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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1350
                           Copyright (c) 2014
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        December 12, 2014       Vayeshev         20 Kislev, 5775

                        The Lessons from Chanuka
                       by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg

On the 25th of Kislev, we begin to celebrate the festival of Chanuka.
Chanuka is one of the most beloved holidays among the Jewish people, yet
few are aware of its inner meaning.

It is common knowledge that Chanuka commemorates the victory of the
Jewish people over their Hellenistic oppressors and, in particular, the
miracle that occurred in the Holy Temple: After the Greeks contaminated
all the oil, a single cruse of uncontaminated olive oil was discovered,
which in spite of its small size, miraculously produced enough oil to
light the Menora for eight days, the amount of time needed to press and
ship ritually pure oil to the Temple. But what is the deeper meaning of
the war with the Hellenists and the miracle of the oil and what impact
can it have on our lives today so many years later?

An in-depth evaluation of the events of Chanuka reveals that the war
between the Jews and the Greeks was first and foremost a spiritual war .
At odds were Torah and Greek philosophy - two entirely different
conceptual schemes of human life. To fully understand the significance
of the miracle of the oil, we have to see it in context of this battle
of the spirit.

In Kabbala, oil symbolizes wisdom. The defilement of the oils by the
Greeks represents the clouding of our original Jewish mode of thought by
Greek philosophy, creating an unbridgeable gap to be opened between our
intellect and our faith. The uncontaminated cruse of oil therefore
represents a concentrate of pure Jewish thought that remained (and still
remains) immune to the devastating influence of Greek philosophy. Just
like the small quantity of oil in the cruse, this concentrate of Jewish
thinking may seem at first small and inconsequential, but miraculously,
it too can illuminate a great deal of human experience.

The sages explain that given the manner in which the Temple sanctuary
was built, the Menora did not illuminate its inside, but rather most of
its light was cast outside. In more spiritual language, they say that it
is not G-d's sanctuary that needs light from the Menora, for G-d Himself
is all light, rather it is the outside world that needs the light of the
Menora. Thus, the Menora is the vessel that symbolizes the spreading of
the word of God to even the farthest and darkest corners of humanity and
human nature, while the oil that burns in it and emits the light
symbolizes the type of wisdom that can be seen by everyone. In the time
of the Macabbees, the oil that burned in the Menora was able to
illuminate the world enough that there was no choice but to accept the
presence of a ritually and theologically independent Jewish entity in
the Land of Israel, an entity that survived for many years.

In the blessings on the Chanuka candles, we say: "for the miracles that
you performed for our fathers, in those days - at this time." The
message of celebrating Chanuka today is that what was true then is still
true (and perhaps even more so) today. Though the success of the
Macabbees led to the formation of an independent Jewish state in the
Land of Israel, a state that remained intellectually and ritually unique
in a sea of Hellenism and Greek philosophy, ultimately, from a secular
perspective, it was the message of Greek culture that was triumphant on
the global scale.

Still, the miracle of finding a cruse of pure, uncontaminated oil calls
upon us today to search for the ancient Jewish wisdom that can shed
Divine light and rectify the seemingly endless volumes of philosophy and
science whose source lies in the ancient Greek tradition. This
mysterious and pure flask of Jewish wisdom has the ability to reconnect
humanity's intellect with its faith. When utilized correctly it sheds
new light on every topic.

     Excerpted from "Judaism and Science: The Lessons of Chanukah."
            To read the article in its entirety visit

At first glance, this week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, chronicles the
circumstances leading to Joseph's appointment as second in command over
Egypt, subordinate only to Pharaoh. Yet, upon examination, we find that
Joseph's story is synonymous with the history of the Jews.

Joseph, the pride of his father, at the age of 17 is suddenly plucked
from his secure environment, family, and his country. Sold into slavery
and finding himself in a foreign land, he must now cope with the most
adverse circumstances. Joseph is not to blame, for all this has come
about through no action of his own.

A lesser individual would have surely succumbed to bitterness,
depression or indifference. But Joseph realized that he must deal with
the reality which presented itself. As the servant of Potifar, he
fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability. It soon became apparent
even to Potifar that it was in Joseph's merit that his household enjoyed
its material blessings.

This, then, is the task of every Jew: No matter how adverse the
circumstances, each Jew must live up to his full potential and fulfill
his duties to the best of his ability.

But how was Joseph repaid for his loyalty? He was thrown into prison!
Why? Because he refused to betray his master by succumbing to the
advances of the master's wife. Not only didn't Joseph's honesty and
integrity bring him any positive benefits, these very qualities caused
him to be incarcerated. Was Joseph discouraged? Did he reject his
lifestyle and renounce his high standards? Joseph's response to
adversity was to continue in the same path, acting honestly and in good
faith. Eventually his behavior and virtue drew the attention of his

This is the history of the Jew as well: No matter how depraved and
corrupt his surroundings, he remains undeterred from his faith in G-d
and His Torah.

When Joseph noticed that two of his fellow inmates, Pharaoh's chief
butler and chief baker, were distressed for some reason, he rushed to
their aid, without thought of rejoicing at their misfortune or of taking
revenge for the role they played in his downfall. Joseph could not bear
to see people in need, and so he immediately offered his assistance. He
was able to bring them relief by interpreting their respective dreams.

In return, Joseph did not ask for monetary payment or special treatment.
He merely requested that the chief butler mention his name to Pharaoh
when he was freed, which he didn't do. In his unbending faith in the
goodness of man and in ultimate justice, Joseph believed that fairness
would prevail if only Pharaoh was presented with the facts.

This theme has been played out time and again in Jewish history. Joseph
learned the hard way that this world is full of lies and deception. Yet
when he later found himself in a position of almost unlimited power, he
refused to exact revenge on those who had harmed him. This is not the
way of the Jew. Joseph faithfully used his office to steer the Egyptians
and the whole world from potential catastrophe during the years of
famine, enacting, for the first time, the historic role the Jews have
played during their exile among the nations.

                   Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                 The Part of Me that is Forever Chabad
                             by Paul Shaviv

On Sunday I was a guest at the closing dinner of the annual Chabad
'Kinus Shluchim 5775 - 2014'. This took place in a huge hangar-like
space in the Brooklyn dockyards that had been transformed into a hi-tech
event hall for the occasion. (There is a good eight-minute video by
Hillel Engel on YouTube.) More than five thousand people sat down for

There were two main speakers - one was Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of
the Knesset, who spoke brilliantly about his time in the Soviet jail,
and his early contacts with Chabad in Soviet Russia. The other was a UK
Chabadnik from Wimbledon (home of the tennis tournament), Rabbi Dubov,
who spoke  at length but was hugely entertaining, and at times very

It was hugely impressive. There are just under 3,000 Chabad families
serving as 'shluchim' [emissaries] in eighty countries all over the
world - from Tashkent to Tasmania, in many African countries, in China,
S. Korea, and everywhere you can think of, including 49 US states. No
other Jewish presence comes close to this.

The theme of the Kinus was 'The Rebbe is with you on your journey'.  It
was clear that  the spiritual presence of the Rebbe was electrically and
tangibly alive for all of these shluchim. It is the belief that they
have a spiritual partner as their immanent support that gives them the
ability to live and work in total physical and spiritual isolation.
That, I have to assume, is the secret of a Rebbe and his Chasidim.

Think what you will of Chabad, the Rebbe, or Chassidim in general, but
it is undeniable that the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson personally
inspired  and  inspires the existence and promotion of Jewish life for
thousands, or hundreds of thousands of Jews who would otherwise be
totally lost. On campuses, in communities, as individuals - Chabad is
there for them, with unbounded love, "one Jew at a time, one mitzvah at
a time". Many other Jewish groups and streams look totally desiccated by
comparison. What interested me too were some of the items that got huge
applause - the IDF, Israel, battling Antisemitism. Support for Israel
and Israelis was unequivocal. The future, my friends, might belong to

I was invited to the Kinus by my (young) friend, Rabbi Didy Waks, who
with his wife, Devorah, and two very young children is just opening
Chabad on the campus of Hamilton College in upstate New York. He will do

At the Kinus, I had the enormous pleasure of meeting my old friend and
teacher Rabbi Shmuel Lew, from London, England - now a senior, beloved
and respected figure in Chabad worldwide. It is, I realized, exactly
fifty years since we first met. This story illustrates the power of

In 1964, as a 14-15 year old, I was running a Jewish youth group
('Jewish Youth Study Groups') in a large, gloomy synagogue in Golders
Green. The Jewish community in the UK in those years was deadly -
demoralized, semi-Victorian, stultified and without any spark or
direction. We were all expected to quietly assimilate. I had read in the
local Jewish newspaper something about a new organization called
'Lubavitch' that had opened up in London.

I called them, explained who we were, and asked them to come and speak.
We fixed a date. (Years later, Rabbi Shmuel Lew - maybe Rabbi Faivish
Vogel - told me that it was the very first 'cold call' invitation that
Lubavitch ever received from an Anglo-Jewish organization.)

Come the appointed Sunday evening, at 8:00PM I went outside to the
synagogue entrance to wait for the 'guest speaker'. We didn't really
know what to expect. What did a "Lubavitcher" even look like? After a
few minutes, a small white van came slowly round the corner. It stopped.
It looked as though it might seat three or four people at most. The
doors opened and six, maybe eight bearded, hatted figures piled out. To
this day I do not know how they all crammed into that small van. We
greeted them and they came singing and clapping into the room where we

As reserved, polite English boys and girls we didn't quite know what to
do. A "Rabbi Lew" introduced someone who he said would speak -- Rabbi
Berel Baumgarten, the 'Rebbe's shaliach" [what on earth did that mean?]
to South America, who was passing through London. But fifty years later
I remember what he said, because it blew me away completely. "The Rebbe
told me to go to South America and spread Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. So I
packed a suitcase with tins of tuna and boxes of matzah, and I took a
plane to Argentina. I got off at the other end and looked around,
wondering what to do next....." I cannot describe the impact of those
words on me. The idea that someone would 'get on a plane' to an unknown
destination with the single intention of spreading Yiddishkeit was like
a revelation. Not only was it mind-blowing; it was inspirational. There
were people in the world who really cared about the survival of Judaism
and Torah!

I didn't become a Chabadnik, but I have spent my entire professional
career in Jewish education, eventually heading the two largest and most
important mainstream Jewish schools in North America - TanenbaumCHAT in
Toronto, and Ramaz in New York. A part of that choice, a part of that
career and a part of that inspiration, belongs to Berel Baumgarten.

Paul Shaviv was born and educated in London, and has lived in Israel,
Australia, Canada and the USA. For 14 years he was the Director of
Education at TanenbaumCHAT, the Community High School in Toronto; since
2012, and until the end of this school year, he is the Head of School at
Ramaz in New York. He has written "The Jewish High School: a complete
management guide" and is a frequent writer, lecturer and commentator on
Jewish education, Jewish history and Jewish life. In 2010, he was the
recipient of the Max M. Fisher Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

       Lightly edited for publication, with the author's agreement.

                               WHAT'S NEW
                         World's Largest Menora

Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka
Menora at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City. Tuesday, Dec.
16 through and Thursday, Dec. 18, the menora will be lit at 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 19, the menora will be lit at 3:45 p.m. Saturday night,
Dec. 20, menora lighting will be at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21 - Tuesday,
Dec. 23, the menora will be lit at 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 (718) 778-6000.  For public
menora lightings in your area visit


The name of the author of the article Tefilin and the Rock in issue 1248
Slice of Life was inadvertently misspelled. His name is Scott Davis (not

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                      20th of Kislev, 5725 [1964]

I received your letter, in which you write about some individuals who
are trying to discourage you from the fulfillment of the Mitzvoth
[commandments] with hiddur [enhancement].

Surely, with your background, it is unnecessary to emphasize to you that
the reason Jews observe the Mitzvoth is because G-d commanded them to do
so and not, G-d forbid, to find the approval of other people. If some
difficulties arise, at one time or another, it is necessary to look at
them as a challenge and a test of one's devotion and adherence to the
Torah and Mitzvoth, as the Torah itself forewarns us, "For G-d tests
you, to know if you love G-d your G-d, with all your heart and with all
your soul." It is only a pity for those who choose to act as the
distracting agencies, to make it more difficult for a fellow Jew,
whereas this test and agency could just as well be carried out through
others, while they could, on the contrary, serve as an encouragement,
instead of a discouragement, for their fellow Jew.

It is surely also unnecessary to remind you that the first of all the
four parts of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] begin with the
imperative, "One should not pay attention to the scoffers," indicating
that this is a basis for the whole of the Shulchan Aruch.

As we are soon to celebrate the days of Chanukah, it is well to remember
that the events of Chanukah emphasize the self-sacrificing devotion of
Jews to the Torah and Mitzvoth. What they had to contend with in those
days at this time was not a prohibition to study Torah in general, or to
observe the Mitzvoth in general, but to study Torah as G-d's Torah, and
to observe the Mitzvoth which are specifically beyond human reason

This is why the text in "v'al hanisim [and for these miracles]" says,
"L'hashkichom Torasecho [to forget Your Torah]," etc. It was when the
Jews were absolutely determined to adhere to G-d's Torah and Mitzvoth at
all costs, that the miracle for Chanukah took place,

Wishing you an inspiring Chanukah,

                                *  *  *

                  In The Days of Chanukah, 5721 [1960]

To the Participants at the Annual Celebration "Achei Temimim,"

Chanukah recalls the critical period in Jewish history when a ruthless
and overpowering enemy made an attempt to suppress G-d's Torah and
Mitzvoth and the Jewish way of life. But there was a handful of Jews,
faithful to the Torah and Mitzvoth to the point of real self-sacrifice,
who turned the tide and rekindled the true faith and the observance of
Torah and Mitzvoth. Thus, with G-d's help, the few were victorious over
the many, and the physically weak over the strong, bringing a great and
everlasting salvation for our people.

The message of Chanukah is especially important for us here and now. We
are fortunate to live here in a country where there is freedom of
worship. Jews do not have to risk their lives to study the Torah and
observe its sacred commandments. Nevertheless, the number of the
faithful is, sad to say, by no means adequate; Jewish children attending
a Yeshivah and receiving a full and kosher education are still not in
the majority. But these few are destined to rekindle the light of the
Torah and Mitzvoth in the hearts and homes of many.

However, in order to accomplish this task, a spirit of dedication and
selflessness is necessary, something of the Mesiras Nefesh [self-
sacrifice] of the Hasmoneans "of those days at this time."

I hope and pray that each and every one of you will rededicate
yourselves to the sacred cause of spreading the light of Torah and
Mitzvoth, upon which our very life and existence depends. One of the
activities in this direction is to make every effort to maintain and
enlarge the capacity of the Lubavitcher Yeshiva "Achei Temimim" in your

I trust, moreover, that you will do so in an ever-growing measure, as
symbolized by the candles of Chanukah which we light each day of
Chanukah in steadily growing numbers.

May G-d bless you all and send you a growing measure of light and
happiness into your personal lives and into your homes and families,
materially and spiritually.

                              TODAY IS ...
                               23 Kislev

The three days before Shabbat are a preparation for Shabbat. The Zohar
says about Shabbat that "from it are all days blessed." "All days"
refers to the six days of the week on which G-d conferred a general
blessing - "G-d will bless you in all you do." The blessing of Shabbat
is for the days preceding it and the days following it. The preparations
for Shabbat begin Wednesday, and are announced by the brief l'chu
n'ran'na of three verses.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This week begins Chanuka, when we celebrate the miracle of the small
Jewish army's victory over the powerful Greek war machine. Just as
importantly, it is the miracle of a small cruse of oil, enough to last
for one day, remaining lit for eight days until new oil could be
procured. Our Sages in the Talmud describe the miracle of the oil as

"During the occupation of the Holy Land by the Greeks, the latter
entered the Inner Sanctum of the Holy Temple and defiled all the oil
there. When the Hasmoneans defeated them, one cruse of oil was found,
however, which had not been touched by the Greeks. It contained oil
sufficient for one day only. The menora was rekindled and the oil
miraculously lasted for eight days."

If the Greeks wished to prevent the Jews from lighting the menora, why
did they merely defile the oil and not destroy it? The Greeks did not
want to prevent the rekindling of the menora. Rather, they wanted the
menora to be rekindled, but with defiled oil. They purposely left a
supply of defiled oil in the Inner Sanctum - rather than in its regular
storage place - to make it easily available for this purpose.

Moreover, they actually wanted to bring about the rekindling of the
menora, in its holy place in the Hechel, whence it should spread its
light everywhere as before, except that its light should come from oil
that had the Greek "touch."

The battle of the Greeks was not merely a physical battle but a
spiritual battle as well. The Greeks were willing to recognize the
Torah, or even accept it, as a work of profound philosophy and wisdom,
provided it was considered a human creation. It was not the suppression
of the Torah that they desired, rather, they strove to deny its Divine

The insistence of the Maccabees to use only pure, consecrated oil was
the visible symbol of the holiness of the Jewish way of life.

May we rekindle the lights in the Holy Temple this very Chanuka and
celebrate the holiday of light in a world illuminated with the light of
Moshiach - may it be now.

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
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

                                                     (Ohr HaTefila)

                                *  *  *

And we will say, An evil beast devoured him (Gen. 37:20)

If the brothers' intent was to ease their father's pain over Joseph's
disappearance, what possible benefit could there be in telling him that
he had been eaten by an animal? Rather, the brothers realized that Jacob
would suspect them in Joseph's death, the thought of which would be even
more painful than the loss. Telling him an animal was responsible would
remove any trace of suspicion.

                                              (Ma'ayanot HaNetzach)

                                *  *  *

Reuben said...Throw him into this pit...that he might deliver him out of
their hand to return him to his father (Gen. 37:22)

According to the Talmud (Shabbat 21), the pit was full of snakes and
scorpions. Nonetheless, Reuben felt it would be the safer alternative
for Joseph, as animals have no free will, and G-d would surely protect
him. The brothers, by contrast, might very well decide to kill him.
Reuben sought to remove Joseph from the control of entities with free
will, and "return him to his Father"-place him under the direct mercy of
his Heavenly Father.

                                                      (Otzar Chaim)

                                *  *  *

When the brothers threw Joseph into the pit full of snakes, they were
alluding to his having committed the sin of lashon hara (slander), the
punishment for which is being bitten by a snake. "If the serpent bites
because no one has uttered [a charm], there is no advantage in the man
who can use his tongue" (Ecclesiastes 10:11).

                                                     (Siftei Kohen)

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
Once there lived a wealthy Jewish forester named Yosef. Yosef was very
kind and generous. He understood that G-d had blessed him with great
wealth so that he could help others, and he was always ready to give to
the poor. Not only did he give them money, he gave them jobs. He was
happy that by employing his fellow Jews, he could enable them to support
their families.

As Yosef's wealth increased, so did his charitable deeds. One day, a
group of Jews from a nearby village came to see him. "We've come to ask
you to help a needy bride and groom," said one of the group, Yonah the
shoemaker. "They are both orphans, and there is no one to help them.
They're getting married on Chanuka, and they haven't any money."

"How much money do you need?" asked Yosef.

"One thousand rubles should be enough," said Yonah.

Yosef went to his desk and took out a packet of money. He counted 1,000
rubles and handed it to Yonah with a smile. The villagers were stunned.
They thought that Yosef would give part of the amount, and expected to
collect the rest from others. They could not thank Yosef enough.

As they left, Yosef said, "Remember to invite me to the wedding. I want
to participate in the great mitzva (commandment) of rejoicing with the
bride and groom."

Some weeks later, Yosef travelled to Danzig where he had to collect
payment from a number of his customers. He expected to be away for at
least three weeks and told his family regretfully that he did not think
he would be home in time to kindle the menora with them on the first
night of Chanuka.

Yosef's stay in Danzig was blessed with success. Not only did he collect
over 40,000 rubles, he signed on many new customers. He finished up his
business more quickly than expected and was delighted that he would be
able to surprise his family and arrive home in time to light the first
Chanuka candle.

Yosef purchased a ticket for the train ride home and entered a car that
was not too crowded. He sat down, closed his eyes and dozed off.
Suddenly, he heard voices whispering next to him. Opening his eyes, he
saw two men sitting across from him, eying him suspiciously.

Yosef's heart skipped a beat as he thought, "They are planning to rob
me!" Yosef quickly got up. He went from one car to the next, until he
came to a car that was packed with people. He looked for an empty place,
and sat down.

"Thank G-d, I managed to escape from those men just in time!" he said to
himself. The car was crowded with farmers and peasants. Yosef felt much
safer surrounded by people.

The train sped on its journey. Gradually it grew dark outside and all
the passengers fell asleep, except for the wary Yosef. Suddenly, he
noticed the two strangers standing at the doorway of the car. Yosef
opened his bag and took out the gun that he always carried. He made sure
the men could see that he had it. The men quickly disappeared. Yosef
realized his suspicions were right.

For the remainder of the trip, Yosef stayed alert. He prayed to G-d to
protect him, pledging to give charity even more generously when he
returned home safely. When Yosef got off the train, he went over to a
policeman, handed him several rubles, and asked him to escort him home.

When he finally arrived at home, Yosef breathed a sigh of relief. But no
one was home. He realized that his family and servants were all still in
the city as they had not expected him to arrive until later in the week.
"What a shame," Yosef thought to himself as he began preparing the oil
and wicks of the menora for the first night of Chanuka, "after all my
efforts to get here, I am still alone."

Yosef placed the 40,000 rubles in his safe. Then he retraced his steps
back to the family's silver menora, recited the blessings with much joy
and watched the first light of Chanuka dance with delight.

All was still in the house. Yosef sat by the candles for a while, and
then took out a book and began to study. The stillness was shattered by
the sound of splintering wood. Yosef jumped up and saw his two "travel
companions" from the train bursting through the front door.

Brandishing guns, the thieves demanded that Yosef open up his safe and
empty it out for them. They then tied him up with heavy rope and threw
him on the ground. Yosef prayed to G-d, knowing that his life was in
grave danger.

Suddenly, sounds of voices and musical instruments could be heard from
outside. The music kept getting closer and louder. The thieves turned
pale, and began looking for a way to escape, but it was too late.

From outside they heard happy shouts. "Reb Yosef. Open up. We've come to
bring you to the wedding." The villagers marched through the open door.
They saw Reb Yosef lying tied up on the floor and then they saw the
thieves. They pounced on the villains, and easily overpowered them.

Yonah the shoemaker untied Reb Yosef. "We came to bring you to the
wedding, as you asked," he said. "And look at this!"

"You saved my life!" Yosef exclaimed.

"Surely your mitzvot (commandments) of endowering a bride, looking after
orphans, and the desire to rejoice at a wedding saved you," said Yonah.

The villagers escorted Reb Yosef to the wedding with much joy. As Yosef
watched the happy dancing, he thanked G-d for all the miracles, the
wonders and the salvation that had just occurred for him.

                          Adapted from the Tzivos Hashem Newsletter

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
In principle, the measure of blessing and success we receive from G-d is
directly dependent on our Torah study and observance of mitzvot, as it
states, "If you will go in My ways... and I will cause the rains to fall
in the proper time." In other words, the spiritual light and abundance
created by our service is transformed into material blessing in the
physical world. At present, however, not all of this spiritual light
becomes physically revealed. Only in the Messianic era will the light
that is reflected below perfectly mirror its spiritual counterpart.

                             (Hemshech Tav-Ayin-Reish-Beit, Vol. 3)

               END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1350 - Vayeshev 5775

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