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Devarim Deutronomy

December 11, 2015 - 29 Kislev, 5776

1400: Miketz

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The Weekly Publication For Every Jewish Person
Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

Text VersionFor Palm Pilot
  1399: Vayeshev1401: Vayigash  

Listen to the Lights  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  What's New
The Rebbe Writes  |  All Together  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters

Listen to the Lights

"Listen to the Chanuka lights," Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn used to tell his chasidim. Each one of Chanuka lights has a unique tale and a profound message.

The Hebrew word "Chanuka" shares the same root as the word chinuch - education. During Chanuka we focus our attention on matters affecting the Jewish education of children. For this reason it is also traditional to give "Chanuka gelt" to children after testing them on Jewish subjects.

Women played an integral role in Chanuka. The heroic stories of Chana and Yehudit are well known. In remembrance of Yehudit's ingenious plot to overcome the enemy general which included the use of dairy, it is customary to eat dairy goods on Chanuka.

"In the beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the earth... and G-d said, 'Let there be light...' " Light-ohr-is the 25th word in the Torah. The rededication of the Holy Temple and the relighting of the Menora took place on the 25th of the month of Kislev.

The Sanctuary in the desert was completed on the 25th of Kislev, eight months after the Exodus from Egypt. But it was not dedicated until three months later. Jewish teachings explain that the 25th of Kislev was set aside for the future rededication of the Holy Temple by the Maccabees.

One of the greatest miracles of the oil that lasted for eight and not one day was the miracle of Jewish Faith. That the Jews did not despair from lighting the Menora even the first day, though knowing that they would be unable the following day to fulfill the mitzva (commandment) of keeping a perpetual lamp burning, was in itself a great miracle.

Under the circumstances, it was permissible to use the impure oil found after the war to keep the Menora lit. But, the Jews insisted on using only undefiled oil, which was not obtainable for eight days. They were declaring: "We're not interested in the compromises that the Hellenists have been trying to sell us." For the decrees of the Greeks were intended to reduce the emphasis on the holiness and Divinity of the Torah.

Oil, upon which the miracle of Chanuka is based, is an interesting substance. It is not required for our day-to-day existence and is never served alone as a food. It is used to add flavor and is thus associated with pleasure. Oil is a metaphor for the inner teachings of the Torah-Chasidut. Study of Chasidut adds pleasure to our observance of mitzvot. Oil, like Chasidut, has the potential to illuminate. When we light a candle in a room, the contents of the room are revealed. Similarly, studying Chasidut serves to reveal not only more of our own personal potential and energy but also helps to reveal the G-dliness in the world around us.

"In those days at this time." These words, recited on Chanuka, hint at an amazing Jewish mystical concept. The spiritual energy that was evident during a particular event is reinstated in the world on the anniversary of that event. "At this time" we can draw on the energy of "those days." The eight days of Chanuka are an auspicious time to wage spiritual battles against evil, impurity and corruption within and without. And certainly we will be victorious, as in those days.

The light created by G-d on the first day of Creation was not the light of the sun, moon or stars; those heavenly bodies were not created until the fourth day. The light of the first day was a spiritual light, hidden when Adam and Eve sinned and which will be revealed for eternity in the Messianic Era. Within each Jew is a spark of this holy and eternal light which will ultimately be fully revealed within each of us, with the imminent revelation of Moshiach.

Living with the Rebbe

Last week's Torah portion dealt with the subject of dreams - those of Joseph and Pharaoh's officers. This week, in the Torah portion of Miketz, we continue to delve into dreams, but this time, those of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.

The common denominator shared by all these dreams is that they collectively portrayed the various stages and factors which caused Jacob and his sons to go to Egypt. As a direct result, the Jewish people were exiled there.

Every word in the Torah is necessary and precise. If the subject of dreams receives so much emphasis and we are told such a wealth of detail, there must be a fundamental connection between the concept of dreams and the concept of exile. Furthermore, by understanding the significance of dreams, we will be better able to overcome the difficulties we endure during our own prolonged exile.

Chasidic philosophy explains that a most outstanding characteristic of dreams is the ability for diametrically opposed opposites to coexist, something which cannot take place in reality. The Talmud gives as an example the image of "an elephant passing through the eye of a needle," which may appear not at all out of the ordinary in a dream.

This is also true of our own exile, an unnatural and abnormal situation, but one seemingly natural and normal to us. It is of such long duration; we can no longer feel the contradictions inherent in the exile itself.

The same contradiction also apply to our spiritual exile. It is understood that self-love and the pursuit of worldly pleasures are the opposite of cultivating a love of G-d and holiness. Yet, we often perform mitzvot (commandments) under the illusion that we are doing so out of love of G-d and are in close proximity to Him, all the while caring only for our own egos and self-fulfillment. We simply don't perceive the contradiction in this.

Another example of our lack of logic is found in prayer. While praying, the Jew's innate love and emotional attachment to G-d can be aroused, but as soon as he finishes, it is as if he had never experienced this arousal as he returns to his preoccupation with day-to-day life. Although he stood on such a high spiritual level while actually communing with G-d, the feelings dissipate as the individual finds himself led after the cravings of the animal soul.

Thus our very lives are lived as if we are dreaming. The spiritual exile is full of contradictions, yet we must not be discouraged and think that we perform mitzvot and pray in vain, for every positive deed leaves its mark even if its influence is not always easily felt.

A Slice of Life

Small Chanuka Miracles Today
by Rabbi Meir Kaplan

The traveling celebration of Chanuka on Vancouver Island, Canada, has touched many lives over the years throughout the eight days of the festival.

One such meeting was in Duncan. Following the lighting, people were still gathering around the Menora, enjoying doughnuts, and meeting friends. A woman who was passing by watched for a little while, and then approached me. "Do you have a Menora and candles for me?" she asked.

I told her that we would be very happy to share with her a full Chanuka kit.

"Thank you so much!" she said with a big smile, and added, "I was adopted as a child and I knew that my biological mother was Jewish, but I never had the chance to do anything with it. When I very surprisingly saw a rabbi and a Menora in the middle of town I decided perhaps now is the time to develop my relationship with my roots."

A day later, we were at a very nice Chanuka celebration at the City Hall of Campbell River. At the closing of the ceremony an older couple walked over and introduced themselves.

"My family was Jewish" said the woman. "After the war I became Catholic. When we saw in the paper the notice about the lighting my husband thought we should go. I told him that as a survivor I have only bad memories of being Jewish, but he said that I needed to attend to pay respects to my family, especially to my grandparents who were very observant Jews. I'm very happy we came." On the way out they stopped by our Chanuka table and picked up a Menora and candles. The lighting of the Chanuka Menora is igniting Jewish souls.

Every year, after we complete our Chanuka tour on the island, we get little notes of appreciation from Jews in these towns. The feedback is heartwarming and encouraging.

We received an email from the local Chabad rabbi in Rancho Santa Fe, California. He had forwarded a message that he received from one of his congregants who was on Salt Spring Island for Chanuka:

"Unfortunately last night, we discovered that by accident my wife removed the dreidel from our bags, so today I went to all the possible stores looking for a replacement. With great disappointment, I reported to my wife that nobody sold a dreidels on our Island. At that point, I realized that in all the disappointment of the dreidel hunt, I forgot to do something, so I rushed back to the little town of Ganges to get something from a store. As I left the store, what did I hear but the blessing of the candles on the loud speaker by - you guessed it - a Chabad rabbi from Victoria who came to our Island to help bring Chanuka to us. And of course, he had dreidels to give away. Now we are eating latkes and playing with the dreidel that he gave me.

"When you think about it, it is a small miracle that I had to go back to town and that I came out of the store at the exact moment that Chanuka Menora was being lit. So, Nes Gadol Haya Sham [a great Miracle happened there]."

One year, the mayor of Duncan couldn't participate in the lighting in the city square, so he sent his representative, city councilor Mr. Joe Thorne.

As in all of these events, the city representative lights the shamash, and a member of the community lights the remaining candles. It was just before the ceremony began that Mr. Oscar Pelta, a Jewish man from Maple Bay, agreed to light the Menora.

Before Mr. Thorne lit the shamash he shared a few words. "On this Jewish celebration, I am reminded of a Jewish man who lived in my home town when I was growing up. I remember as children we questioned him about the numbers tattooed on his arm, and he told us about the Holocaust and concentration camps.

"While this man had experienced evil in its worst form, he was a kind and compassionate man who wouldn't hurt anyone. He was a store owner who would give for free or sell on credit to people who needed, a real kind man."

When I came to the podium to call Oscar to light the Menora, I saw that he was overwhelmed with emotion. Oscar was born in Bergen-Belsen after the war; his parents had him after they survived the horrors of the Holocaust. He was the light that came after the destruction.

On the 3rd night of Chanukah in Duncan, the message of the holiday was as clear as can be. Chase evil with compassion, banish darkness with ever-increasing light.

December 2003. Our first Chanukah in Victoria, my wife Chani planned a women's and girls' evening of making sufganiyot (doughnuts). A few hours before the event the phone rang. "Can men come too?"

"It is really an event for women," I explained, "but if you are very interested perhaps we can work something out."

The voice on the other end of the line responded, "I'll tell you the truth, I'm not so interested in making doughnuts, as I am in eating one. I'm an Israeli student studying in a college in Manitoba; I decided to take the bus on winter break back west, to get a bit warmer.... When I arrived at the motel and checked the local newspaper, I saw you are hosting this sufganiyot-making evening. Growing up in Israel I feel like I just must have one!"

Later that evening the young man was in our home. He didn't only have a doughnut, he lit a Menora, sang songs and we had a wonderful Chanuka celebration together. "You know what," he said "I think it wasn't the doughnut that I was craving; it was the feeling of home I was longing for, to be back with my people. I never knew I would miss it so badly. I thought I came back west because I was physically cold, I was wrong. It was my soul that needed to warm up."

Five years later, walking on Fort Street,a car stopped next to me. "Shabbat Shalom!" the man said.

I immediately recognized him. "Are you the student from Manitoba who came to us on Chanuka?"

He was shocked. "Are you the rabbi who I spent that night with?" We have since kept in touch and many times he has told me that the "Sufganiyot evening" taught him that one can never run away from oneself, nor escape one's soul.

Rabbi Meir and Chani Kaplan are the directors of Chabad Vancouver Island in Canada. This article is from Rabbi Kaplan's weekly blog. Read more at

What's New

Let's Go to the Park

Join a sister and brother as they go on an outing to every toddler's favorite place - the park! Fun and safety go hand in hand as they climb, run, swoosh and swing. Rhyming text and joyful illustrations highlight many important lessons. A perfect blend of safety rules and mitzvos for the very young, Let's Go to the Park is part of Hachai's Toddler Experience Series. Written and illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld.


This inspiring chapter book allows young readers to walk along with six-year-old Tuky, her little brother, and their cousin, as they leave a comfortable life and happy Jewish home to hide from the Nazis. Will the three children be able to blend in with simple farm families in the Hungarian countryside? Will they remember they are Jewish? Will they be able to keep such a dangerous secret? Excellent, age-appropriate introduction to the Holocaust for elementary school age children. By Shterni (Treitel) Rosenfeld. Another new release from Hachai Publishing.

The Rebbe Writes

3rd of Sivan, 5738 [1978]

Greeting and Blessing:

This is to confirm receipt of your letter and I regret the unavoidable delay in replying to it more promptly. In it you express your reservations about the kindling of the Chanukiot [Chanukah menorahs] in public places on the ground of (a) the principle of the separation of church and state (b) it being "counterproductive."

Had I received your letter years ago, when the practice started, I would have had a more difficult task defending it, for the simple reason that the expected positive results were then a matter of conjecture. But now, after the practice and the results have been observed for a number of years, my task is an easy one, since the general acclaim and beneficial results have far exceeded our expectations. The fact is that countless Jews in all parts of the country have been impressed and inspired by the spirit of Chanukah which had been brought to them - to many for the first time. Indeed, the eternal and always timely message of Chanukah - the victory of the outnumbered forces of light over the overwhelming forces of darkness that attempted to make Jews forget G-d's Torah and mitzvos [commandments] (as we say in the prayer of " V'Al Hanissim" ["for the miracles" recited on Chanukah] - struck a responsive chord in the hearts of many Jews and strengthened their sense of identity with the Maccabees of all ages.

This year, too, that some six months have elapsed since Chanukah and reports have come in from various places where Chanukah Lamps were kindled publicly, the results have been most gratifying in terms of spreading the light of the Torah and mitzvos, and reaching out to Jews who could not otherwise have been reached, either because some of them are unaffiliated with any synagogue or, though loosely affiliated, always thought that religious practices belong within the confines of a synagogue and do not relate to the personal everyday life of the individual. It was precisely through kindling the Chanukah Lamp in public places, during "ordinary" weekdays, with dignity and pride, that it was brought home to them that Judaism is practiced daily, and that no Jew should feel abashed about it.

With regard to the "Constitutional" question, I can most assuredly allay your apprehensions on this score. I am fully certain that none of all those who participated or witnessed the kindling of a Chanukah Lamp in a public place (and in all cases permission was readily granted by the authorities) felt that his or loyalty to the Constitution of the U.S.A. had been weakened or compromised thereby. Indeed, many expressed surprise that this practice has not been inaugurated years earlier, seeing that the U.S. Congress opens with a religious invocation by a representative of one of the major religions in this country; and, surely, the U.S. Congress, comprising each and every State of the Union, is the place where the Constitution of the USA should be most rigidly upheld. There is surely no need to belabor this point.

As for you stating that some Jews did object to the ceremony on Constitutional grounds, to my knowledge these were exceptional and isolated instances. Moreover, I dare say that (entre nous) the objectors, though ostensibly citing the Constitution, were motivated by other sentiments, a plausible assumption, since they are identified with organizations that thwart every effort to get State aid for Hebrew Day Schools and Yeshivos to alleviate their burden of the secular department and other "non-religious" needs. Be it noted that the money that would have been received in such aid carried the motto "In G-d We Trust!" it is lamentable that as a result of this attitude thousands of Jewish children have been deprived of their right to a Jewish education. It is not surprising therefore to see such an appalling rate of intermarriage, nor is it surprising, however sad and deplorable, that the vast majority of intermarriage take place among the ranks of young people who have been deprived of Jewish education, for one reason or another.

In view of your expressed concern for the preservation of Judaism in this country and for the protection of our children against proselytizing etc., I am encouraged to take advantage of this unexpected exchange of correspondence between us to express my ardent hope that you will use your influence to put an end to the destructive fight against State aid to parochial schools - at any rate insofar as the secular department is concerned, so as to enable Jewish Day Schools and Yeshivos to open their doors to the maximum number of students, starting with the next school year and thereafter. For, only an adequate Jewish education can preserve our young generation and future generations from alienation, intermarriage and complete loss, G-d forbid.

continued in next issue

All Together

The Talmud states that the year in which the Second Temple was destroyed, 69 c.e. was a Hakhel year. At the time, the Jewish monarch was Agrippa II. Interestingly, there is a account in the Talmud (Sotah 41) of the Hakhel reading of Agrippa, but some attribute that account to the previous king, Agrippa I. It should be noted that, although in the Second Temple the Hakhel was observed following the Biblical procedure, it appears that the obligation at the time was Rabbinically instituted.

A Word from the Director

Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, taught, "We must listen carefully to what the Chanuka candles are saying."

Throughout the ages, the lights of the Chanuka Menora have carried a message of hope, strength, and the eternity of our sacred heritage. The candles carry an additional message, the reminder that we must publicize this message and the miracle.

There is a mitzva on Chanuka of "pirsumei nisa," publicizing the miracle. We fulfill this special mitzva by lighting the Chanuka Menora. In fact, many of the laws and customs involved with lighting the Menora emphasize this concept of publicizing the miracle. We are told that the Menora should be lit "at the outside of the entrance of one's home," and that the candles should burn into the night. Thus, the Chanuka candles illuminate the public domain, especially when it is covered in dark ness

Lighting the candles at night is symbolic of the mission of every single Jew. We live at a time when G-dliness is concealed by the night of exile. By learning the Torah and fulfilling its mitzvot, we illuminate the world and elevate it so that G-dliness may be revealed.

The darkness also recalls the dark situation of the Jewish people in the time of the story of Chanuka. The Greeks physically conquered and controlled the Land of Israel, and they sought to impose their culture upon its inhabitants. The Jews suffered in physical and spiritual darkness under the influence of the Greeks. It was the Maccabees who illuminated their situation, who instilled the Jewish people with both physical strength to fight off their oppressors and spiritual fortitude to withstand their influence.

When Moshiach is revealed, it will be the ultimate "publicizing of the miracle." The entire world will be cognizant of G-d's greatness and dominion over the world. May this happen immediately.

Thoughts that Count

It came to pass at the end of two full years.... (Gen. 41:1)

Joseph's confinement in prison was only physical but not spiritual. Even in jail he retained and guarded his spiritual heritage, the teachings absorbed from his father, and this light overcame the darkness of prison and filled him with hope. The prison-house of Joseph is an allusion to this world (especially during the exile), into which the souls of Israel are made to descend to become vested in finite bodies in order to observe Torah and mitzvot (commandments). Yet the very idea of confinement to the Jew is alien, because Jewish life is essentially unrestricted. The present era of restraints is only temporary, and is merely a step toward the ultimate goal which will be realized with Moshiach.

(The Rebbe, Shabbat Parshat Mikeitz, 5751)

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they recognized him not (Gen. 42:8)

Joseph's brothers never expected that a man as involved in worldly affairs as the viceroy of Egypt could be their brother. In their world view, the only way to serve G-d properly was to divorce oneself from worldly matters and pursue a life of spiritual contemplation, much as they were able to do in their chosen profession of shepherding. Joseph, however, was on a higher level of spirituality, able to maintain his attachment to G-d even while involved in the day-to-day affairs of state.

(Torah Ohr)

And they cried before him "Avrech" ("Bend the knee") (Gen. 41:43)

The Hebrew word "avrech" comes from the same root word as "bracha" ("blessing"), alluding to the drawing down of G-dly light from the supernal spheres into our physical world and frame of existence. Thus Joseph, the righteous person of the generation, was addressed as "avrech," for his role was to draw G-d's beneficence down into our material world.

(Ohr HaTorah)

It Once Happened

Chanuka 1944, Auschwitz
by Simon Jacobson, as heard from a Holocaust survivor, who was an 11-year-old child in the camps.

I will never forget the last Chanuka in the barracks. Most of us were so consumed with scraping together any morsel while avoiding the attention of the guards that we had no inkling which day in the year it was. Especially in those last weeks before the liberation, the Nazis were particularly unpredictable and cruel, and the chaos only made matters worse.

Yet there were a few who always knew the exact dates. They would tell the rest of us that today is Shabbat, Pesach and other significant days. On this particular day a man would tell me that it was Chanuka.

That morning I went to the infirmary to try smuggling out some balm - anything to help relieve my father's open sores. His disease - I am not sure what it was - was eating his body away, and whenever I could sneak over to see him I would see him silently struggling for some relief. As a child I was completely overcome by the sight of my suffering father.

That particular day, when I finally snuck over to my father's bunk, he was no longer there. I became frantic.

An older gentleman, whom I did not know but I had often seen talking to my father, came over to console me. He too did not know when my father was taken, to this day I don't know if it was the disease or a Nazi bullet that took my father to heaven, but his was a calming presence.

He told me that today was Chanuka and we celebrate the victory of the few weak over the many powerful oppressors. We light the candles to demonstrate that our light is stronger than any darkness. "Your father would be very proud to know that you carry on his light despite the blackness around us," he said.

I was so moved by his words - and all the memories it brought back from my earlier years in Lodz - that I suggested to him enthusiastically that we should light the Menora tonight. He sort of smiled to me, the child - a smile hardly concealing his deep anguish - and said that it would be too dangerous to try. I insisted and made off to get some machine oil from the factory.

I was so excited. And for this brief moment I was able to put aside my grief. I slowly made my way back, so not to be noticed, to the barrack with my treasured bit of oil. Meanwhile the strange gentleman had put together some wicks, apparently from clothing or some other material.

Now we needed fire to light our makeshift Menora. I noticed at the end of one building smoldering cinders. We agreed that we would wait till dusk and at an opportune moment we would light our Chanuka lights

Wait we did. As we were walking over to the cinders a guard noticed us and grabbed away the oil and wicks we were concealing. He began cursing and frothing at us. A miracle seemed to happen when his superior barked a command that apparently needed his participation, and he ran off with our precious fuel. The miracle however was short-lived. The animal yelled back at us that he would soon return to "take care of us."

I was terrified. The gentleman was absolutely serene. And then he said to me words that are etched into my every fiber until this very day:

"Tonight we have lit a flame more powerful than the Chanuka lights. The miracle of Chanuka consisted of finding one crucible of oil, which miraculously burned for eight days. Tonight we performed an even greater miracle: We lit the ninth invisible candle even when we had no oil...

"Make no mistake. We did light the Menora tonight. We did everything in our power to kindle the flames, and every effort is recognized by G-d. He knows that we were deprived by forces that were not in our control, so in some deeper way we lit the Menora. We have lit the ninth flame - the most powerful one of all, so powerful that you can't even see it."

The man then promised me: "You will get out of here alive. And when you do, take this ninth invisible flame with you. Tell G-d that we lit a candle even when we had no oil.

"Tell the world of the light that has emerged even from the darkest of darkness. We had no physical oil and no spiritual oil. We were wretched creatures, treated worse than animals. Yet, in some miraculous way, we found a 'crucible' where none existed - in the hell fires of Auschwitz.

"So there was no oil. Not even defiled oil. No oil, period. Yet we still lit a flame - a flame fueled by the pits of darkness. We never gave up. Let the world know that our ninth flame is alive and shining. Tell every person in despair that the flame never goes out."

As he finished these last words, the Nazi beast returned and viciously led him away behind one of the barracks.

I made my escape. A few weeks later the Russians arrived and we were liberated. Here I am today to tell you the story of the ninth flame.

Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling Toward a Meaningful Life which has been translated into Hebrew, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Japanese. He is the director of the Meaningful Life Center. 2015 TheMeaningful Life Center. All rights reserved.

Moshiach Matters

In this week's portion we read, "Joseph recognized his brothers, but they recognized him not" (Gen. 42:8) Joseph's brothers never expected that a man as involved in worldly affairs as the viceroy of Egypt could be their brother. In their world view, the only way to serve G-d properly was to divorce oneself from worldly matters and pursue a life of spiritual contemplation, much as they were able to do in their chosen profession of shepherding. Joseph, however, was on a higher level of spirituality, able to maintain his attachment to G-d even while involved in the day-to-day affairs of state.

(The Rebbe, 29 Kislev, 1989)

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