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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 997
                           Copyright (c) 2007
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        November 30, 2007       Vayeshev         20 Kislev, 5768

                        Lessons from the Dreidel

                       by Rabbi Bentzion Milecki

The dreidel has evolved from the humble clay or wood version to the
"hi-tech," multi-media version, replete with lights and musical
accompaniment, that can be now be found on shop shelves and in many

Even today's ultra-modern dreidels still sport those ancient Hebrew
letters: Nun, Gimmel, Hay, Shin.  What's the significance of these
letters, and why do they specifically appear on the dreidel?

The explanation which follows will illustrate how the dreidel tells the
story of both the history of the world and its ultimate purpose.

Kabalistic teachings* explain that a person is comprised of three
elements: Body, Soul and Intellect. In Hebrew these are Guf, Nefesh and

These teachings further explain that the history of the world's empires
can be roughly divided into four: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Each
of these empires attacked the Jewish people in a uniquely different way
- and each time the Jewish people prevailed.

The Babylonian Empire attacked the Jewish body (Guf), massacring as they
destroyed the First Temple and took the Jews as captives to Babylon.

The Persian Empire, known for its promiscuity and licentiousness
attacked the Jewish People in soul (Nefesh).

The Greek Empire, which produced some of the world's greatest
philosophers, attempted to demonstrate (falsely) the incompatibility of
Torah with Science and Intellect (Sechel).

Finally, the Roman Empire utilized all the above three methods - attacks
on the body, the soul and the intellect - in an attempt to discredit and
delegitimize the Torah and Judaism. The Hebrew word for "all" is

These then are what the letters of the dreidel represent:

Gimmel stands for the Jewish body - Guf (Babylon); Nun stands for the
Jewish soul - Nefesh (Persia); Shin stands for the Jewish intellect -
Sechel (Greece);

Hay stands for all the above - HaKol (Rome).

Furthermore, in Hebrew each letter is associated with a numerical value,
known as Gematria.

The Gematria of Gimmel, Nun, Shin, Hay is 358.

This is the same Gematria as "Nachash" - the serpent that seduced Adam
and Eve - at the beginning of time. It is also the same Gematria as
"Moshiach" - the Redeemer of the Jewish People at the end of time.

And so the dreidel represents the history of the world from its
inception until the end of time. History began with the attempt by the
Nachash to seduce Adam and Eve. The serpent then continued its seduction
throughout history - in the guise of the Baby-lonians, Persians, Greeks
and Romans. At the end, however, the Nachash will be vanquished by

It's important to note that Nachash and Moshiach are the same Gematria,
signifying that the victory of Moshiach is not one which precludes the
use of the body, soul and intellect. On the contrary, each of these has
it's place in the service of G-d. We need to serve G-d with a healthy
body. Our emotions and our desires, can be used for the greatest acts of
holiness. And of course, intellect - especially the advances of science,
technology and communication - empower us as individuals and enable the
masses to reach spiritual knowledge that was until now unattainable.

As Moshiach approaches, the tools of the Nachash, body, soul and
intellect - each of which might seem to be in opposition to holiness -
must be trans-formed into tools to better serve G-d.

Chanuka means "rededication." Chanuka is a time to find new ways to use
all the powers that make us human to achieve our ultimate fulfillment as
human beings and bring us closer to G-d and the Redemption of Moshiach.

What a powerful lesson from the humble dreidel!

* Found in the teachings of both the Maharal of Prague and the Bnei

This week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, recounts the birth of Peretz and
Zerach, the twin sons of Judah and Tamar. The Torah relates that when
Zerach "put out his hand first," the midwife tied a red thread around it
as a sign, saying, "This one came out first." But Zerach drew back his
hand; Peretz "broke forth" and was the first to be born.

The Torah's stories are not merely historical accounts of our
progenitors. Rather, by virtue of their inclusion, they allude to events
occurring later in Jewish history and reveal teachings pertinent to us
in every day and age.

Our Sages teach that, by right, Zerach should have been the firstborn of
the two brothers. His birthright was forfeited, however, because of a
grave sin one of his descendants would commit generations later, during
the time of Joshua. The sin was so great, affecting all Jews, that the
twins' birth order was switched, and Peretz was born first.

The twins' names hint to an even deeper significance. The name "Zerach"
comes from the Hebrew for "shining forth," like the light of the sun
which illuminates the entire world. "Peretz," literally "breaking
forth," was the progenitor of King David, from whom Moshiach will
descend. On a more profound level, "Zerach" and "Peretz" stand for the
two types of service of G-d - the service of tzadikim (righteous), and
the service of baalei teshuva (penitents).

Each type of service has an advantage not present in the other. The
tzadik's worship of G-d - "Zerach" - is steady and dependable. Each day,
the tzadik methodically ascends the spiritual ladder, attaining higher
levels of holiness. The service of "Zerach," however, is that of those
whose yearning toward G-d occurs only after an initial distancing. At
such times, the baal teshuva's thirst for holiness is even greater than
the tzadik's, and his service is even more impassioned. The service of
the baal teshuva contains the power to "break forth" and overcome the
harshest of limitations.

G-d desires every Jew to serve Him in righteousness; accordingly,
Zerach's hand was extended first. But because the world was created in
such a way as to accommodate sin, it was necessary for Peretz to be born
first, indicating the value of returning to G-d after one has distanced

Furthermore, the Final Redemption is dependent on the service of the
baal teshuva, which is why Moshiach is a descendent of Peretz. The long
Exile served to expiate the sins which led to the destruction of the
Holy Temple, thus placing the Jews in the category of baalei teshuva.
Indeed, Maimonides states that when the Jewish nation sincerely returns
to G-d, "immediately they will be redeemed."

              Adapted from Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol. 30.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                           The Frozen Flames
                          by Aliza Silberstein

It is a frigid day. The bitter cold is about average for winter in
Vladivostok, Russia, but that doesn't make it any easier to bear. The
temperature is far below zero, hovering somewhere in the negative teens,
and coupled with biting winds. Yet inside, (along with a strong furnace)
the holiday cheer and spirit warm the hall.

Over 150 Jews are gathered together, on this third night of Chanuka,
celebrating the triumph of light over darkness more than 2,000 years
ago. Young and old, simple folk and public dignitaries, are united under
the title "Jew." It is a heartwarming program, full of Jewish songs,
food and pride. The celebration is being held in a place where Jews,
until very recently, were afraid to advertise their Jewish identity.

Tonight, for the first time in Vladivostok's history, a giant menora
will be lit in the center of the city. Light will once again triumph
over darkness.

Night has fallen, and with it, the temperature. It has dropped to 25
below zero, the face-numbing winds biting through to one's very bones.

The menora stands, majestic, against the backdrop of the sea, and the
crowd waits expectantly for light to spread over the city.

The valves of the propane gas tanks that are to serve as the Chanuka
lights are opened . . . but the gas refuses to light. The gas has frozen
in the tanks!

With no other choice, a human menora is formed, each man holding a
propane tank. The rabbi acts as the shamash - the light from which all
of the other lights will be lit - and three brave community members
become the holders for the three Chanukah lights. Held in semi-frozen
hands, close against their chests, the gas "melts."

The shamash is lit, and then the fierce winds extinguish it. But,
darkness will not prevail. The shamash is relit, and then the first
Chanuka light. Again, the flames flicker and choke in the wind.

Vladivostok's chief rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Silberstein, tries a third
time, hugging the propane gas tank even closer, shielding the delicate
flame from the swirling winds. The three Chanuka lights are finally lit,
and the human menora, protecting the Chanuka flames from the frigid cold
and wind, stands resilient. As they cradle the flames from the winds,
the lights magically stay lit. A Chanuka miracle.

And when the light does falter, another flame is quick to relight it.

The rabbi speaks, lips half numb from cold, about how we too, are
flames. Each of us, as a flame, has the power to warm up even the most
frozen heart, the coldest soul. And when one's friend falters, it is up
to each one of us to rekindle the flickering spark.

The entire community that is gathered there that evening stand proudly
watching their human menora, the living symbol of endurance, until the
gas finally runs out.

The crowd heads home, hands freezing, faces numb, but hearts warmed by
the eternal Jewish flame. It is true, a bit of light prevails over the
greatest darkness. And three small Chanuka lights have the power to warm
even the bitterest Russian night.

What is Vladivostok's Jewish history?

The year was 1860. Vladivostok, a far eastern city on the Russian port,
was founded.

1902. Jews made the long journey across Russia and settled in this cold
port city. A mikva (ritualarium) was built. A Jewish school opened,
where community members could now educate their children. A synagogue
was erected.

Years passed. Jewish life all over Russia began to precariously flicker.

1932. The hold of Communism spread over Russia, reaching even this far
eastern city. The mikva was shut down; the rabbi fled for his life; the
school was boarded up. Finally, in this war against religion, the
synagogue was claimed and converted into a chocolate factory. All
identifying Jewish symbols were destroyed. All outward traces of the
Jewish life in Vladivostok were stamped out.

2004. The synagogue, 72 years after it was confiscated, was returned to
the Jewish community. It is easy enough to designate a building for a
specific purpose. But to actually turn a building into something more,
in this case, into a vibrant synagogue filled with Jews once again
proudly celebrating their identity, is far more difficult.

The community began to join together, again observing their Judaism
openly. At first, it was just the elderly, though they barely remember
Jewish life as it is meant to be. Intermarriage is hovering at just
above 99%. Slowly, slowly, youth began coming, as if being pulled in by
the magnetism of the synagogue and all it represents. Individuals
started to become closer to G-d and to follow His commandments.

Externally too, the Jewish soul began to be revealed.

2007. Part of the design of the original synagogue building was the
Tablets of the Ten Commandments - a symbol of the Jews' eternal covenant
with G-d. The Tablets had been etched into the exterior facade. The
governments had tried to eradicate, or at least hide, this important
symbol; but they had only been successful at hiding the actual letters.

Recently, while doing repair work on the building, drilling was done
near the tablets. The heavy layer of cement crumbled. The Hebrew letters
of the Ten Commandments that had been hidden away for over seven decades
were being uncovered.

The cement was scraped away. And then the first two words of each of the
commandments were able to proudly proclaim their message.

May we all be blessed with a year of flames that stay lit and of dirt
that is scraped away, allowing the soul to express itself, reaching ever

    Aliza Silberstein and her husband, Rabbi Yisrael Silberstein, are
    the Lubavitcher Rebbe's emissaries in Vladivostok, Russia.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                             See You There!

Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka
Menora at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. in NYC. Tuesday, Dec. 5 - thursday,
Dec. 7 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8, 3:40 p.m. Saturday night, Dec. 9, 8:30
p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10 - Tuesday, Dec. 12, 5:30 p.m. On Sunday there will
be live music, free hot latkes and chocolate 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
                      24th of Kislev, 5735 [1974]

Blessing and Greeting:

I was pleased to receive the good news that you began lighting a candle
for Shabbos. No doubt you will do the same also for Yom Tov.

Although, as you mention, you have not yet reached the age of
Bas-Mitzvah, you surely know that the Mitzvah of Chinuch - training in
the practice of Mitzvos [commandments] - begins quite early in Jewish
life. It not only prepares for Bar-Mitzvah and Bas-Mitzvah, but lays the
foundation for the entire life. This is what the Wisest of All Men, King
Solomon, meant, when he said, "Train (chanoch) the youngster in his
right way, so that he will not depart from it also when he grows old."
(Proverbs 22:6) Needless to say, though the verse speaks of a boy
(na'ar), girls are included, as in many similar verses in the Torah.

A Mitzvah should, of course, be fulfilled for its own sake, because G-d
commanded it, and without thought for reward. Nevertheless, each Mitzvah
contains many lessons and carries with it G-d's blessings in many ways.
This is especially true in the case of the Mitzvah of Ner-Shabbos
[Shabbat candles], as explained by our Sages (in the Gemorah Shabbos
23b, and elsewhere), that it is connected with the verse, "Ner-Mitzvah
vTorah-Or," meaning that lighting the Shabbos candles brings the light
of Torah - the whole Torah! - into the home.

A further point about Ner-Shabbos  has to do with the "practical" reason
of lighting up the house so that no one would stumble in darkness and
get hurt, G-d forbid. But in a deeper sense, the Shabbos candles light
up the house and every member of the family with the light of Torah, to
walk safely through the path of life which is full of dangerous

In addition, lighting a candle in honor of Shabbos and Yom Tov [holiday]
betokens the lighting up of one's Mazal, to be blessed by G-d also in
all material needs.

May G-d grant that all the great spiritual and material blessings that
go with Ner-Shabbos be fulfilled in you and shared by all in your home.

It is especially gratifying to receive the good news, and to acknowledge
it, in these days close to Chanukah. For Chanukah further emphasizes the
significance of candle-lighting in Jewish life. One of the important
details of the Chanukah lights is that they should be seen also outside,
so that those who are still "outside" should also be inspired by the
lesson of Chanukah.

Another important detail about the Chanukah lights is that, although the
Mitzvah of the Ner-Chanukah [Chanukah candles] is fulfilled to
perfection by lighting one candle the first night, we are called upon to
light two candles the second night, three the following night, and so
on, adding one more candle each night. This teaches us that however
satisfactory our religious observance is today, we must do better
tomorrow, and better still the day after, for there is no limit to
goodness and holiness.

In light of the above, I trust that you will not only go from strength
to strength in all matters of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in your personal
life and daily conduct, but will also be a shining example to other
girls, especially those who are not as privileged as you, and know
little or nothing about the Mitzvos. A good way of helping those
underprivileged girls is by starting them on candle-lighting in honor of
Shabbos and Yom Tov, and gradually kindling many other "Ner-Mitzvos."
For such is the beauty of light, that a little flame of a candle can
ignite many candles, and the light can be shared by all who are within

Wishing you a bright Chanukah.

With blessing,

            Why the custom of giving "Chanuka gelt" (money)?

The word "Chanuka" has two meanings. It means "dedication," for on the
25th of Jewish month of Kislev the Holy Temple was rededicated, and it
also means "education." Concerning the second meaning, it was customary
to test children on their Torah knowledge during Chanuka and give them
gelt, or money, as a reward.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This past Thursday we celebrated the auspicious day of the 19th of
Kislev, the Festival of Redemption of the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi
Shneur Zalman of Liadi. the 19th of Kislev is known amongst
Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidim as the "Rosh Hashana" of Chasidism.

Imprisoned by the Russian government on false charges of
anti-governmental activities, Rabbi Shneur Zalman spent 52 days in the
Petersburg Prison. The number of days providentially corresponds to the
number of chapters in Rabbi Shneur Zalman's holy book upon which all
Chabad Chasidic philosophy is based, Tanya.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman saw his release from prison and vindication not
simply as a personal liberation, but as vindication and redemption for
the entire Chasidic movement and its teachings, of which he was one of
the main proponents. For the fledgling Chasidic movement, established
only a few decades earlier by the Baal Shem Tov, was heavily denounced
and attacked by many Jewish scholars and leaders of those times.

In a letter sent by Rabbi Shneur Zalman to his colleague Rabbi Levi
Yitzchak of Berditchev, he writes: "G-d wrought wonders and performed
great miracles within the world...sanctifying His name in public, in
particular before the officers of the Czar. They were also amazed by the
circumstances and recognized that, "This is from G-d; it is wondrous in
our eyes."

In a private audience with Chasidim who had come to celebrate the 19th
of Kislev together with him, the Lubavitcher Rebbe stated, "In the
spiritual realms, the Holy Temple is already in its place. And in the
very near future, it will descend to the material world in the ultimate
Redemption, led by Moshiach....All the appointed times for Moshiach's
coming have already passed, and all the service necessary has been
completed. All that is necessary to do is open our eyes and we can see
that the Redemption is already here."

May we join the redemption of the 19th of Kislev with the redemption of
the upcoming Chanuka holiday together with the ultimate Redemption and
greet Moshiach NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
And Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the
son of his old age (Gen. 37:3)

Why is this cited as a reason for the special bond which existed between
Israel and his son Joseph? Did he not have other children who were born
when he was already an old man? Issachar and Zebulon were the same age
as Joseph, and Benjamin would be born even later. The phrase "son of his
old age" is therefore interpreted to apply to Joseph himself; his
actions were those of an old and wise individual who had already
acquired a lifetime of wisdom.

                                                   (Toldot Avraham)

                                *  *  *

We were binding sheaves in the field...and behold, your sheaves placed
themselves around, and bowed down to my sheaf (Gen. 37:7)

This world, in which physical objects appear to be distinct and separate
entities from G-dliness, is likened to a field. To make a sheaf, the
stalks of wheat must first be uprooted and then bound together.
Similarly, the task of the Jew is to take physical objects, "uproot"
them from their corporeality, and utilize them in the service of G-d so
that they become vessels for holiness.

                                                   (Likutei Sichot)

                                *  *  *

And on the vine were three branches (Gen. 40:10)

According to our Sages, the Jews are likened to the vine, the fruit of
which  - wine - "gladdens G-d and man." For within every Jew exists this
attribute of "wine" - the innate ability to delight in G-dliness, an
inheritance from our forefathers. This love for G-d is hidden deep
inside, much like the wine is hidden in the grape and not outwardly
discernable. Likewise, just as squeezing the grape releases the treasure
within, so does personal refinement and self-nullification reveal this
inner love and bring it to its potential.

                                            (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
The followers of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch, awaited his
entrance into the synagogue for the lighting of the Chanuka menora on
the first night of Chanuka. For the past few years, Reb Zushe, one of
the Maggid's greatest disciples, had been honored with lighting the
shamash candle. Reb Zushe would then hand it to the Maggid who lit his
menora from it. But Reb Zushe was nowhere to be seen and the chasidim
wondered if his absence was the reason the Maggid had not yet lit the

Minutes, then hours ticked by, as the chasidim waited for their Rebbe to
emerge. Finally, at about midnight, the Maggid emerged from his room and
walked towards the menora. As if to himself, the Maggid said quietly,
"Reb Zushe will not be with us tonight. We will light the menora now."

The Maggid honored another of his chasidim with the privilege of
kindling the shamash for him, the blessings were chanted and the one,
solitary wick was lit. Then all of the holy assemblage joined together
in singing the traditional Chanuka hymns.

The next morning, just as the Maggid and his chasidim were finishing the
services, Reb Zushe walked in. Weary from traveling, Reb Zushe shuffled
over to his customary place and dropped down on the bench. His friends
came over and gave him a hearty welcome. One of them reported, "The
Rebbe waited a long time for you last night. What happened?"

"After we light the Chanuka menora tonight," promised Reb Zushe, "and
with the Rebbe's permission, I will tell you what happened."

All of the chasidim gathered around the Maggid's menora on the second
night of Chanuka. After the Maggid lit the menora they eagerly listened
to Reb Zushe's story:

"As you all know, immediately after the High Holidays, it is my custom
to travel throughout the small villages and hamlets near Mezritch. I go
from town to town, speaking with the adults and teaching the children
about the wonders of our heritage. I also speak to them about how G-d
loves each and every single Jew and that they are all important to Him.
I tell them about our Rebbe and explain some of the Rebbe's teachings.

"Each year, I plan my schedule so that I can return to Mezritch in time
for Chanuka. Yesterday, I was on my way back to Mezritch when a terrible
snowstorm started. I pushed on through the storm, though many times I
felt I could not continue. Knowing that I would soon be back in Mezritch
near the Rebbe was what kept me going.

"The storm worsened and I soon realized that I would have to stop and
rest a bit before continuing, if I wanted to make it to Mezritch at all.
And so, I stopped at the home of Yankel in a village not too far from
Mezritch. By this time it was already quite late in the afternoon. I
pounded and pounded on the door until finally, someone called out, 'Who
is it?'

"'It is I, Reb Zushe,' I said loudly.

"Yankel's wife opened the door. She looked absolutely terrified as she
bid me inside. I noticed that the children, too, looked frightened.

"The poor woman burst out, 'Yankel left the house early this morning to
gather firewood. He promised he would come back early, for even then he
saw we were in for a terrible storm. It is late already and still he has
not returned,' she wailed.

"For a split second I hesitated. If I went into the forest now, who knew
if I would come out alive? But I knew I had no choice. I put on my coat
and scarf once again and set out toward the forest.

"I passed a few rows of trees when I saw the upright form of a man
covered with snow. Only his face was visible in that white blur. I saw
right away that it was Yankel, and I thought for sure that he had frozen
to death. But when I came very close, I noticed to my surprise, that he
was still breathing. I brushed Yankel off and tried to warm him up.

"Somehow I managed to drag and carry Yankel back to his house where his
wife and children greeted us with cries of joy. With my last ounce of
strength I deposited Yankel on the bench near the stove and fell to the
floor myself. Miraculously, Yankel's wife was able to "thaw" him out.
She brought us a bottle of strong mashke which we drank eagerly to warm
our insides. At about midnight we felt sufficiently strong enough to
stand up and light the Chanuka menora. As we said the prayer, 'who made
miracles for our ancestors, in those days at this time," we knew without
a doubt that G-d had made a miracle for us now, too.

"As soon as the sun rose in the morning I set out for Mezritch and
arrived when you saw me this morning."

Reb Zushe finished his story. The Maggid looked deeply into Reb Zushe's
face. "Know, Zushe, that in Heaven they waited - as it were - to light
the Divine Chanuka menora until you lit the menora together with Yankel.
In the merit of your saving a Jewish soul from death, the Heavens
awaited you."

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
Judah and Tamar had two sons, Peretz and Zerach. Peretz is the direct
ancestor of King David and Moshiach. The Midrash notes that "Before the
first enslaver of Israel (Pharaoh) was born, the ultimate redeemer of
Israel (Moshiach's ancestor Peretz) was already born." G-d thus brought
about the cure before the affliction. This "light of Moshiach" that was
created with the birth of Peretz confers upon Israel the strength and
ability to succeed in their exiles, to "break through" (the meaning of
the name "Peretz") all the obstacles that try to impede their service of
G-d until Moshiach is revealed.

           (The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev, 5751)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 997 - Vayeshev 5768

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