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It's almost Chanuka, the holiday of miracles, the festival of light.
Can you hear the word being shouted, from deep within. Light! But shouting does not dispel darkness. Only light dispels darkness.
"A little physical light banishes a great deal of darkness," teaches Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism (Tanya, ch. 12)
That must be the answer to banishing the darkness. A little light!
So it's not enough to shout "Light!" when surrounded by darkness. We must do. We must make light. We must be light. How can this be done? "For a mitzva (commandment) is a candle, and Torah study is light." (Proverbs 6:23)
In the mystical teachings of the Zohar it states, "The head of the academy in the palace of Moshiach said, 'Whoever does not transform darkness to light and bitterness to sweetness, may not enter here.' "
This is our job, our mission, our task. To transform darkness to light. Because the mere presence of light forces darkness to retreat.
That a mitzva is a candle, bringing spiritual light into the world and banishing all kinds of evil and darkness, is surely true. In addition, Chasidic teachings explain that the mitzvot connected with actual physical light have the ability to bring more spiritual light into the world than other mitzvot, i.e., banish more evil and darkness.
So on this upcoming Festival of Lights, when we have the opportunity to kindle physical candles in our Chanuka menoras (from the first candle on the evening of December 21 through the eighth candle on the evening of December 28) let's all make sure that we light the menora.
But let's not leave it at that. For, truly, a little light dispels much darkness. So let's all try to make sure that a Jewish neighbor, friend, acquaintance, colleague, relative, who had not planned (or had forgotten, or didn't know how) to light the Chanuka menora does so this year.
Together, we can make this world a much brighter place than any of us could have ever imagined.
In 1956, an Arab terrorist broke into a school in Kfar Chabad, Israel, during the evening prayers. He sprayed the synagogue with bullets, killing five of the students and their teacher. Utterly broken, the Chasidim of Kfar Chabad sent a telegram to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Days later they received the Rebbe's succinct reply. "Through continued building you will be comforted." There and then, the Chasidic decided to build a vocational school where children from disadvantaged backgrounds would be taught the printing trade. On the very spot where the blood was spilled, the building would be raised. Light! Additionally, the Rebbe sent ten new shluchim, emissaries, to Israel, to help bring even more light into the world, to dispel even more darkness.
Surely "through continued building," through increasing Jewish learning and living opportunities in our personal lives, in our own communities and around the world, we will all be comforted.
This week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, speaks of Joseph's two dreams, both of which share the common theme of bowing down and submission.
In the first dream, the brothers' sheaves place themselves around Joseph's sheaf and bow down; in the second, the sun, the moon and eleven stars prostrate themselves before him.
The first dream, in which Joseph and his brothers are "binding sheaves in the field," is symbolic of the physical world, and alludes to a lower level of man's service of G-d. The second dream, involving celestial bodies, symbolizes man's higher faculties and thus a higher level of his service. Both dreams, however, express the same idea: bowing down and self-nullification before Joseph.
In a larger sense, man's entire purpose in this world is to "bind sheaves in the field" - uniting the disparate elements of existence into a unified whole.
Upon its descent into the physical world, the soul must contend with a new plane of existence, in which reality appears dissociated from G-dliness.
Its mission is to utilize its intellectual and emotional powers - and indeed, all it comes in contact with during its sojourn on earth - and reunite them with G-d.
How does the soul accomplish this? From Joseph's dream we learn that to complete our service we need to bind our "sheaves" with that of the Nasi, a tzadik (righteous person) who is the leader of the generation. Just as the limbs of the physical body must be connected to the head and obey its instructions, so too must every Jew connect himself to the Nasi and follow his directives.
Joseph's second dream alludes to an even higher level of spiritual service, that which is reached after having perfected all of the above. For the Jewish soul cannot complete its mission solely through its own powers; every Jew, no matter what his spiritual achievements, must "bow down" to Joseph - to the leader of the generation - in order to bring perfection to the Jewish people as a whole.
Thus we learn from Joseph's dreams two basic principles in our service of G-d: First, it is necessary for the Jew to show personal initiative, "binding" our "sheaves" by the sweat of our brow to unite the physical world with G-dliness. Second, submission to the Nasi of the generation is required by all Jews, even those who have attained the highest levels of service through their own efforts.
In such a manner do we form the "vessel" in which the abundant influence and blessing of the Nasi, the "foundation of the world," can be received by all.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Rebbe, Vol. 3
In this first issue of L'Chaim that goes to print since the massacre in Mumbai, we share with you a glimpse at the response of the indomitable Jewish spirit to news of the unfathomable tragedies, from the day that it was clear that there were no survivors at the Chabad House, through the end of shiva (week-long mourning period).
Shabbat, November 29/Kislev 2
Yaakov and Malky Citrin, of Atlanta, Georgia, name their daughter - who was born on Friday - at services at Congregation Beth Tefila/Chabad of Georgia. The baby's name is Rivka Chaya, in memory of Rivky Holtzberg, Hy"d. May she grow up to Torah, marriage and good deeds, may she be a source of pride to her family and the entire Jewish people.
Chabad-Lubavitch of the Virgin Islands, directed by Rabbi Asher and Henya Federman, is told by one of the congregants that he is pledging an 1,800 sq. ft. property in memory of the Holtzbergs to be used as a Jewish Welcome Center in the heart of downtown S. Thomas. The center will open on Monday, December 1, the last day of shiva. It will will house a shul, internet café, kosher deli, and lounge.
The weekly Torah class for women, organized by Chabad emissary in Afula, Israel, Chedva Segel, is dedicated to the memory of the Holtzbergs. Rivky's parents, Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, who live in Afula, are still in Mumbai, waiting to accompany the bodies of their children to Israel for burial.
Sunday, November 30/Kislev 3
The Chabad House in Marrakesh, Morocco, under the directorship of Rabbi Menachem Mendel and Chani Arad, opens a Sunday school dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg, Hy"d. Ten children attend on this first Sunday and five more sign up to begin the following week.
The website and campaign MitzvotforMumbai.org is born. As of this writing on December 8, there are 8,297 mitzvot (commandments) pledged in memory of the six people murdered at the Chabad House of Mumbai. Check it out and pledge a mitzva, too!
Monday, December 1/Kislev 4
Levi and Rivky Wilhelm, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, name their baby son at his brit Gavriel Noach Chaim, in memory of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, Hy"d. May he grow to Torah, marriage and good deeds, and may he be a source of pride to his family and the entire Jewish people.
Tuesday, December 2/Kislev 5
Two teenage students from the Naaleh Ohr Avner project for young Jews from the former Soviet Union, in Kfar Citrin, Israel, undergo a brit in memory of the victims of the massacre at the Mumbai Chabad House. They have chosen this day as it is the day of the funeral.
Wednesday, December 3/Kislev 6
Chabad-Lubavitch of Ulster County (New York), under the directorship of Rabbi Yitzchok and Leah Hecht, begins a kosher food cooperative to expand the availability of kosher foods locally. The project is in memory of the Holtzbergs, who made kosher food readily available to Jews in Mumbai: Rabbi Holtzberg was a shochet, a ritual slaughterer, and he and Rivky served kosher dinners at the Mumbai Chabad Center on a daily basis, feeding hundreds of people each week.
Thursday, December 4/Kislev 7
A beautiful, state-of-the-art mikva for women that is currently under construction in Kiryat Ata, Israel, but had run into delays, is being dedicated to the Holtzbergs with the assurance by Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Diskind and Rabbi Yitzchak Veisglass that it will be completed in time for the shloshim (30 days from the funeral).
Friday, December 5/Kislev 8
Chabad of France initiates a massive Shabbat candle-lighting campaign with ads on major radio stations that are heard by millions of people. Women are urged to help bring light into the world through Shabbat candles, in memory of the victims of the massacre at Chabad of Mumbai.
Shabbat, December 6/Kislev 9
A Shabbat of Unity in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, brings together thousands of residents throughout the Sabbath for prayer, Torah study, a Shabbat meal, song, and soulful discussion, in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg. The day-long program is organized by Congregation Beis Shmuel of Crown Heights.
Sunday, December 7/Kislev 10
Chabad of Chile has opened a new Chabad House in memory of the Holtzbergs. The Chabad House of Pokon, in Southern Chile, will be under the direction of Rabbi Elimelech and Goldie Perman.
Monday, December 8/Kislev 11
At the end of shiva, a new Torah scroll, dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg, Hy"d, is started in the home of Rivky's parents, Rabbi Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, where the Rosenbergs and Holtzbergs have been sitting shiva.
The Jewish community of Mumbai, India, announces that it will rebuild the city's Nariman House Chabad Center and reopen it in the near future. Reconstruction will begin as soon as police allow it.
See You There
Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. in NYC. Sunday, Dec. 21 - Thursday, Dec. 25 and Sunday, Dec. 28, the menora will be lit at 5:30 p.m. On Friday, Dec. 26, the menora will be lit at 3:45 p.m. and Saturday night, Dec. 27 at 8:30 p.m. On Sunday, Dec. 21 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.
Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5736 
.... I was pleased to be informed of the forthcoming event taking place in the middle of this month of Kislev, which is highlighted by the Festival of Chanukah. This makes the occasion particularly timely and auspicious.
Chanukah commemorates the miraculous victory of our people over the forces of darkness and assimilation that had threatened to extinguish the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments]. It also reminds us that this victory was achieved through the efforts of a few, but totally dedicated Jews, and that the victory was celebrated by kindling lights in the Sanctuary in Jerusalem with pure, undefiled oil, which gave us the meaningful Mitzvah of the Chanukah Lights.
Of the Chanukah Lights our Sages of blessed memory declared: "These lights shall endure and shine forever." Unlike the seven-branched Menorah, the lighting of which had to be discontinued when the Sanctuary was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago, the lighting of the eight-branched Chanukah lamp, which was inaugurated some 200 years prior to the Destruction, continued uninterruptedly ever since, not only in the Holy Land but also in the Diaspora, and not only in the Sanctuary, but in every Jewish home.
What are some of the eternal messages of these eternal lights of Chanukah?
One basic truth is that the destiny of the Jewish people is not determined by material and physical criteria, but by its spiritual strength derived from one G-d-given Torah and Mitzvoth.
The victory of the greatly outnumbered and physically disadvantaged Jews over the many and mighty forces of the enemy clearly demonstrated that it is our spiritual strength that really counts - even in areas where physical superiority is usually decisive.
A further lesson is that Jewish strength begins at home.
A Jewish home is an abode for the Divine Presence, very much as the Beth HaMikdosh [Holy Temple] in Jerusalem was in a collective sense. Both are included in the Divine command, "Make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell within each one of you."
This, too, is reflected in the Chanukah Lights, for they must be lit in every Jewish home.
The time and location of the Chanukah Lights are also significant:
The lights are kindled "when the sun sets" - when "darkness" falls outside it is high time to light up our homes with the sacred Chanuka Lights, symbolizing the eternal light of Torah and Mitzvoth. While the location - to be visible also outside - further indicates that the Torah and Mitzvoth not be confined within the walls of the home, but must shine forth also outside.
Yet another important lesson must be mentioned here, namely, that however satisfactory the observance of Torah and Mitzvoth may be on one day, a Jew is expected to do better the next day, and still better the day after. There is always room for improvement in matters of goodness and holiness, which are infinite, being derived from The Infinite.
This, too, is underscored by the Chanukah Lights. For, although all that is required to fulfill the Mitzvah of candle-lighting on the first night of Chanukah is to light one candle, yet the next night of Chanukah it is required to light two candles, and when another day passes even the higher standard of the previous day is no longer adequate, and an additional light is called for, and so on, to increase the light from day to day.
The above-mentioned practical lessons which are so basic to Chanukah as to the Jewish way in general, are also the basic principles that pervade all Lubavitch activities to spread the light of Torah-Judaism, particularly through Chinuch, Torah-education.
With esteem and blessings for hatzlocho [success] and good tidings,
What can be used for Chanuka lights?
The preferred way to fulfill the commandment of lighting the Chanuka menora is to use pure olive oil and wicks of cotton, for the resulting light is pure and clear; it also commemorates the Menora in the Holy Temple that was lit with olive oil. However, other types of oil and wicks may be used, provided that they give a steady rather than a flickering light. One may use candles made of wax or paraffin, as well.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The mitzva of lighting the Chanuka menora contains special comprehensive instructions for our daily life and conduct.
In this vein, a thought for each night of Chanuka:
- Judaism teaches that the main thing is the deed. Thus, the actual lighting of the Chanuka menora comes immediately after sunset, as soon as the holiday has commenced.
- The Chanuka lights, which are placed at the entrance of the home, outside, remind us that every one of our actions must contribute light to the world.
- The candle contributes physical light, but, in the words of the Chanuka prayer "HaNeirot Halalu" - these lights are holy. Thus, we contribute spiritual light to the world by performing mitzvot.
- The first blessing we say, "Who has sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Chanuka light," should be the guiding principle in our lives - to fulfill G-d's commandments.
- The second blessing, "Who wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days at this season," should also guide us in that if we find it difficult, in the natural order of things, to do a mitzva, we should not feel discouraged, for G-d performed miracles for our ancestors and performs miracles for us.
- A third blessing (said only the first time one lights the menora), "Who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season," encourages us to fulfill the mitzvot with joy and thanksgiving to G-d.
- After the Chanuka menora lighting, the evening service containing the "Al HaNissim" prayer is recited. This prayer emphasizes that although we are "weak" and "few" we are a holy nation; G-d not only performs miracles for us but "miracles, deliverance, mighty acts, salvations, wonders...a great salvation and deliverance."
- "Al HaNissim" further teaches that although we have to do what we can in the natural way, we must also have absolute trust in G-d, for success is from G-d.
May we merit, this very Chanuka, to rededicate the Holy Temple, with Moshiach himself lighting the menora there.
What profit will it be if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? (Gen. 37:26)
The fact that we will be forced to conceal our deed indicates that it is wrong. "Wherever secrecy exists - thievery exists."
(Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk)
Joseph was handsome in form and handsome in appearance (39:6)
"Handsome in form" - scrupulous in the performance of positive mitzvot (commandments). "Handsome in appearance" - equally scrupulous in keeping the prohibitions.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
There has been no harlot here (Gen. 38:21)
No element of impropriety surrounded the birth of Peretz and Zerach; the entire incident was all part of the Divine plan that would lead to the birth of Moshiach, who will be a descendant of Judah. The reason for the circuitous and concealed manner in which this came about was solely to divert the attention of the Satan.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)
And they called his name Peretz... and they called his name Zerach (Gen. 38:29)
Our Sages compare Zerach to the sun and Peretz to the moon. The sun continuously shines in an unchanging manner; thus it symbolizes the stable manner in which tzadikim (the righteous) serve G-d. The moon's appearance keeps changing; it continually waxes and wanes. The moon thus symbolizes ba'alei teshuva (penitents), who "slipped" and strayed and then returned and regained their spiritual stature. The royal house of David, the very source of Moshiach, is precisely from Peretz (the moon), because Moshiach will bring even tzadikim to do teshuva, to return to their Divine source.
(Likutei Sichot Vol. 30)
Everyone knew of the tzadik (righteous person) from Sassov, Rabbi Moshe Leib. Thousands of people constantly streamed to him to ask for blessings and advice on personal and business matters, and he never refused them his precious time.
Once, when Rabbi Moshe Leib was visiting the town of Brod, a wealthy woman came to him to ask him to pray for the recovery of her daughter who was seriously ill. When the woman introduced herself and mentioned her father's name, Rabbi Moshe Leib realized that he knew of her family, who were famous for their generosity to the needy.
As the conversation progressed the wealthy woman described her child's illness, and the tzadik promised to pray for her. As it was customary to give the tzadik a monetary donation to distribute among the poor or for a specific urgent cause, the woman removed an envelope from her purse and placed it on the table, but Rabbi Moshe Leib refused to accept it. "I don't want money from you!" he said.
"But Rabbi, what do you mean? What is it that you want from me? I will do anything in the world to help my daughter!"
"I know that you have a very beautiful and precious Chanuka menora. That is what I want!" Rabbi Moshe Leib said quietly.
"Rabbi, I do have the menora you describe, but it is a family heirloom and my most precious possession. However, if you want it, I will gladly give it to you!"
The Rebbe listened carefully, nodding his head. "I am aware that the menora is very special and precious to your family. If you agree to let me have it, you must mean this most sincerely; you must give it to me with no compunctions or inner doubts whatsoever."
"I understand completely, and I agree wholeheartedly. The menora is yours; I will bring it to you today," the woman said in a strong, firm voice.
That evening, when she came and presented the menora to Rabbi Moshe Leib, his students were buzzing with amazement. How had the Rebbe known about the menora's existence? Why had the Rebbe asked for a gift, something so far out of character? And why in the world did he want it anyway, when it was a known fact that he used only the menora he had received from his teacher and Rebbe, Reb Shmelke of Nicholsburg?
On the first night of Chanuka, as the Rebbe prepared to light the first wick, Reb Yechiel Tzoref the silversmith stood at his side. He had no idea why he had been chosen for this great honor, but he was beaming with happiness. After the light was kindled, the Rebbe beckoned to Reb Yechiel to enter his study. "I want to tell you a story about your grandfather, may he rest in peace, for whom you were named.
"When the time came for your grandfather to arrange a match for his daughter, he was so poor, he couldn't find a suitor. No one would lend him money, since it was obvious he could never return the loan. After exhausting all of his acquaintances he decided to approach a certain very wealthy man. When he asked him to lend him money to arrange a marriage for his daughter, the wealthy man replied, 'I know you will never be able to repay me, but I will make a deal with you. I know that you own a very beautiful menora, the likes of which I have never seen. If you will give it to me, I will give you 10,000 gulden, enough for the marriage and even more!'
"When Reb Yechiel heard the demand, he was shocked. It was his most precious possession. He, himself, had made it from silver coins that his Rebbe, Reb Zushe of Anipoli, had distributed to his Chasidim each year as Chanuka 'gelt.' Reb Yechiel had collected the prized coins year by year. When he had amassed quite a collection, Reb Yechiel melted them down and formed from them a magnificent menora. It was this menora which the rich man wanted. No, thought Reb Yechiel, he couldn't even think of relinquishing it.
"Having refused the rich man's offer, Reb Yechiel went everywhere to try to borrow the money, but in the end he failed. He had no choice but to accept the rich man's terms and part with his beloved menora. When the wealthy man passed away and stood before the Heavenly Court there was great confusion as to how to rule in his case. On the one hand, the rich man had certainly performed the mitzva (commandment) of giving money to help poor brides. But on the other hand, he had coveted the prized possession of a poor man and caused him great pain.
"Finally, the Court reached a decision. The wealthy man's reward would be withheld, since the mitzva was intertwined with the sin of coveting the possession of another.
"That is why I have arranged to return the menora to you, his grandson. The sin has now been atoned for, and the wealthy benefactor of your grandfather will rest in peace, enjoying his eternal reward."
Our kindling the Chanuka lights embodies more than just the commandment itself. Kabalists write that the light emanating from our Chanuka lights is of the stature of the light that was present during the days of creation, which was removed from this world and is stored away, to once again be present for the righteous in the days of Moshiach.
(Chanuka Selections by Tzvi Akiva Fleisher)