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Devarim Deutronomy

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   1241: Bereshis

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Devarim Deutronomy

L'Chaim
December 7, 2012 - 23 Kislev, 5773

1249: Vayeshev

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.


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  1248: Vayishlach1250: Miketz  

New and Improved: A Chanuka Message  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  Who's Who  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

New and Improved: A Chanuka Message

by Rabbi Leibel Fajnland

While walking through the supermarket recently I found that the laundry detergent, shampoo, body soap, and even paper towels that I have been using for years are now "new and improved."

If they were fine for the last four decades, I wondered, why do they now need to be "new and improved?" And, scarier still, what was "wrong" with all these products before, products that I have now been using for the better part of my life, that they had to be remade?

And then, as if to help me get over my "paranoia," comes Chanuka.

You see, one of the most unique aspects of the holiday and it's observance, is the manner in which we light the Chanuka candles in the Menora. The Talmud teaches us that by lighting one candle on the first night, and adding another candle progressively each night until the eighth night, we are fulfilling the mitzva (commandment) in the most scrupulous and devoted way possible.

So, even though on night one, by lighting one candle, we have "raised the roof" on our Chanuka observance, when it comes to the second night, the previous day's "top of the line" just won't cut it. As good as the first night was, the second night must be "new and improved!" We must light two candles.

And as good as tonight might be, tomorrow must be even better.

This is a fascinating thought when taking stock of what we have accomplished, and what still lies ahead. We often feel like we have "done enough." We are "tired," and quite satisfied with our body of work. And, in most cases, we are well within our rights to take pride in our achievements. Yet, the Chanuka lights, like my favorite bar of soap, insist that yesterday's "peak" must be today's "springboard." And that nothing less than a constantly upward climb, where every moment brings greater heights than the one preceding it, is considered "living."

May we all be blessed with an "illuminated" Chanuka.

Let us all resolve to, like the Menora, constantly bring more and more light into the world around us.

May the increasing light of goodness and kindness symbolized by the Chanuka lights, usher in an era of prosperity and peace for the entire world. Happy Chanuka!

Rabbi Leibel Fajnland, together with his wife Nechamie, is the director of the Chabad of Reston and Herndon in Western Fairfax, Virginia.

Living with the Rebbe

This week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, begins, "And Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's sojourning, in the land of Canaan." The Maggid of Mezeritch offers the following explanation on this verse:

"And Jacob dwelt" implies the act of settling in, an active investment of one's energies;

"In the land" alludes to the material realm, to the physical world and its affairs.

In Canaan, the Maggid explained, our Patriarch Jacob involved himself in mundane matters, utilizing simple physical objects in his service of G-d. The Hebrew word for sojourning, "megurei," is related to the word "agar," to hoard or to store.

Jacob's work in Canaan consisted of collecting and refining the sparks of holiness that were concealed within the physical world and obscured by its gross materiality. Through his service Jacob elevated these sparks and returned them to "his Father" - to G-d.

Divine service of this nature is derived from our acceptance of the yoke of heaven, without consideration for individual understanding.

The Jewish people is called "the Army of G-d." A soldier in the army must obey without question. He does not act at his own discretion, nor does his commander explain his reasoning when issuing an order. A soldier demonstrates pure obedience and acceptance of authority; so must every Jew in his G-dly service.

Jacob left Be'er Sheva for Canaan to begin his work of elevating the sparks of holiness. He understood that he and Esau could not live in close proximity, but he did not question why he was the one who would have to depart, uprooting himself from a life of Torah study and tranquility. Rather, he accepted G-d's command without protest, and acted with joy and enthusiasm.

For Jacob, going to Canaan represented a very great descent, for it required him to abandon the world of Torah study and involve himself in mundane matters in order to elevate them. Yet we see that Jacob's spiritual stature was not damaged by this in the least. On the contrary, by serving G-d with true acceptance of His authority, Jacob experienced a very great ascent, both in the spiritual sense and in the material wealth that he accrued.

From Jacob we can derive a lesson for every Jew: When it comes to serving G-d, it is not necessary to look for grandiose actions and methods. A Jew's task is to properly utilize even the most mundane of physical objects in his Divine service, elevating the hidden sparks of holiness they contain out of a sense of acceptance of the yoke of heaven.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol 1 of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


A Slice of Life

20th of Kislev, 5732 [1971]

I am in receipt of your letter of the 22nd of Cheshvan, and may G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all the matters about which you write.

Now that we are in the days between the 19th of Kislev and Chanukah, the history and significance of which are surely known to you, may each and every one of us be inspired to intensify the efforts to spread the fountains, both the fountains of Torah in general and the fountains of Pnimius HaTorah [the inner dimension of Torah] in particular, in a growing measure.

Indeed, the Mitzvah [commandment] of the Chanukah lights brings us vividly the three fundamental aspects of such activity:

to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvos in a growing measure from day to day, as indicated by the addition of a candle each succeeding night of Chanukah;

to do so not only within one's own home, but to spread it also "outside," as indicated by the fact that the original place of the Chanukah lights is "at the entrance of his home, outside;"

when it is dark outside, one must not be discouraged, and that is precisely the time to start kindling the lights - as the Chanukah candles have to be kindled after sunset.

Wishing you and yours a bright and inspiring Chanukah.


Kislev, 5741 [1980]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good in all the matters about which you wrote. Especially as we have now entered the bright month of Kislev, highlighted by Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

As has been pointed out before, the kindling of the Chanukah Lights, which is the first of the special Mitzvos connected with Chanukah, is unique in the way it is performed, namely, in that a light is added each night of Chanukah. Although when one has kindled two Chanukah Lights on the second night, the Mitzvah was performed mehadrin-min-hamehadrin (par excellence), yet the following night, the number of Chanukah Lights is increased to three, and the next night - to four, and so on.

Thus, the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah [the Chanuka light] is especially significant in its message in regard to all matters of "ner mitzvah v'Torah or [a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light]:

That even though a Jew has attained excellence in the performance of the daily Mitzvos, one must not stop at that; for as a Jew grows older and wiser each day, he (or she) is expected to do even better than the day before.

And, of course, there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvos, which are infinite in their scope and depth, being connected with the En Sof (The Infinite).

There is a further significance in that the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah requires that the lights should be displayed also for the "outside." The meaning of this, among other things, is to show that no matter how dark it is in the outside world - and never has it been darker than in our time - Jews are not disheartened.

On the contrary, by strengthening our adherence to the way of the Torah and Mitzvos, both at home and outside, and also spreading the eternal values of the Torah in terms of morality and justice which the Torah makes incumbent upon all humanity (the so-called Seven Mitzvos given to the children of Noah, i.e. all mankind), Jews can confidently look forward to the time when the darkness of our Golus [exile], and the darkness of all the world, will soon be totally dispelled, with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.


What's New

Matityahu (Mattithias) ben Yochanan was the father of five sons, the most famous of whom was Judah the Maccabee. He was a kohein (priest) and was from the city of Modi'in. It was in the year 166 b.c.e. that Matityahu and his family, known as the Hasmoneans, stood up to the Syrian-Greek army and began the battle that would eventually liberate the Jewish people from the harsh Greek rule. He is mentioned in the Book of Maccabees and is also mentioned by name in the special "Al HaNisim" prayer added throughout the days of Chanuka.


The Rebbe Writes

20th of Kislev, 5732 [1971]

I am in receipt of your letter of the 22nd of Cheshvan, and may G-d grant that you should have good news to report in all the matters about which you write.

Now that we are in the days between the 19th of Kislev and Chanukah, the history and significance of which are surely known to you, may each and every one of us be inspired to intensify the efforts to spread the fountains, both the fountains of Torah in general and the fountains of Pnimius HaTorah [the inner dimension of Torah] in particular, in a growing measure.

Indeed, the Mitzvah [commandment] of the Chanukah lights brings us vividly the three fundamental aspects of such activity:

to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvos in a growing measure from day to day, as indicated by the addition of a candle each succeeding night of Chanukah;

to do so not only within one's own home, but to spread it also "outside," as indicated by the fact that the original place of the Chanukah lights is "at the entrance of his home, outside;"

when it is dark outside, one must not be discouraged, and that is precisely the time to start kindling the lights - as the Chanukah candles have to be kindled after sunset.

Wishing you and yours a bright and inspiring Chanukah.


Kislev, 5741 [1980]

This is to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence. May G-d grant the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good in all the matters about which you wrote. Especially as we have now entered the bright month of Kislev, highlighted by Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

As has been pointed out before, the kindling of the Chanukah Lights, which is the first of the special Mitzvos connected with Chanukah, is unique in the way it is performed, namely, in that a light is added each night of Chanukah. Although when one has kindled two Chanukah Lights on the second night, the Mitzvah was performed mehadrin-min-hamehadrin (par excellence), yet the following night, the number of Chanukah Lights is increased to three, and the next night - to four, and so on.

Thus, the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah [the Chanuka light] is especially significant in its message in regard to all matters of "ner mitzvah v'Torah or [a commandment is a lamp and the Torah is light]:

That even though a Jew has attained excellence in the performance of the daily Mitzvos, one must not stop at that; for as a Jew grows older and wiser each day, he (or she) is expected to do even better than the day before.

And, of course, there is always room for advancement in all matters of goodness and holiness, Torah and Mitzvos, which are infinite in their scope and depth, being connected with the En Sof (The Infinite).

There is a further significance in that the Mitzvah of Ner Chanukah requires that the lights should be displayed also for the "outside." The meaning of this, among other things, is to show that no matter how dark it is in the outside world - and never has it been darker than in our time - Jews are not disheartened.

On the contrary, by strengthening our adherence to the way of the Torah and Mitzvos, both at home and outside, and also spreading the eternal values of the Torah in terms of morality and justice which the Torah makes incumbent upon all humanity (the so-called Seven Mitzvos given to the children of Noah, i.e. all mankind), Jews can confidently look forward to the time when the darkness of our Golus [exile], and the darkness of all the world, will soon be totally dispelled, with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.


Who's Who

Matityahu (Mattithias) ben Yochanan was the father of five sons, the most famous of whom was Judah the Maccabee. He was a kohein (priest) and was from the city of Modi'in. It was in the year 166 b.c.e. that Matityahu and his family, known as the Hasmoneans, stood up to the Syrian-Greek army and began the battle that would eventually liberate the Jewish people from the harsh Greek rule. He is mentioned in the Book of Maccabees and is also mentioned by name in the special "Al HaNisim" prayer added throughout the days of Chanuka.


A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

As we light the first Chanuka candle this Saturday night, we will be commemorating the Jewish victory over the Greeks and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days. The miracle of Chanuka occurred in the holiest place on earth: in the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, in the Holy Temple where G-d's Presence was revealed.

The miracle of the oil involved the menora, which in the times of the Temple was lit specifically by a kohen. Nowadays, however, the mitzva of lighting the menora is no longer expressly connected to the Temple, and everyone, even a small child, may do so. We light the menora in our homes, "at the entrance of the house facing outward," so that its light can illuminate our surroundings.

G-d has given us a truly an amazing capability. Just think about it: Everyone, not only a kohen, can transform his home into a Holy Temple by lighting a Chanuka menora! By kindling the menora's lamps, which remind us of the lights of the Temple that illuminated the entire world, we suffuse our surroundings even in exile with holiness and purity. Furthermore, the menora's light accompanies us throughout the year, until the following Chanuka, when we can observe the mitzva anew.

Every year before lighting the first candle we recite the "Shehecheyanu" blessing, "Blessed are You...Who has kept us alive and sustained us, and allowed us to reach this time," thanking G-d for enabling us to perform this mitzva and turn our own private homes in to Holy Temple. And when a Jew transforms his home into a Temple, G-d does everything - even performing miracles, if necessary - in order to enable him to continue bringing light into his personal life and the world at large.

Happy Chanuka!


Thoughts that Count

And Jacob dwelled in the land of his father's sojourn (Gen. 37:1)

Jacob was able to dwell in peace even when forced to contend with Esau's mighty armies. It was not until jealousy and hatred broke out among Joseph's brothers over a seemingly insignificant issue - the coat of many colors - that the period of enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt began. We learn from this that contention and strife among brothers has the potential to cause far greater damage than even the most powerful outside enemy can inflict.

(Alshich)


And he said, I seek my brothers (Gen. 37:16)

When a Jew prays, he should try to connect his personal requests to the needs of the Jewish people. For example, when praying for the recovery of an ill person, we say, "May G-d show you mercy, along with the rest of the ill of Israel." Joseph prayed to be saved together with his brethren.

(Ohr HaTefila)


When she gave birth there were twins...and he called his name Peretz, and afterwards his brother...and he called his name Zerach (Gen. 38:27-30)

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 - Peretz) was already born." G-d thus brought about the remedy and cure before the affliction - before the Egyptian exile and all the exiles that would follow thereafter - including our own. 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 Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev, 5751)


It Once Happened

It was the first night of Chanuka. Rabbi Baruch of Mezibuz, the son of the Baal Shem Tov, stood with a group of his Chasidim. With great concentration, he said the blessing over kindling the Chanuka lights and lit the first candle.

The Chanuka candle was burning steadily when Rabbi Baruch and his Chasidim sat down around the menora to sing Chanuka melodies. Suddenly, the flame began to shake and leap. It seemed to dance around in irritation. And then, the flame just disappeared. The candle didn't go out; no smoke arose. It was as if the flame flew away to another place.

The Rebbe's assistant stood up to relight the Chanuka candles. But the Rebbe stopped him. "The Chanuka flame will return to us," he told his surprised Chasidim. "It has gone on an important mission," said the Rebbe quietly, mysteriously.

Rabbi Baruch instructed his Chasidim to continue singing and discussion Torah thoughts. Close to midnight, a cry startled everyone. The Chasid who was sitting next to the menora called out, "Rebbe, the flame has returned!"

Within moments, the group heard the faint sounds of a wagon. One of the Rebbe's chasidim entered the house. His clothes were torn, his hair disheveled, it was obviously painful for him to walk. But in direct contrast to his appearance, his eyes shone with happiness.

"Just a few days ago, I left my house to come to our holy Rebbe for the Chanuka festival," began the chasid. "This is not the first time I have come to the Rebbe, and I know the way well from my many journeys. But this time, my traveling was very slow. I became worried that I would not arrive in time so I decided to travel day and night and eventually I would reach Mezibuz.

"This was a foolish thing to do. But I realized that too late. Last night, a gang of bandits stopped me. They were overjoyed to find me. They were certain that if I was traveling at night I must be a very successful merchant who had important business to attend to which could not wait. They insisted that I give them all of my money.

"They would not believe me when I told them I only had the few coins which were in my bag. They cross-examined me and tortured me so that I would reveal where the rest of my money was. I, of course, had nothing to tell them.

"After many hours of torture they sent me to a dark cellar. When their leader came to me, I tried to explain to him the great joy that one experiences when with the Rebbe and how important it had been to me to be with the Rebbe for Chanuka. It would seem that my words entered his heart or, perhaps, after he saw that all the tortures were futile, he began to believe me. Whatever the case, he told me:

" 'I see that you are a person who believes in G-d and longs for his rabbi. Go on your way. But be advised that the path through this forest is very dangerous. It is filled with wild beasts. Even we do not travel through it alone.

" 'If you succeed in making it through the forest, take your handkerchief and throw it in the ditch on the side of the road just after the signpost for the city. I will send a messenger tomorrow to see if it is there. In this way I will know that you have reached your destination. And, if you have, I promise you that I will leave my band of robbers and change my ways.'

"I became frightened anew. But what choice did I have? When I thought of lighting the Chanuka candles with the Rebbe, though, I was strengthened. I retrieved my horse and wagon and resumed my journey through the pitch-black forest.

"Not long after I began traveling, I saw ahead of me a pack of wild wolves. My horse refused to go any further. Suddenly, a tiny flame appeared in front of my horse and began leaping about. The flame went forward and the horse advanced. The rest of the way, the animals on all sides ran from before us as if the flame drove them away.

"This flame was with me until I arrived here. I threw my handkerchief in the ditch, and who knows? Maybe in the merit of this Chanuka candle, the band of criminals will return to a better path.

The Chasid finished his story. And so the group of Chasidim understood to where their Rebbe's Chanuka flame had mysteriously disappeared.


Moshiach Matters

"Arise! Shine! For your light has come, and the glory of G-d is shining forth over you! Even if darkness covers the earth and a thick cloud the nations, G-d will shine forth on you."

(Isaiah 60:1-2)


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