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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 799
                           Copyright (c) 2003
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        December 19, 2003       Vayeshev         24 Kislev, 5764


Chanuka! The Festival of Lights. Most of us learned the story of the
Maccabees - how the few overcame the many and the weak vanquished the

Most of us learned the story of the miracle of the oil - the oil that
lasted eight days. After defeating the Hellenists, when the Jews entered
the Temple to rededicate it, they found one small jar of oil, enough to
light the menora for one day. It would take another seven days to obtain
new, pure oil. They lit the menora - and the lamps burned for eight

Most of us learned the story of Hannah and her seven sons.

And the story of Judith who beheaded Holofernes.

Yes, there are many stories associated with Chanuka, many miracles, many

But the lights themselves tell a story. Or rather, they have something
important to say, a lesson which penetrates the darkness, the daily
distractions from holiness. As the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe said, "One
must listen to what the lights relate."

One of the laws of Chanuka is: "The candle of Chanuka should be placed
by the opening (doorway), close to the outside ..."

The candle: What is the concept of a candle? One takes oil and a wick -
physical objects, and a person kindles these physical objects until they
catch fire, producing a flame that is visible to the physical eye. This
tells us what we accomplish through "a mitzva (commandment) is a candle
and Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23). The "mitzva candle" produces a
spiritual flame that will be visible to the physical eye in the times of

Of Chanuka: This alludes to the double concept of dedication and
education - the double meaning of the word chinuch, from which Chanuka
comes. There must be a dedication and initiation of something new in the
celebration and establishment of holiness, just as occurred when the
altar and Temple were dedicated - re-dedicated - in those days at this
time. It also alludes to education and Torah study: the mitzva of the
Chanuka candle teaches those who fulfill the commandment and instructs
all within one's "circle of influence." What is this innovative
teaching, this new order of Divine service? Simply that, just as we
increase the light of Chanuka each night, so too we must continuously
increase our learning, increase the light of Torah we bring into the

Should be placed: The candles are lit where they are placed. And they
are set in place. Let them stand where they are, without moving them or
changing their position. Similarly, one's Divine service - one's order
of learning Torah, one's schedule of mitzvot - should be fixed, the
routine of one's life, installed in one's soul.

By the opening: This fits with the great principle of the Torah, "Love
your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). How should one perform the
above mentioned Divine service? In an open way, a way that is seen, that
enlightens (a true enlightenment - that of Torah and mitzvot), a way
that influences others, those "outside" one's self. Which brings us to

Close to the outside: Chanuka, the menora, its message, Judaism itself
must be placed near, made available to, all those who, for whatever
reason, are "outside" (albeit temporarily) the concepts of Chanuka. This
means, those who are yet - momentarily - "outside" Judaism in general.

And may it be the Will of the Source of life, Who with His Light, His
Torah, instructs us in our daily lives - may He give His blessings to
everyone, in matters internal and spiritual and matters external and
public, in the most exemplary fashion.

And may we receive the ultimate blessing, in a way visible to all, the
complete Redemption through Moshiach, when the Menora in the Temple will
again be lit and send its message - tell its story - to all mankind.

                       Based on the Rebbe's Chanuka letter of 5743.

The main part of this week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, deals with the
jealousy of Jacob's sons towards Joseph which caused them to sell him
into slavery. In the midst of this narration, we read how Tamar, Judah's
daughter-in-law, was informed that he was about to come to the town of
Timna to shear his sheep. In the words of the Torah: "And it was related
to Tamar, saying, `behold, your father-in-law is coming up to Timna to
shear his flocks'."

The Torah does not detail the nature of a person's coming and going if
not absolutely germane to the content of the narrative. Why, then, does
the verse specify the ascent in the story of Tamar?

The great sage, Rashi, in an innovative interpretation of the above
verse, explains that Timna was a town located on the slopes of a
mountain. He states: "You ascend to it from one direction and descend to
it from the other."

The expression of ascent, therefore, is pertinent in the story of Tamar.
Since Timna was on the mountain-slope, and Tamar was planning to go and
meet Judah, she would not know from which direction he was coming unless
the direction was mentioned.

A person's spiritual service is like ascending a mountain. A mountain
climber cannot stop mid-way on the steep slope, for in that position it
is almost impossible to prevent himself from losing his footing and
falling. He must climb steadily upward without pause. Similarly, in
ascending the "mountain of G-d" (Psalms 24:3) a constant upwards
movement is vital, not only for the purpose of going higher, but also to
ensure that one does not fall lower. One should not be satisfied with
his present spiritual level, for such complacency is the beginning of

The upcoming mitzva of the Chanuka lights lends particular emphasis to
this teaching. Every night of Chanuka a new light must be added, for
spiritual affairs must always be in ascendancy. If one failed to add an
additional light on the fourth night of Chanuka (for example), he has
not merely failed to ascend higher on that day - he has slipped down
from the previous day's level. Yesterday he lit three candles, an
increase from the day before; he fulfilled the mitzva with the extra
devotion required; he was on the upswing, in ascendancy. Not so today.
His level has fallen. To observe the mitzva today with the same devotion
as yesterday, he must increase his commitment!

                    Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

                             SLICE OF LIFE

         Yael Yoffe helping her daughter light Shabbat candles
                            by Yehudis Cohen

The 3 meter tall Menora stood proud and magnificent in the center of
Volgograd. Hundreds of Jews had gathered on this frigid, Russian winter
evening to watch Rabbi Zalman Yoffe light the menorah. Much had changed
in Volgograd since Rabbi Yoffe and his wife, Yael, had moved to this
city on the Volga River as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And much
had stayed the same.

The changes included the Ohr Avner Chabad day school with 140 students,
a kindergarten with 40 children, the JCC of Volgograd that sponsors a
soup kitchen, the Chesed club for the elderly, hands-on Jewish
educational workshops for kids, adult education for grown-ups,
gatherings for teens, seminars for college students, hospital and prison
visitations for the lonely or forgotten.

And the hundred-year old synagogue that had been returned to the Jewish
community a year ago. True, it is in dire need of repair and
restoration. But that the City Council of Volgograd (that had been using
it for local government offices) had agree to turn it back over to the
Jewish community surely shows that much has changed.

What has stayed the same? In only one place in the Former Soviet Union
where members of the Communist party still remain in office: Volgograd.

And the fear. Many of the elderly are still afraid to be attend Jewish
functions or appear at public Jewish ceremonies. Many of the middle
generation, having been raised without religion, whose only knowledge of
Judaism was what was told to them amidst whispers or with fear-filled
eyes, simply don't care. But the youth, they are the future. They have
always been the future.

Because of everything that has changed and everything that has not
changed, it should come as no surprise that when Yael Yoffe looked up at
the windows of the building that faced the public Menora, her eyes were
drawn to a window on the third floor that had a kindled menora in it.

The apartment building's residents are primarily pensioners of the
K.G.B. Yael saw two figures in that window, peering out at the
proceedings in the city's center, at the 3 meter tall Chanuka menorah,
at the singing and dancing after the Menora lighting ceremony had been

With her eyes and her heart Yael willed them to come down and join in
the Chanuka festivities. And then, she looked away, and began speaking
with the people who were gathered there, telling them about upcoming
concerts and classes and parties and programs.

A few moments later Yael noticed two new faces in the crowd, an elderly
woman and a young boy. She greeted them with a smile and introduced
herself. "Where do you live?" she asked them.

"Over there," the boy responded, pointing to the K.G.B. pensioners
building, "on the third floor," he added.

In the brief minutes between when Yael had seen the figures in the
window and when she had greeted them in person at the Menorah, a
mini-miracle had taken place. A young, enthusiastic little boy had
convinced his grandmother to - at least momentarily - divest herself of
years of fear and to overcome her apprehension at being seen in a public
place that branded her as a Jew. And the miracle continues, step by tiny

"Throughout this past year, the grandmother has availed herself of our
'Chesed' charity organization which distributes food, clothing and
household items to the needy. And she attended a concert at the center
once," explains Yael.

The grandson, says Yael, attends Shabbat services at the Center

In a city where approximately 5,000 people identify themselves as Jews
(though that numbers continue to grow daily as more and more
mini-miracles occur) the accomplishments of the Yoffes is impressive.

According to Anna Melamed, the Yoffe's contribution to Jewish communal
life is priceless. Says Anna, "During the last four years, Rabbi and
Mrs. Yoffe have succeeded in bringing many people to the center who
would otherwise have never been involved in the Jewish community."

But the Yoffes take no credit for all of the accomplishments that have
taken place in Volgograd. "It is all because of the blessings of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe," says Rabbi Yoffe.

Excitedly, he adds, "We always wondered how it is possible that our
efforts here in Volgograd have been crowned with such success, literally
miracles. We knew that it is because we are emissaries of the Rebbe. But
a month ago we got tangible proof."

Continues Rabbi Yoffe, "A woman came to us and gave us a dollar that the
Rebbe had given to her 15 years earlier. She told us that in 1989 she
had traveled to New York from Russia to visit relatives. Her relatives
took her to the Rebbe on Sunday when the Rebbe distributed dollars to be
given to charity and gave people blessings. The Rebbe gave the woman a
dollar and then gave her another dollar saying, 'This is for the Jewish
community in Volgograd.'

"Remember, this was 1989, right after the fall of Communism. There were
no official Jewish communities, not in Volgograd, not anywhere in the
Former Soviet Union. Almost all Jewish activities were still being done

Last year on Chanuka in the center of Volgograd, the light of the Menora
shone through the windows of hundreds of K.G.B. pensioners and into the
hearts of an elderly, frightened Jewish woman and her young, fearless

This year on Chanuka may the light of the Menora shine into all of our
hearts and make miracles for each one of us.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                         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 Friday, Dec. 19 at 3:38 p.m., Saturday night, Dec. 20 at 8:00
p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 21 - Thursday, Dec. 25 at 5:30 p.m. and Friday, Dec.
26 at 3:38 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.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                      20th of Kislev, 5725 [1964]

Greeting and Blessing:

I received your letter, in which you write about some individuals who
are trying to discourage you from the fulfillment of the Mitzvos
[commandments] with Hiddur [in a beautiful manner].

Surely, with your background, it is unnecessary to emphasize to you that
the reason Jews observe the Mitzvos is because G-d commanded them to do
so and not, G-d forbid, to find the approval of other people.

If some difficulties arise, at one time or another, it is necessary to
look at them as a challenge and a test of one's devotion and adherence
to the Torah and Mitzvos, as the Torah itself forewarns us, "For G-d
tests you, to know if you love G-d your G-d, with all your heart and
with all your soul." It is only a pity for those who choose to act as
the distracting agencies, to make it more difficult for a fellow Jew,
whereas this test and agency could just as well be carried out through
others, while they could, on the con-trary, serve as an encouragement,
instead of a discouragement, for their fellow Jew.

It is surely also unnecessary to remind you that the first of all four
parts of the Shul-chan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] begin with the
imperative, "One should not pay atten-tion to the scoffers," indicating
that this is a basis for the whole of the Shulchan Aruch.

As we are soon to celebrate the days of Chanukah, it is well to remember
that the events of Chanukah emphasize the self-sacrificing devotion of
Jews to the Torah and Mitzvos. What they had to contend with in those
days at this time was not a prohibition to study Torah in general, or to
observe the Mitzvos in general, but to study Torah as G-d's Torah, and
to observe the Mitzvos which are specifically beyond human reason
(Chukim). This is why the text in v'al hanissim [a special prayer added
during Chanukah] says l'hashkichom torosecho ["to make them forget Your
Torah"] etc.

It is when the Jews were absolutely determined to adhere to G-d's Torah
and Mitzvos at all costs, that the miracle of Chanukah took place.
Wishing you an inspiring Chanukah,

With blessing,

                                *  *  *

                       Erev Chanukah, 5731 (1970)

Greeting and Blessing:

Thank you very much for your letter of the 16th of Kislev. I was
particularly gratified to be informed that you have given instructions
to the architect to prepare plans for the new building extension.

This news happily coincides with the special message which I issued at
the farbrengen [Chasidic gathering] of Yud Tes [the 19th of the Jewish
month of] Kislev  to the effect that all those who will begin new
building projects this year will benefit from a special contribution
from our Yud Tes Kislev Fund, as a token personal participation on my
part. No doubt you have already heard about it. As a matter of fact, I
immediately received a telegraphic confirmation from Australia that they
have started a new building project there. The news of your project is
the second. I also received similar good news from Eretz Yisroel [the
Land of Israel].

I am pleased to inform you that for your building program in London, the
sum of $1000.00 has been earmarked, and it will be made available to you
as soon as you will let us know that you have started implementing your
construction plans.

May G-d grant that your involvement and inspiration in the activities of
Lubavitch, particularly in the area of kosher chinuch [Jewish
education], should stand you and all yours, as well as all your
coworkers and participants, in good stead in your personal affairs as
well. May this be in accordance with the teaching and spirit of Chanukah
which we are about to celebrate by kindling the lights in growing
numbers from day to day. So may G-d grant you a growing measure of
hatzlochah [success] in spreading the light of the Torah and mitzvos ,
both within the home and outside. Indeed, as the Gemara meaningfully
expresses it, the time of lighting the Chanukah candles is when the sun
sets indicating that if the sun has set and there is darkness in the
environment at large, the Jews is not frightened, but begins to light a
candle the first day, and two candles the next, and so on. It is surely
unnecessary to elaborate.

May G-d grant that you should have further good news to report on all
above, and in the essential aspect, namely, that you and your wife
should have much true Yiddish nachas [Jewish pleasure] from all your

Wishing you and yours a happy and inspiring Chanukah,

With blessing,

                            RAMBAM THIS WEEK
28 Kislev, 5764 - December 23, 2003

Positive Mitzva 171: Yearly Giving of the Half Shekel

This mitzva is based on the verse (Ex. 30:12) "Then shall they give
every man a ransom for his soul to the L-rd" At the time of the Holy
Temple, sacrifices were brought to atone for the entire nation. These
sacrifices were considered "general," and the animals used were
purchased from a specific account funded by the people. These funds were
collected in the form of a half-Shekel per-person each year. G-d
commanded every Jew to make this yearly payment. By contributing to this
fund, every Jew benefits from the sacrifice presented as a "general"

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Once again this year, the Lubavitch Youth Organization will be lighting
the "World's Largest Menora" on Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Ninth Street near
Central Park in Manhattan. The three-story, 4000-pound steel Menora,
designed by Yaacov Agam, proudly stands thirty-two-feet high.

Thirty-two feet, or 20 cubits, is the maximum height established by our
Sages for a menora. They instituted this maximum height so that people
who pass by would be able to lift their eyes naturally and see the
Chanuka lights.

The Chanuka lights are a reminder to every Jew that G-d performed two
miracles for us over 2,000 years ago in the land of Israel. The first
miracle, the more "famous" of the two, was that the oil for the Temple
menora lasted not one but eight days until new, pure oil could be
procured. The second miracle is, perhaps, just as well known, though not
always recognized as a miracle. It is the miracle of the few over the
many, the success of the small Jewish army against the great Greek
military machine.

When we lift up our eyes, "naturally" to see the lights of the Chanuka
menora, let us remember the obvious miracle which the eight-branched
candlabra symbolizes. And also, let us not forget the less publicized
miracle that G-d wrought for our ancestors, a miracle He performed
because of their zealousness for Him.

May we merit this year to light the Menora in the Third Holy Temple with
Moshiach, NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
They hated him and couldn't speak peaceably with him. (Gen. 37:4)

The main part of every controversy is that the quarrelers don't speak to
each other; neither one wants to listen to the other. If people really
knew how to speak and listen to one another, they would come to realize
that in most cases, there is nothing to fight about.

                                          (Rabbi Yonasan Eibishytz)

                                *  *  *

His master saw that the L-rd was with him, and all that he did the L-rd
made prosperous in his hand. (Gen. 39:3)

G-d's blessings are dependent on the study of Torah and observance of
mitzvot, as it says: "If you will walk in My ways...I will give you rain
in its season." However, we do not always see the connection between the
abundance that we receive from G-d and our actions because we are in
exile. But, concerning Joseph, everyone saw that his righteousness and
good deeds brought down bountiful blessing and success from Above.

                                                (Sefer Hama'amarim)

                                *  *  *

And he refused and said... (Gen. 39:8)

When Potifar's wife attempted to entice Joseph to sin, he first
protested with all his strength. Only after doing this did he try to
explain the reason for his refusal. This is how each of us must react
when we are confronted with the possibility of transgressing. The first
thing to do is to cry out, "No! It is forbidden!" Only afterwards may we
go into the reasons why.

                                                    (The Sfat Emet)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
The good news spread throughout town. Rebbe Mordechai of Chernobyl would
be visiting soon to celebrate the first days of Chanuka! In addition to
the usual excitement that a Chasid feels when he has the chance to see
his Rebbe, there were others things to be excited about, as well.

The Rebbe would honor one of his Chasidim with hosting him for the
evening tea. At this "tea party," which all of the chasidim would
attend, the Rebbe would speak words of Torah that would delight the
souls of his Chasidim.

For another, the Rebbe would bless the host at the end of the evening
with material and spiritual bounty. Lastly, everyone knew that the 18
gold rubles that the Rebbe "charged" for the honor of hosting him would
be distributed to charity. Thus, the host would give charity through the
Rebbe's own holy hand.

Itche the Miser went with all of the other Chasidim to greet the Rebbe
when he arrived in town. Itche's father had been a prominent
businessman. Like his father, Itche was also a Chasid. Unlike his
father, Itche's main focus in life was his business, his luxurious home
and all of its exquisite furnishings. Also unlike his father, Itche
found it hard to part with even a copper for a charitable cause.

So, one can only imagine how Itche felt when the Rebbe arrived, looked
straight at him, and suggested, "Itche, would you like to host me for

Of course, Itche said, "It would be my honor Rebbe." Inwardly, though,
Itche panicked. Tea with the Rebbe and all of his Chasidim! Why, they
would destroy his home! Then an idea came to him; he would stand at his
front door and allow only the Rebbe in. A marvelous plan! Itche was
relieved. It would cost him 18 gold rubles but at least his expensive
carpets and antiques would remain intact.

Itche was sure his idea would work until the Rebbe said, "Itche, could
you please personally transport me from my lodgings to your home?"

Now Itche's mind worked feverishly. If he picked up the Rebbe in his
carriage and they drove quickly to Itche's home, they would arrive long
before the Chasidim who were traveling on foot and he would still have
time to bolt the front door so that no one else could enter. Ahhh, Itche
sighed in relief once more.

Finally it was the first night of Chanuka. Itche lit the Chanuka menora
with his family. He sat by the Chanuka lights for a little while. He
took one last look at his beautiful home and then went to pick up the
Rebbe. When Itche arrived, the Rebbe lit the Menora and recited the
blessings after which the Chasidim all answered "Amen." Then they began
to sing niggunim, wordless soul melodies, as the Rebbe meditated on the
light of the small flame. An air of tranquility permeated the room,
except in Itche's corner.

Finally, the Rebbe motioned to Itche that they would go now. Itche
pressed his coachman to drive as quickly as possible, certain that with
G-d's help he could put a fair distance between his carriage and the

But, halfway through the journey, the Rebbe ordered the carriage to
stop. He turned to Itche and said, "I didn't realize your house was so
far. Such a long journey was not included in my original price. If you
want me to come any further you must pay me another 18 gold rubles."
With the Chasidim nearly catching up, Itche had no choice but to agree.
Eighteen gold rubles was still less than it would cost to replace his
precious carpets and furniture!

Within a few moments, they arrived at Itche's home. The Rebbe stared
intently at the 15 steps that led up to Itche's front door. "I had no
idea that you had so many steps, dear Itche. That was not included in my
original price. If you want me to go inside your home, you must pay me
18 gold rubles for each step!"

Itche nearly fainted. Before he had a chance to respond, the Chasidim -
who had caught up - accompanied the Rebbe up the stairs and inside.

The scene that unfolded before Itche's eyes was just what he had
imagined. He was not able to concentrate on even one holy word that the
Rebbe taught about Chanuka. The evening finally came to an end and Itche
breathed a sigh of relief. As the Rebbe was about to leave, Itche
suddenly remembered to ask the Rebbe to bless his family. Surely this
would make up for everything.

Quickly Itche gathered together his children and grandchildren and
requested, "Rebbe, please bless my family."

"Bless your family?" the Rebbe looked at Itche in surprise. "I have no
blessing for them," he said, and sadly turned away.

Itche felt as if the earth had opened beneath his feet. "Rebbe," Itche
cried out, in a voice filled with desperation. The Rebbe looked at Itche
long and hard. "In order for me to bless your family, you will have to
sign over your entire fortune to me," the Rebbe said seriously.

How could he sign over everything to the Rebbe? He would be penniless!
Itche felt like he was drowning. Moments of eternity passed. But then,
he looked into the Rebbe's eyes and saw within them compassion. With his
last ounce of strength he said, "If that is what I must do, then I will
do it." And then he fainted.

In a haze, Itche heard the Rebbe saying, "Mazel tov, Itche, mazel tov!"
The Rebbe began to bless Itche and his entire family. "May you and your
family know only joy and health and prosperity from now on." For many
moments, blessings flowed from the Rebbe's lips, each one greater than
the previous one.

"Know, Itche, that you have just fought a great battle with your evil
inclination. Until a few moments ago, you did not own your wealth, your
evil inclination owned it! When you agreed to give me all of your
possessions, I was able to wrest your wealth from your evil inclination.
I now return it to you as Chanuka gelt (money). Use it well, dear Itche.
Henceforth, use it well."

Itche thanked the Rebbe and began to take hundreds of gold rubles notes
from his wallet. But the Rebbe declined. "I only accept 18 gold rubles
for tea."

Henceforth, Itche was a changed man and his home was entirely different.
Itche generously shared his "Chanuka gelt" throughout the entire year.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
As the light of Chanuka spreads throughout the world, we become
conscious that the world is G-d's dwelling place, and thereby hasten the
coming of the Redemption, when we will dedicate the Third Holy Temple.
May this take place in the immediate future.

                     (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Chanukah, 5747 - 1987)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 799 - Vayeshev 5764

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