerous to mention here) the
number eight is not just one more than seven, or an additional 24 hours,
but it symbolizes the extraordinary, supra-natural and Infinite, as
distinct from the ordinary and natural, hence limited, as symbolized by
the number seven.

It is in this sense that I characterized the new Project as seemingly
"wild" - not only in the ordinary sense of being wild and far-fetched
from the viewpoint of practical consideration, but in the sense of being
extraordinary also from the viewpoint of sacred considerations. By this
I mean that, at first glance, considering our responsibilities for the
existing institutions, especially the educational institutions,
struggling with deficits and having to be not only maintained but also
expanded, for what could be more vital than Chinuch [Jewish education]?
- one would think that these institutions command top priority on all
our resources.

Yet, I am convinced that the present world situation, and the Jewish
situation in particular, is so extraordinary that ordinary means cannot
cope with it, and a "wild" approach is required. Hence the said Project,
as a first step.

It will reflect, emphasize and demonstrate in a concrete and tangible
way our profound Bitachon [faith] and trust in the eternal strength of
Yiddishkeit [Judaism] to overcome all difficulties, and in the wholeness
and inviolability of Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] as the eternal
inheritance of our people, and of Jerusalem, our Holy City, which
belongs to all our Jewish people everywhere, with every Jew having a
share in it, as also emphasized by the fact that while the whole Land of
Israel was divided among the twelve tribes... Jerusalem was not divided
among the tribes, but every Jew has a share in it. And this we proclaim
not merely in words and protestations, but by concrete action, in a
manner which is understood by all, namely by the fact that American
Jews, especially successful businessmen, who are known for their acumen
and practical know-how in business affairs, are willing and ready, and
do indeed, invest substantial resources in building a Shikun
[neighborhood] for Jews permeated with Yiddishkeit precisely in
Jerusalem, our Holy City, in our Holy Land, thereby also involving the
cooperation of Governmental agencies in this "wild project," though the
Government has other vital projects connected with defense, which
ordinarily command top priority.

I trust, indeed I am quite confident, that this "wild" Project will
bring forth G-d's blessings in a correspondingly "wild" and
extraordinary measure, so that the Project will be implemented and
completed much sooner than expected, and that it will serve as a living
testimony to the vitality and strength of our Jewish people transcending
all limitations and bounds; living testimony to Jews and non-Jews

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
29 Kislev 5762

Positive mitzva 189: remembering the wicked deeds of Amalek

By this injunction we are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us in
attacking us unprovoked. It is contained in the Torah's words (Deut.
25:17; 19): "Remember what Amalek did unto you" and "You shall not

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
There are a number of miracles and wonders associated with the holiday
of Chanuka. One miracle is that a small, ill-equipped army of Jews
managed to overtake the large and well-trained Greek war machine.
Another miracle is that, though only enough oil was found in the Holy
Temple to kindle the menora for one day, the oil lasted for eight days
until more could be prepared.

Other oil was, in fact, available in the Holy Temple. But only one small
cruse of oil was found with the seal of the High Priest still intact and
undefiled by the enemy.

The first miracle of the victory of the Macabees against the Greeks is
commemorated in our prayers during each day of Chanuka. However, the
main event for which Chanuka was instituted was the miracle of the cruse
of oil which was kindled and lasted for eight days.

When the Talmud defines the essence of the Chanuka festival, the Sages
declare that the crucial aspect was the miracle of the oil. It was the
miracle of being able to light the menora with pure, holy oil, without
any touch of uncleanliness, which gave rise to the Festival of Lights.

The oil was not required for human consumption, nor as a sacrifice on
the altar, but for fuel in the menora to be burnt in the process of
giving light. It was not required, according to strict letter of Jewish
law, to be untouched nor undefiled. And yet, our ancestors deemed it
necessary to use only pure oil to rekindle and reconsecrate the menora.

The obvious lesson is that in the realm of the spirit, of Torah and
mitzvot, as symbolized by the Chanuka lights, there must be absolute
purity and holiness. It is not for the human mind to reason why, and
what difference it makes, etc.

To carry the analogy further, in our own personal "Holy Temples"-i.e.,
every Jewish home and every Jewish person, we must try to make sure that
we illuminate our surroundings with the purest, holiest light possible,
that which is produced through the study of Torah and the observance of

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
It came to pass at the end of two years ("shnatayim yamim") (Gen. 41:1)

It often happens that a person reaches the end of his allotted years on
earth, only to discover that he was essentially "sleeping" ("shnatayim -
related to the word "sheina," "sleep") through all his "yamim"-"days."

                                         (Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)

                                *  *  *

And Pharaoh said to his servants: Can we find such a one as this, a man
in whom there is the spirit of G-d (Gen. 41:38)

Why would Pharaoh think that warehousing grain before an impending
famine requires "a man in whom there is the spirit of G-d?" Rather,
Pharaoh understood from Joseph's words that he was not merely unusually
wise, but spoke with the "spirit of G-d." Accordingly, implementing the
storage and distribution of the grain could only be accomplished by such
a person. How did Pharaoh come to recognize Joseph's qualities? In
relating his dream to Joseph, Pharaoh had deliberately changed certain
details. Joseph, however, interpreted the dream according to its true
nature, rather than according to Pharaoh's slightly altered account.

                                             (Marganita D'Vei Meir)

                                *  *  *

And Jacob saw that there was food ("shever") in Egypt (Gen. 42:1)

According to Kabalistic teachings, the world is filled with "holy
sparks" that must be redeemed by the Jewish people through Torah and
mitzvot. These "sparks" are the result of "shevirat hakeilim" (literally
"breaking of the vessels" - the Midrashic account of the building and
destruction of primordial worlds prior to this one; shevirat is similar
to shever). Jacob, with his prophetic vision, recognized the unusually
high number of "sparks" that had fallen to Egypt, which was the reason
for the Egyptian exile.

                                           (The Magid of Mezeritch)

                                *  *  *

And he said to them: You are spies (Gen. 42:9)

Of all the possible accusations he could level against them, why did
Joseph accuse his brothers of espionage? Joseph was afraid his brothers
would utilize their visit to Egypt to investigate his whereabouts. By
accusing them of being spies, he prevented them from asking too many
questions. For no one who is accused of espionage is likely to make too
many inquiries about a head of state...

                                        (Rabbi Avraham of Pshischa)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
During World War II in England, many children were evacuated from the
larger cities and sent to the countryside to escape the almost constant
bombardment by the Germans. The following is the story of a Jewish boy
during the blitzkrieg:

"I was one of the many children who had been relocated because of the
bombing. Our cheder (Torah school) was in a big synagogue complex that
had only recently been built. Next door to the synagogue was a smaller,
older two- story building. The upper floor of the building housed the
study hall, where everyone came to pray during the week, except for
Shabbat and Yom Tov. On the first floor of the building were our
classrooms, and in the basement was a bomb shelter. This is where we
went whenever the warning siren went off.

"It was shortly before Chanuka, and we were all looking forward to the
holiday. They had cautioned us about the importance of maintaining the
blackout, and explained that no light must be visible from the street.
It wasn't fair! Just because of the Germans, we wouldn't be allowed to
put our menoras by the window. When we lit the candles and made the
blessings, we prayed very hard that the Nazis should be defeated just
like Antiochus!

"On the fifth night of Chanuka, the boys of the cheder had a party in
the synagogue. We were about to light the candles when suddenly, as if
to spite us, the air raid siren went off. Automatically we formed a line
and filed across the courtyard into the study hall, where another flight
of steps led down into the bomb shelter. This time, however, the
explosions sounded very close. We could hear bombs falling all around
us. We tried to figure out which sections of the neighborhood had likely
been hit, and which were the sounds of return fire.

"After reading off all our names from a list to make sure we were all
accounted for, our teacher taught us some Chanuka songs. I remember that
we sang very loudly, as if the sound of our voices could somehow fight
the enemy.

"'And now children,' the teacher then said, 'we will light the menora
and continue our party.' It was then that we realized that in all the
commotion, the menora and candles had been left behind in the synagogue.
We were very upset, but what could we do? The teacher then said that he
hoped G-d would accept our good intentions, and consider it as if we had
fulfilled the mitzva anyway.

"The other boys accepted this, but I could not. I really wanted to light
that menora! I decided to sneak across the courtyard and retrieve the
menora and candles. I couldn't ask for permission, because the teacher
would surely forbid me to risk my life. But I reminded myself of our
Sages' saying, 'The emissary of a mitzva is not harmed,' and slipped
outside when no one was looking.

"The whole sky was lit up by searchlights. It was terrifying. Running as
fast as I could I made it to the synagogue and grabbed the menora and
the candles. But as soon as I opened the door, a bomb hit the building
next door!

"My earlier burst of courage had disappeared. Then I asked myself, What
would Judah the Maccabee do in such a situation? Surely, he would not
have allowed anything to stand in the way of doing a mitzva. I ran
across the courtyard like a bolt of lightning - only to see a firebomb
land on the roof of the synagogue!

"I stood frozen in place. Should I wait for a civil defense guard to
notice the fire, or should I try to do something myself? Maybe they were
too busy putting out fires elsewhere. In the meantime, the synagogue
could burn down.

"I knew what to do to put out a fire, as we had all been subjected to
repeated fire drills. There was no time to lose. I placed the menora and
candles on the ground and grabbed a ladder that had been prepared for
just such an emergency. Within seconds I was on the roof of the
synagogue and could see where the firebomb was blazing away. The area
around it was already starting to ignite.

"On every roof was a huge bucket of water with a foot pump and rubber
hose. I put the hose in the bucket and started to pump with all my
might, spraying water on and around the fire. I kept on spraying until
the flames had died down.

"At that moment I looked up and saw a civil defense guard battling a
fire on a nearby roof. I was sure that if he spotted me I would get into
trouble, so I hastily climbed down the ladder and sprinted away.

"You should have seen the faces of my teacher and fellow students when I
burst inside the bomb shelter carrying the menora and candles. It was
truly a Chanuka to remember!"

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
When the Third Holy Temple is built, in the Sanctuary itself the
seven-branched menora will be lit each day as commanded in the Torah. In
addition, on Chanuka, the eight Chanuka candles will be lit in the
courtyard of the Holy Temple. There is an intrinsic connection between
the Chanuka lights and the Third Holy Temple. The Third Holy Temple will
be an eternal structure, "the Sanctuary of G-d, established by Your
hands." Similarly, there is an eternal dimension to the Chanuka candles,
as our Sages declared, "The Chanuka lights will never be nullified."

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 698 - Miketz 5762

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