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Just scratch the surface of anything and you find out what it really is. Like furniture, for instance, is it solid wood, or veneer? Are those shoes vinyl or leather? Is the jewelry 14 karat gold or vermeil?
Just scratch the surface of Chanuka and you find out what it really is - Moshiach!
"Oh come on, now," you're thinking. "I know the story of Chanuka pretty well and there's no mention of Moshiach in it. You're just always trying to connect everything with Moshiach."
If that's what you're thinking then you're absolutely...RIGHT! Because, in essence, everything is Moshiach.
Let's take Chanuka as a prime example. First of all, you're right that Moshiach is not explicitly mentioned in the story of Chanuka or any of the Chanuka customs, blessings or traditional prayers.
But, to prove a point, let's recount that story of Chanuka you know so well, in a nutshell.
It's the story of the Jewish people when they live under the domination of the Greeks. The Greeks encourage the Jews to assimilate, enact decrees against the Torah, and desecrate the Holy Temple.
Many Jews are content to accept the Greek lifestyle. But one proud Jew, Matithias, wise and learned, a leader of the people, calls upon his brethren to fight G-d's battle, saying, "Whoever is for G-d, join me!"
Together the small army fights under the holy banner that proclaims "Who is like You among the mighty ones, O G-d?" - a phrase whose Hebrew initial letters form the word "Maccabee."
The Jewish army manages to miraculously conquer their bitter enemy, purifies and rededicates the Temple, relights the menora and renews their commitment to G-d and the Torah, etc., etc., etc. So again, you're wondering, what does Moshiach have to do with the story?
Maimonides tells us that Moshiach will fight "G-d's battles." Sounds pretty much like what Matithias did.
He also explains that the only difference between exile and the times of Moshiach is that we won't be under the yoke of foreign governments: the Maccabees conquered the Greek army and threw off their rulership, at least temporarily.
When Moshiach comes, he will rebuild the Holy Temple; when the Jewish army purified and rededicated the Holy Temple it was as if they rebuilt it, since it was not useable in its desecrated state.
Also, with the complete Redemption, may it come speedily, we will once again fulfill all the various observances of the Holy Temple, like lighting the menora as our ancestors did on Chanuka.
Lastly, our Sages teach us that when Moshiach comes the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d and G-dliness and we will pursue this recognition. That is exactly what the Jews did when they renewed their commitment to G-d and the Torah.
Just scratch the surface of Chanuka, or anything for that matter, and you find out what it really is - Moshiach! Why? Because the ultimate reason for the creation of the entire world was the perfection of the world which will only be realized when Moshiach comes.
Based on a talk by Dr. D.S. Pape.
We read in this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, that when Joseph's brothers began to be plagued by troubles in Egypt, they realized that they were being punished for having sold him. The effect this had was that they started to regret what they had done. "And they said to one another, 'Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us and we would not hear.' Therefore is this distress come upon us."
As soon as Reuven saw that his brothers were repenting of their sin he told them, "Did I not say to you, 'Do not sin against the lad,' and you would not listen?" Reuven reminded his brothers that he had tried to prevent them from selling Yosef. Unfortunately, they had not been deterred.
A question is asked: Why did Reuven add additional pain and suffering to their already troubled state of mind?
Indeed, the natural inclination when one sees a person regretting his transgressions is to console him and offer encouragement, not to add to his burden of guilt by recounting his misdeeds. Why then did Reuven dredge up the events of the past , rather than attempt to comfort his brothers? What kind of exemplary conduct is this for the "firstborn of Israel?"
Reuven deliberately recounted his brothers' sin in order to bring them to genuine teshuva (repentance). Reuven saw that his brothers regretted having sold Yosef only because of their troubles; accordingly, their repentance was not altogether genuine, as it had only been prompted by punishment.
True teshuva is only attained when one recognizes the severity of one's sin and deeply regrets having transgressed, not because one wishes to escape the sin's consequences.
Teshuva that is done because of an external factor is not a true teshuva, for if not for the punishment, the sinner would never have repented in the first place.
Reuven wanted his brothers to regret having sold Yosef not because of their troubles, but because their sin was in fact reprehensible. He therefore recounted the chain of events leading up to their transgression, reminding them that he had counseled them against selling their brother.
Reuven added to his brothers' guilt and remorse for the purpose of bringing them to true repentance. By chastising them instead of offering comfort, he helped his brothers return to G-d with a whole heart.
Adapted by Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot,Volume 30
Finding Light on Chanuka
by Rabbi Ben Tanny
"You wander in the jungles of Borneo, climb the highest mountain in Africa and spend months at a Thai boxing camp in Thailand... how do you keep Shabbat and kosher in all these places?"
I have been traveling since 1997 and never really stopped. My house is my backpack where I have everything I need; clothing, a tooth brush, juggling balls, and a pair of Tefilin.
People would joke and say, "Ben you will see the whole world before you turn 25, then where will you travel with your wife?" My response was, "I am leaving the exciting places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen for my honeymoon."
One of my highlights of traveling is having the opportunity to be chazan/cantor for the many communities I pass through. I have been a chazan since my Bar Mitzva and I thank G-d for giving me the gift of leading people in prayer.
When the situation permits, I look for opportunities to speak to fellow Jews about Torah and the divine, and with non-Jews about the seven Noahide Laws and what really goes on in Israel. I often call myself the "Undercover Rabbi."
Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world by population, with 250 million inhabitants. It is also the largest Muslim country in the world, with over 120 million Muslims. There aren't many Jews still living in Indonesia, perhaps a few dozen, and there is no Torah scroll there. Holders of Israeli passports are barred entry, and the general anti-Israel/anti-Jewish sentiment does not make it to the Jewish person's list of "top ten travel destinations."
I went there anyway - mostly to Bali where the people are Hindu and more accepting of foreign tourists. I rode a motorbike around the island, did some scuba diving, went snorkeling, and visited a couple of monkey temples.
The majority of tourists visiting Indonesia don't get past Bali, but there is more to see. I traveled across the main islands of Java and Sumatra and climbed to the tops of a few active volcanoes. I spent time in local villages.
At one point I was on the east coast of Bali with plans to dive Tullamben, a famous wreck site. I was the only tourist in the resort. On Shabbat afternoon, I sat on the beach talking to G-d. "Please Hashem, I've been in Indonesia for a few weeks now and have not yet met one Jew. Please send me someone to talk to on this fine Shabbat afternoon."
A few minutes passed until I heard voices of a family chattering noisily. I turned around and spotted mommy, daddy, and their three kids, who had just checked into the resort.
I introduced myself to the father and when he responded I recognized his accent.
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"Montreal," he replied.
"Wow, I'm from Montreal too. Maybe our families know each other?" I suggested. "What's your family name?"
The man shrugged. "You probably don't know us. The name is Cohen."
I laughed and wished them "Shabbat Shalom." Mr. Cohen was just as baffled to meet another Jew from Montreal on a beach in Bali. I reminded the Cohens that the following night Chanuka started. Mr. Cohen's wife looked at him, "I told you honey, you were supposed to find out when Chanuka starts!" He told his wife he would buy candles the next day.
I sat back down on the beach and thanked G-d for giving me the opportunity to remind the Cohens about the light of Chanuka. It seems there is always a Jew somewhere out there no matter how where one travels.
I remembered years earlier when I was in Laos for Chanuka. I was walking around the marketplace looking to buy olive oil. I could have used candles but I thought it would be nice to light with olive oil like they did in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, reminiscent of the miracle that took place with the small cruse of oil on that first Chanuka. I spotted a Western guy talking in the Lao language with one of the vendors. I thought, "he speaks the language. Maybe he can help me."
We got to chatting. Daniel was from the United States and had been coming to Laos over the years to buy native musical instruments. He was a bit strange looking to me. He wore his hair in dreadlocks, sported a wild beard, had a few tattoos, some body piercings, and wore strange baggy clothing. Most prominent were his two stretched earlobes over large wooden pegs.
Daniel helped me to a chemist shop where they sold small bottles of olive oil used for skin treatment. The shopkeeper and Daniel were equally mystified when I wanted to buy all the bottles he had. I explained to Daniel about the upcoming Jewish holiday of Chanuka and how I needed the oil to light the Chanuka menora.
"Man, I've not seen a menora in over 20 years," Daniel remarked. "When I was a kid we would light one in the house."
It was Friday. I invited Daniel to join me for menora lighting and Shabbat dinner. On Friday, the menora needs to be lit before Shabbat begins. I waited for Daniel until the last possible moment and then lit without him. The sun had already set when Daniel arrived. I could not have waited for him to light the menora. Daniel did not mind. He sat down next to the menora and watched the burning flames with great intensity. When I offered him to join my Shabbat meal he did not want to leave the lights. For the next three hours he sat staring at the menora, letting his Jewish soul reignite with the flames of Chanuka.
Read more of Rabbi Tanny's travels at travelingrabbi.com
You can still be part of the celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. in NYC. Friday, Dec. 23, menora lighting 3:40 p.m. Saturday night, Dec. 24, menora lighting 8:00 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 25 - Wednesday, Dec. 27, menora lighting 5:30 p.m. On Sunday there will be music, free latkes and chocolate Chanuka gelt. For more info call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000. For local menorah lightings visit chabad.org
Rabbi Rafi and Chaya Andrusier are arriving soon in East S. Diego County, California, to establish Chabad of East County, serving El Cajon, La Mesa and surrounding areas. Rabbi Yisrael and Chaya Mushka Uzan are moving to the west African country of Nigeria to establish a Chabad Center there. Rabbi Yossi and Shayndel Zaklos have moved to Boston, Massachusettes, to establish Chabad of Downtown Boston. Rabbi Avrohom and Rivky Bergstein have moved to Fairlawn, New Jersey, to direct adult education at Anshei Lubavitch.
4 Shevat, 5723 (1963)
I would like to note, in reference to the sketch of the Chanukah menora as it appears, that it is customary for the shamash to be higher than the line of the candles.
A simple explanation of this is related to the prohibition against making use of the Chanukah lights because they are holy; the shamash is therefore placed more prominently.
A deeper Chassidic explanation is that one who sets aglow the "soul of man which is the candle of G-d" attains an extraordinary merit, on an even higher plane than the person whose soul was illuminated.
Chanuka, 5716 
Chanukah recalls the rededication of the Beth Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] which had been defiled by the heathen rulers of the Holy Land and their assimilationist collaborators. The Miracle of Chanukah was brought about by the self-sacrificing resistance begun by the Hasmoneans despite the overwhelming odds against them.
In applying the lessons of Chanukah of old to the present day, insofar as the daily life of the Jewish individual and community is concerned - and this, after all, is the purpose of all of our festivals - several aspects are especially noteworthy.
First, that even so holy a place as the Beth Hamikdosh can be defiled under certain circumstances, though outwardly remaining intact.
Secondly, that in such a case - as the events of Chanukah clearly emphasize - the cleansing and rededication of the Sanctuary can be attained only through Mesirus-Nefesh, that is, a self-sacrificing determination to resist the forces of darkness without entering into any calculations whatsoever as to what the odds are in the struggle. For, since there can be no compromise with an enemy bent on defiling that which is most sacred in Jewish life, the only Jewish answer can be "unconditional resistance," leaving the final outcome to the Divine Will. But where there is such an attitude of Mesirus-Nefesh exists, the outcome cannot really be in doubt, for such is the perennial lesson of Jewish history.
Furthermore, as is always the case in Jewish life, the material welfare is likened to the spiritual. Thus in the case of Chanukah, too, although the persecution started in those days with an effort "to make them forget Thy Torah and transgress the statutes of They Will," it was followed by a policy of robbing the Jews also of their material wealth, and of their children. However, when under the leadership of the handful of Hasmoneans the Jews resisted assimilation with steadfast faith, the Almighty helped them to completely get rid of the enemy, thus saving not only their souls, but also their wealth and their children.
Nowadays, as often before, Jews who want to remain loyal to the heritage of their fathers find themselves outnumbered and endangered by the forces of darkness threatening to engulf the world, and the Jewish world in particular. The Jewish home, Yeshivah and Synagogue are the Sanctuaries of G-d, which are not immune from defilement, G-d forbid; it still requires the same kind of Hasmonean determination to preserve their purity and holiness. But although the odds may seem overwhelming, the reward is more than commensurate, for with G-d's help, the outcome is certain to be miraculous and the victory complete, spiritually as well as materially, as in those days at this season.
23 Kislev, 5716 (1955)
The festival of Chanukah marks the victory of the forces of light - the light of the Torah and Jewish way of life - over the forces of darkness, represented by the Greek heathens and the would-be Greeks, the assimilationists among our own people in those days. It was an unequal battle of the few against the many, but with G-d's help, the forces of light triumphed. The Sanctuary in Jerusalem was rededicated to the holy service of G-d in accordance with our Divine Law, and the perpetual light was rekindled there.
We Jews have always carried the torch of light, the Divine light of the Torah and Mitzvoth [commandments], and, in one way or another, it has been an unequal battle against the forces of darkness throughout the ages, including the present day. Though the Sanctuary in Jerusalem has been temporarily taken from us, the Jewish home represents the real Sanctuary. The kindling of the Chanukah lights and the rededication of the Jewish home which the lights symbolize is the lifeline that not only guarantees the survival of our people, but also assures the strength and happiness of the individual Jewish home.
It is to the perpetuation of this spirit that our work and institutions are dedicated, and it will surely be a source of gratification to you to have a share in it through your generosity,
MATITYAHU means "gift of my G-d." Matityahu was a priest in the Holy Temple and the father of the five Hasmonean brothers, Judah "the Maccabee" the most famous among them. He encouraged the uprising against the Selucid/Greek rulers and the Hellenization of Jewish life. Matityahu is a variant of Matitya, who was a contemporary of the Jewish leaders Ezra and Nechemya (Ezra 10:43, Nechemya 8:4)
MACHLA means "fat." Machla (Num. 36:11) was one of the five daughters of Tzelafchad, and lived while the Jews were in the desert. Since Tzelafchad died without any sons, Machla and her sisters argued that they should receive their father's inheritance in the Land of Israel. When Moses was consulted, he brought the matter before G-d. A command was established in their merit for all time.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
As we approach the final days of the Chanuka festival, let us see what inspiring lessons we can take with us to guide us in these last moments of the darkest exile.
In the days of Matityahu, the Jews took action against the Greeks in the natural manner, but with absolute faith in G-d. Hence, they did not engage in calculations as to how great the odds were against them in terms of physical power and numbers. Rather, with faith and fortitude, they gathered the people together under the rallying cry, "Whoever is for G-d, with us."
This was the basis and raison d'etre of their battle: the glorification of G-d's name, without any thought of personal gain or glorification.
Although they were weak and few in number, the Jews of that time were spiritual giants, possessing complete and absolute faith in the Creator of the World. It was this faith that ultimately led to their military victory and the spiritual victory over the repressive decrees of the Hellenists.
Similarly, our Sages have taught that in the merit of the Jews' tremendous faith in G-d and in the coming of Moshiach we will be redeemed from this final, dark and bitter exile.
The Rebbe, the Matityahu of our generation, sounded the clarion call, "The time of the Redemption has arrived."
Although in comparison to the nations of the world the Jewish people are few and weak physically, we nonetheless reach the highest spiritual heights, for we stand atop the shoulders of the spiritual giants of all generations.
Thus, for the glorification of G-d's name and G-d's name alone, let us rally as one behind the Rebbe's call to publicize the message that the Redemption is imminent, to learn more about it, to increase in mitzvot in general and acts of goodness and kindness, and to get ready to welcome Moshiach.
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon (Gen. 41:14)
As our Sages note, Joseph was freed from prison on Rosh Hashana. Similarly, every Jew possesses an aspect of "Joseph the righteous," an inner core that can never be sullied or tarnished. Unfortunately, for most of the year this essence is "imprisoned" within the body's corporeal nature. But on Rosh Hashana, when a Jew accepts the yoke of G-d's kingship, his inner essence is liberated and revealed.
(Der Torah Kval)
And Joseph was the governor over the land, it was he who sold corn to all people of the land (Gen. 42:6)
According to the Midrash, throughout the years of famine, Joseph refused to eat any bread until the end of the day, when the last buyer had received his allotment of food.
What shall we say to my lord, what shall we speak, or how shall we justify ourselves? (Gen. 44:16)
There are several ways to win an argument. A person can try to convince another with pleasant words; this is "what shall we say." He can resort to insolence and harsh speech; this is "what shall we speak." Or, he can bring the other party to a court of law; this is "how shall we justify ourselves." Judah used all three expressions to show that there was nothing the brothers could do or say to exonerate themselves.
(Maora Shel Torah)
Sa'id and Yihya the sons of Yosef the silversmith, lived in the city of Sanaa, Yemen. They were beautiful children, with brilliant dark eyes and long curly peyot in the style of the Yemenite Jews.
Every morning Sa'id, who was older than Yihya by a year, would take his younger brother to their teacher's house, where they would learn Torah for hours on end. The children sat on mats arranged in a circle, their legs folded under them. Everyone would read from the one book that was placed on a small stool in the center.
In the evening, Sa'id and Yihya arrived home at the same time their father was returning from his workshop in the marketplace. Together they would go to pray the evening service at the Sallah synagogue, not far from their home. Afterwards, they would all sit down to enjoy the delicious evening meal their mother Saada had prepared.
Life continued as usual, until rumors began to circulate that giant "metal birds" were taking Jews from Yemen to the Holy Land. Yosef wanted very much to emigrate, but was reluctant to give up his steady source of income for the great unknown. He continued to weigh the pros and cons but could not come to a decision.
In the meantime, Yemen was plunged into a state of political turmoil. The king was overthrown in a bloody coup by his second-in-command, who was then promptly overthrown by the murdered king's son, Prince Ahmad. In a beneficent gesture, the new ruler announced that Yemen's Jews were free to leave the country.
The situation in Yemen was very unstable. No one could predict how long the latest regime would last, or if the newly-opened gates to freedom might suddenly come crashing down. It was a very frightening time for Yemen's Jews.
In the end, Saada and Yosef decided that they couldn't leave just yet. But they would send their two children, Sa'id and Yihya, on to Israel ahead of them. It was a daring and brave move, but the anguished parents felt that it was the best alternative. G-d willing, they would join the children soon.
But life in the Holy Land wasn't exactly what the two brothers had anticipated. For a few months the boys were in a temporary transit camp. Then, tragically, the brothers were separated and sent to different kibbutzim. Sa'id, who had meanwhile changed his name to Chaim, was taken to Kibbutz Ein Shemer. From that day on he lost contact with Yihya.
The only memento Chaim had of his former life was a small silver Chanuka menora his father had fashioned especially for him. Right before leaving, Yosef had hastily thrust it into the boy's knapsack. Chaim remembered that his father had also made one for his younger brother. Every year on Chanuka, when Chaim took it out and kindled its lights, he would be filled with sad and distant memories.
Years passed. Chaim grew up and served in the Israeli Defense Force. Soon afterward he married and became a father. Then the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Chaim was again called upon to defend his country. At first his regiment was stationed in the north, but a few days later it was sent to the Egyptian front. With G-d's help, the Jewish soldiers were able to fight off the enemy.
When Chanuka arrived, Chaim was still stationed in the Sinai Desert. Luckily, he had remembered to pack in his small silver menora. That night, as he lit the first candle, his thoughts as always returned to the past. He missed his wife and children, but at that moment he longed for his childhood home more than anything. Oh, how he missed his mother and father, his younger brother Yihya, his beloved teacher, his native Sanaa...
For a long time Chaim sat in front of his tent, staring into the candles. Then, when they had almost burnt down, he decided to stretch his legs and go for a walk. Wandering about the campsite, Chaim didn't realize that he had covered quite a distance. Suddenly, he noticed a tiny light flickering in a tent doorway. He ran over and saw that it was a Chanuka menora.
He was about to turn away and return to his tent when he noticed something that stopped him in his tracks. Why, that menora looked very familiar... He bent down to take a closer look and his heart began to pound. The menora before him was the exact duplicate of his own.
"Whose menora is this?" he called out in a trembling voice.
"Yaron's," a soldier answered from within the tent.
"Yaron?" Chaim repeated the name. A moment later a soldier appeared at the entrance and stuck his head outside. "Did someone call me?" he asked.
It was the sound of his voice that confirmed it, the familiar inflection that brought back a flood of memories. A second later the two men were staring at each other, their eyes locked. "Yihya?" Chaim whispered. For a split second there was no reaction, then a shiver went through Yaron's body. "Sa'id, my big brother..." he said in a voice choked with emotion. The two brothers fell on each other, crying and embracing. Tears flowed freely throughout the entire camp when word spread of the brothers' reunion.
Translated from L'Chaim's sister publication in Israel, Sichat HaShavua.
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 Redemption.
(The Rebbe, 28 Kislev, 5750)