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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 950
                           Copyright (c) 2006
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        December 22, 2006        Miketz            1 Tevet, 5767

                          The Chanuka Heroine

Of the many laws pertaining to lighting the Menora during Chanuka, one
rule tends to stick out more than others. It is the law that during the
entire time that the candles are burning, Jewish women may not do any
chores, household or otherwise.

The little-known story behind this law is an essential part of the
greater story of Chanuka. It underlines the bravery of one woman, whose
heroic acts should be a model for us, as well.

During the Syrian Greeks' siege on the Land of Israel, a Greek general
by the name of Holofernes demanded that before any Jewish woman marries,
she must spend one night with him. One can imagine the distraught
atmosphere this caused among the Jews, and the reluctance of many Jewish
women to enter the covenant of marriage.

One woman, the beautiful Yehudit, daughter of Yochanan the High Priest,
realizing that the continuity of the Jewish nation was in jeopardy,
decided to put an end to this horrible decree. On the evening preceding
her own wedding, she packed a bag with cheese and strong wine, and
approached the general's campsite. She was escorted to the general's
tent and told him that she has a gift for him. She produced the cheese
and he began to devour it. After satisfying himself with the cheese, he
became extremely thirsty. Yehudit then gave him the wine to quench his
thirst. All it took was a few gulps of the strong wine and Holofernes
fell into a deep stupor.

In the silence of the night, Yehudit beheaded the general with his own
sword, and placed his head in her bag. She quickly left the Greek
campsite and went directly to the Jewish army's camp. She excitedly
recounted what had just happened, and suggested that now was the time
for the Jews to attack the enemy preemptively.

When they saw what her bag contained, it boosted their morale and gave
them the strength to continue battling the Greeks. The army immediately
regrouped and attacked the camp that Yehudit had just come from. As the
Greek soldiers saw that they were being attacked they ran to their
general's tent to get instruction on warding off the attack, only to
find his headless body lying on the bed. The Greeks scattered at the
site of their fallen general, thus giving the Jews an easy victory. This
victory, and the Jews' triumph in many other battles, eventually led to
the Jews regaining control of their land.

The heroic bravery that Yehudit showed is something that we can all
learn from. She did not worry for her own safety and well-being. Instead
she took the initiative and saved the Jewish people from a lurking
danger. Her courage, and that of many brave Jewish men and women
throughout our history, is evidence of our ability to persevere and
survive, even in the hardest of times.

With the faith that G-d is on our side, regardless of who the enemy may
be, we will always be victorious.

        By Rabbi Eliezer Zalmanov. To comment on this article visit

When famine threatened, the nations of the ancient world converged on
Egypt, center of the civilized world, to purchase grain. Thanks to the
resourcefulness of Joseph, the storehouses were filled with corn in
abundance. But the sons of Jacob, still in possession of some food, were
in no hurry to leave Canaan. "Why do you look at one another?" asks
Jacob in this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, upon noting their
reluctance to go to Egypt. "Why do you go about as if satiated before
the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Esau?" elucidates Rashi, the great
Torah commentator.

Jacob's words seem odd. The descendants of Ishmael and Esau lived
nowhere near the area inhabited by the fledgling Jewish nation. Why did
Jacob worry about arousing their jealousy, and not the jealousy of the
Canaanites, in whose close proximity he and his family lived?

Odd, too, is the reluctance of Jacob's sons to go to Egypt. Why would
they wait until the last grain was gone before making provisions for the

Jacob's sons were motivated by their absolute faith in G-d. They were
sure that G-d would provide for them, either naturally or
supernaturally, without their having to journey to Egypt. Jacob worried
that his sons' unequivocal trust in G-d might arouse jealousy in the
eyes of others. Jacob did not concern himself with the possible envy of
his neighbors; indeed, the amount of food his sons still possessed was
negligible and unlikely to arouse jealousy. His fear was spiritual: He
worried lest the children of Ishmael and the children of Esau, both
descendants of Abraham and Isaac, demand that Jacob's sons be forced to
wander like their forefathers when faced with similar circumstances.
Jacob therefore instructed his children to go to Egypt, to prevent this
spiritual accusation from being leveled against the Jewish people.

In a deeper sense food is symbolic of wisdom. Just as food is ingested
and becomes the very flesh of the individual, so too is knowledge
internalized and united with the person's mind. Egypt, the ancient
world's source of physical sustenance, was its source of spiritual
nourishment as well. The reluctance of Jacob's sons to partake of
Egypt's food was indicative of their recognition that Jews have no need
to consult the wisdom of the nations, for the Torah contains all wisdom.

In fact, although many sections of the Talmud discuss secular sciences -
most notably in the spheres of astronomy, medicine, and the like - this
is only a result of the darkness of the exile. In the Messianic Era
there will be no further need for these, as the world will be "filled
with G-dly knowledge as the waters of the sea cover the ocean bed."

               Adapted from Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 30

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                         Chanuka Miracles Today
                       by Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz

Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm is an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the
chief rabbi of Zhitomir, a member community of the Federation of Jewish
Communities of the CIS (FJC). Eight years ago, during the festival of
Chanuka, in the midst of the frigid Ukrainian winter, Rabbi Wilhelm left
his comfortable office in the Jewish Community Center of Zhitomir to
travel to the outlying towns and villages. The rabbi was searching for
Jews who could use a helping hand, a warm smile, a Chanuka menora, a
winter coat, or provisions from the local FJC food pantry.

In each town he came to, no matter how small or remote, the rabbi asked
passersby if they knew of any Jews living there. In one little village,
Rabbi Wilhelm asked one, two, three people. Each one assured him that
there were no Jewish residents. And then the rabbi asked one more
person. "Yes," recalled the villager, "there is an elderly Jewish woman
who lives on the outskirts of the village."

Rabbi Wilhelm found the little house and knocked on the door. "I saw a
range of emotions flash across the young woman's face when she opened
the door," recalls the rabbi. "She invited me in and eagerly introduced
me to her grandmother, Betya, who lay pale and weak under quilts on the
sofa. I did not understand at the time why she was so excited by my

The young woman, Alya, also introduced her brother and her daughter to
Rabbi Wilhelm. They had traveled all the way from Siberia to be with
their ailing grandmother in her last days. The rabbi spoke with them
about the festival of Chanuka and its significance. He approached the
grandmother and, though weak and unable to respond, saw that she was
very moved when he spoke to her in Yiddish.

"I inquired about whether they had enough blankets and food and then
asked for the phone number so I could be in touch to find out how the
grandmother was faring. I called the next morning and they told me that
minutes after I left the house, their grandmother had peacefully
returned her soul to her Creator. I helped the family make proper burial
arrangements and encouraged them to be in touch with their local FJC
representatives when they returned home."

But Rabbi Wilhelm's story doesn't end here. Last year, at a woman's
Chanuka event in Zhitomir, Mrs. Esther Wilhelm asked women to share a
special moment or memory that they had of the Festival of Lights. One
woman stood up and related the following:

"A number of years ago, my brother, daughter and I were visiting my
elderly grandmother who lived in an isolated village near Zhitomir. My
grandmother felt that her last moments were drawing close and called us
over. In a weak but determined voice, she said, 'I am going to tell you
a secret that I have guarded for the past 70 years. I am a Jew! All
these years I have not lived as a Jew, but I want to have a Jewish
burial!' My brother and I were utterly shocked and confused. Of course,
we agreed to her final request, though we had no idea what it entailed.
But what did this mean? Our grandmother a Jew? Were we Jews? And then,
before we even had time to contemplate these questions, there was a
knock on the door. It was Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm! The rabbi thought he had
come to share the joy of the holiday or offer material assistance to an
elderly Jewish woman. But he had really come to enable our grandmother
to spend her last moments in a Jewish atmosphere and to start us on our
journey back to our Jewish identities.

"Since that time, we have found the answers to those questions and many
others. Much of what I know I have learned from my daughter Irina, who
since we moved to Zhitomir, is a student in the Ohr Avner Chabad school
here," concluded Alya.

Let me share with you one more Chanuka miracle:

Yelena in Dzerzhinsk, Russia, has a young daughter, Yana, who was
suffering from a very painful skin disease. The day that she saw the
FJC's Chanuka menora lighting in the city center was the day her Russian
Orthodox mother-in-law had insisted that if the child would be baptized
she would be cured. Yelena knew only two things about Judaism: that she
and her daughter were Jews and that Jews don't get baptized.

Rabbi Pinchas Kliamish, the Rebbe's emissary in Dzerzhinsk and the
city's chief rabbi, noticed how intensely Yelena was gazing at the
Chanuka Menora in the city's central square. He asked if she would like
to join the celebration. Distractedly she explained that she had a very
serious problem and would like to speak with him the next day. At their
meeting the extent of her daughter's suffering from the skin ailment
tumbled out. The rabbi listened carefully to all of the details, asked
pertinent questions, and then on the spot contacted specialists in
Moscow at the FJC medical center. He arranged for the immediate shipment
of the expensive creams and medications that the child needed. A

Yelena's gratitude knew no bounds. But now she had another serious
problem that she hoped the rabbi could solve. She realized that all she
knew about being a Jew was that Jews don't baptize. "I want to know what
it means to be a Jew," Yelena told the rabbi, "and I want my daughter to
know, as well." This conversation was the catalyst for opening a
kindergarten under the auspices of the FJC in Dzerzhinsk and Yelena's
daughter Yana was the first child enrolled!

    Rabbi Berkowitz is the executive director of the Federation of
    Jewish Communities of the CIS. The FJC is the largest Jewish
    organization in the former Soviet Union, providing social, cultural
    and educational support to 454 member communities throughout 15

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                            THE REBBE WRITES
            From a letter dated "Chanukah eve, 5743" (1982)
                        continued from last week

... the Chanukah Lights remind us that every Jew, man and woman (both
are duty-bound to fulfill this Mitzvah [commandment]), has a G-d-given
task to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvot in their personal
life, in their home and family and in the community at large; and to do
all this in a consistently growing measure.

If this task may seem too difficult, the three benedictions recited over
the Chanukah Lights should dispel all doubts:

The first is an expression of gratitude to G-d "who has sanctified us
with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah Light." It
also reminds us that since G-d has commanded every Jew to fulfill His
Mitzvot it is certain that He has provided every Jew with all the
capacities necessary to carry out His command. Obviously G-d would not
give one a task which He knows to be beyond the individual's capacity.

But sometimes there may be external, seemingly insurmountable,
hindrances in the way of living Jewishly to the fullest degree. So the
second benediction - "who performed miracles for our forefathers in
those days at this time" - should not let us become disheartened. No Jew
has had greater difficulty to live Jewishly than our forefathers in
those days under the oppression of that mad tyrant Antiochus. But when
Jews - like Mattityahu and his sons and their followers - were
determined to give their lives for Torah and Mitzvot - G-d performed
miracles for them and "delivered the mighty into the hands of the
(physically) weak, the many into the hands of the few," etc. G-d is
"still" capable to perform miracles for Jews if it be necessary.

The third benediction (recited only the first time the Chanukah Light is
kindled) is the familiar "Shehecheyanu - who has granted us life
sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion."  It is a joyous
blessing recited on joyous occasions and it tells us that G-d gives us
the strength to fulfill all His Mitzvot with vitality enthusiasm and

The celebration of Chanukah beginning on the 25th of Kislev commemorates
the rededication of the Beis Hamikdosh (the Holy Temple), the kindling
of the Ner Tomid (the Perpetual Light of the Menorah) and the resumption
of the Divine service in the purified Sanctuary.

This, in summary, is also the central instruction of Chanukah for the
every day life and conduct of every Jew which should be in keeping with
G-d's request. Make for Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell in them (within
every Jew). In other words, G-d requests of every Jew, man and woman, to
build and consecrate an inner "sanctuary" on the Altar of which he and
she offer to G-d of their time energy money and their personal

Doing all this and doing it with joy and enthusiasm is a continuous
process of dedication and re-dedication a real "Chanukah" in its every
day profoundest sense.

May G-d grant that everyone of us be truly inspired by the teachings of
Chanukah and of the Chanukah Lights and translate this inspiration into
actual deeds in our everyday life and conduct.

This will surely hasten the end of the dark night of the Golus (exile)
and bring the bright dawn and day of the true and complete Geulo
(Redemption) through our righteous Moshiach and the fulfillment of the
Divine request and promise to "Raise your voice in song sound the drums
the pleasant harp (Kinnor) and the lute." The Kinnor of the Beis
Hamikdosh in Moshiach's times, the Kinnor with eight strings.

With prayerful wishes for a bright Chanukah and a bright always, and
With blessing,

                Why do we eat potato latkes on Chanuka?

It is customary to eat food fried in oil on Chanuka in remembrance of
one of the Chanuka miracles; only a day's supply of pure oil for the
Temple menora was found, but it lasted for eight until more oil could be
prepared. In Israel, they eat sufganiyot - jelly donuts - on Chanuka.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
When the Greek armies conquered the world, they tried to spread their
lifestyle and philosophy. Wherever they went they built stadiums and
statues of their idols. When they entered the Land of Israel, they tried
to extend their influence and attract a following. However, they didn't
attempt at first to stamp out Torah and mitzvot entirely. On the
contrary, the Greeks appreciated Torah's intellectual wisdom and logic.
They tried to influence the Jews to incorporate Torah and mitzvot into
the Hellenistic way of life. The Greeks were willing to allow the Jews
to study Torah as wisdom, philosophy, or ethics.

The Greeks did not oppose ritual; they had many religious practices of
their own. What aroused their opposition was the concept that Torah and
mitzvot are a direct command from G-d.

Chanuka is not a story of the past. We, too, are confronted with those
who would separate Judaism from G-d. Pride in our heritage, culture,
philosophy and traditions are "o.k." but G-d is ignored entirely. This
attitude is totally contrary to the spirit of Chanuka.

Chanuka teaches us that even when we are in exile, we can maintain our
Jewish observance. It shows that even when we are given the opportunity
for physical indulgence and intellectual sophistication in the
non-Jewish world, we can choose a Torah lifestyle. It shows how the
transcendent bond with G-d which is brought about by mitzvot is more
precious than any material reward.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
Suddenly, seven fat, handsome cows emerged from the Nile... Then, just
as suddenly, seven other cows emerged after them, very badly formed and
emaciated. (Gen. 41:18-19)

Pharoah's dream, in which he dreamt of two opposites, is like the exile.
In exile we are faced with opposites all the time. One minute we pursue
eternal, spiritual goals and the next minute we want things that are
mundane and transitory. When the Redemption comes we will no longer feel
this dichotomy. We will see how the purpose of everything in the world
is purely for holiness and G-dliness.

                                                (Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                                *  *  *

Pharaoh sent and summoned Joseph, and they rushed him from the
dungeon... And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you in charge
over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:14-41)

The Jewish people is presently in the dungeon of a harsh and bitter
exile; for many years we have been bound and fettered by its shackles.
But just as Joseph went directly from confinement to rulership, so, too,
our whole nation will speedily leave the prison of exile and
simultaneously ascend to the status of royalty with the full and Final

                                       (The Rebbe, 28 Kislev, 5750)

                                *  *  *


                          Lighting the Menora

The proper time to light the Chanuka menora is "when the sun goes down,"
when night begins to descend upon the earth. For a Jew is never to fear
darkness, even a spiritual one, as even a little light of Torah and
mitzvot dispels much gloominess.

                                                   (Likutei Sichot)

                                *  *  *

                    The superiority of the "shamash"

The "shamash" candle, the one which is used to light all the others, is
not part of the mitzva itself. Yet it is precisely this candle which is
placed, by Jewish custom, above all the others in a position of honor.
We learn from this that a person who lights the "candle" of another Jew,
who shares his enthusiasm and love of Judaism with another until he,
too, is touched and "ignited," elevates his own spirituality as well.

                                                (Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
A huge group was gathered on the other side of the large table and
looked in the direction of their rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Wienberg, the
Slonimer Rebbe. He stood opposite the wicks in the Chanuka menora,
meditating and contemplating, for an unknown reason not yet ready to
kindle the Chanuka lights.

Hundreds of Chasidim stood in awe and with great respect, watching their
Rebbe as he stood preparing for this mitzva (commandment). They waited
with bated breath for the glorious moment when he would take the wax
candle in his hand and begin reciting the words of the Chanuka

Minutes, which seemed like hours, passed and then the Rebbe began
chanting the blessings. He infused each word with kabbalistic
intentions, and each chasid there was able to hook into the holiness of
the moment according to his own level.

"Help me, deliver me!"

The dreadful cry tore through the hearts of all those gathered there and
awakened each person from his reverie. Everyone looked in the direction
of the voice.

The Rebbe, his face aflame with the holiness of the moment, also turned
his head in the direction of the voice toward the end of the synagogue.
There stood a women with her hands outstretched toward the heavens,
crying with a bitter heart.

It became clear that this woman was not one of the wives of the chasidim
gathered there. In fact, she had no connection to the Rebbe or the
Chasidic lifestyle. "Who was she?" some murmured.

The distraught woman lived with her family in this town. Her husband was
a wealthy and well-respected businessman who had never in his life
entered this Chasidic synagogue. He and his friends were among those who
laughed at the Chasidic lifestyle and customs.

For many years the couple had not been blessed with children. When their
son was finally born they were already much older. Their happiness knew
no bounds. He was always given the best of everything, though he was not
especially spoiled.

On the eve of Chanuka the young boy had fallen ill. The doctors came to
his bedside and cared for him with devotion. But they could not help
him. To everyone's distress, his fever rose from day to day. Tonight,
his situation worsened. The boy lost consciousness and the doctors who
were standing around his bed raised their hands in hopelessness.

The father of the child was pacing around the house in agony and
bitterness. But his mother could not stand seeing her son's suffering
any longer and left the house. Suddenly she began walking quickly.
Toward what or where or whom she knew not. But her feet seemed to have a
mind of their own, and before she knew it she found herself in front of
the Slonimer synagogue just as the Rebbe was preparing to kindle the
Chanuka lights.

"Rebbe, help me," cried the woman in a voice that echoed throughout the
entire synagogue.

"Tell her not to worry," the Rebbe said quietly to someone. "She should
go and return home. She should ask her husband to add to her son's name
the name 'Matitiyahu' (Matithias). And in the merit of that great tzadik
(righteous person) - father of the Macabbees - who gave up his life for
the Jewish people and the Holy One, the sick child's life will be
lengthened. And another thing, when the child is fully recovered, his
father should bring a 'pidyon nefesh' (redemption for the soul) of chai
- life - 18 coins which will be given to charity in the Holy Land."

The following day, at about the time when the Chanuka candles were being
lit, a new face was seen in the Slonimer synagogue. It was the father of
Matitiyahu, who had brought to the Rebbe 18 rubles, a pidyon nefesh for
his son who was fully recovered, to the Rebbe.

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
In Psalms (132:17) King David writes, "I have prepared a candle for my
anointed." This alludes to the fact that Chanuka is a preparation for
the revelation of Moshiach; when we kindle the Chanuka lights we are
treated to a semblance of the great light that we will enjoy in the
Messianic Era.

                   (Ma'ohr Einayim of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl)

                END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 950 - Miketz 5767

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