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More than two millennia ago, the Syrian-Hellenist army came to Israel.
They told the indigenous Jews that they, as Hellenists, were peaceful people. The Jews had nothing to fear, they told us, as these invaders only sought enlightenment and beauty. The two peoples actually lived well together for a short time. Then the Syrian-Hellenist bias came to the fore. They couldn't stomach the Jews' stubborn adherence to their traditional faith, practices and rituals. They abhorred our deep-seated Jewish faith in G-d and Holiness.
So the Syrian-Hellenists began a campaign to make us change our ways, asking us to shed our traditions and join their culture of 'friendship and amity'. Some Jews went along with it, placing higher value on 'getting along' than on being themselves. Other Jews, while they welcomed the Syrians-Hellenists to the neighborhood, refused to abandon their own Judaic value system.
That brought out the worst in our Syrian-Hellenist conquerors. They decided to force their 'peaceful philosophy' on our people, butchering our men and raping our women. The Syrian-Hellenist army was huge, like a tidal wave engulfing the Jews, and we were no match for them. How could we cling to our faith in the face of such an overwhelming reality?
A small group of Jews recognized that we are never alone. They would fight back. Their war wouldn't be a simple match of military prowess, it would be a righteous stand against intolerance and bigotry. They stood up in self-defense, in an epic struggle for the freedom to find G-d through our Torah.
For two thousand years, we've been celebrating their victory, our victory, as a triumph of faith over adversity. It's the celebration of Chanuka. This coming Sunday evening, we'll be kindling candles that represent the flame of connectedness which burns deep inside our souls. On Chanuka, we bring our Jewish conviction into the open through kindling the Menora.
Sometimes our inner flare of faith feels suffocated by the Hellenism of the moment. Right now, it feels less safe to be a Jew walking the streets of Copenhagen, Los Angeles or Paris; but we can't allow that to squelch our timeless flame of connectedness.
If Jewish history has taught us anything, it's that our connection to Jewish tradition is an anchor that allows us to weather any storm.
So be engaged in the societal discourse and make your voice heard.
But make sure your faith shines
This is from Rabbi Herson's blog.
In this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, we read about Joseph's two children, Menasheh and Efrayim. These names are full of meaning: Menasheh - "G-d made me forget all my hardships and my father's home"; Efrayim - "G-d made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."
Joseph was well aware that G-d had brought him down to Egypt to affect Egypt in a positive and G-dly way. At the same time, however, Joseph needed to insure that he would not lose his unique identity, something that is a very possible result of mingling in a foreign culture.
The names of Joseph's sons addressed these sentiments. Menasheh refers to connecting with his past; although Joseph talks about forgetting, he is referring to the anguish he suffered, not his Jewish way of life and the Torah he had studied. Efrayim, to be fruitful in the land of his suffering, speaks of the importance of involving himself with and affecting Egypt.
What lesson can we take from Joseph? Why did he name his first son "Menasheh"? And how does this connect to Chanuka?
Joseph sets the standard for all Jews of all times. We are Joseph! We are meant to affect the world around us by participating in and influencing our surroundings with Torah values. It is obvious that this is true, because G-d put us here in a physical world.
The challenge is to influence but not be influenced, especially when we find success. This is why Menasheh comes first. In order to to be effective and not be swept away, we must constantly develop and strengthen our essential bond and foundation in Judaism. This needs to come first, if we want to be effective in our mission to change the world in a positive way.
In the story of Chanuka, many if not most of the Jewish people succumbed to the licentious lifestyle of the Greeks. They lost their way, and sense of moral superiority, their connection to Torah and holiness. The Maccabees, outnumbered and weak, saved the day and saved Judaism. Not because they were great warriors, but because they were true to G-d and His Torah. When you are on G-d's side you will ultimately be victorious.
Today, we again find ourselves in a world of lies and confusion. Anti-semitism and its twin, anti-Israel sentiments, are growing. Decency, morality and truth are in decay. At this time we must strengthen our essential Jewish foundation. We must, like the Maccabees, stand strong for what we know to be the truth and the highest standard of living, the Torah way.
May the light of Chanuka light up the world and may we soon dedicate our Holy Temple again.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
The Eighth Night
by Rabbi Uriel Vigler
Johannesburg, South Africa.
It was the last night of Chanuka, December 26, 1992.
We had just lit the last Chanuka candle and my father was driving me to the airport. As we drove he told me, "Always remember that on the eighth night of Chanuka you left South Africa to begin a new life in Israel." That was the night I emigrated from South Africa.
I was to be the first member of our family to emigrate. The plan was for the rest of the family to follow me shortly. Just four weeks earlier my mother had been brutally attacked at our home on a Shabbat morning. My parents decided enough was enough, and we were all leaving the country.
For my parents, this was a déjà vu. You see, I was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, in 1978. At that time Ian Smith was President of Rhodesia and white rule in that country, which borders South Africa, was about to be dissolved. In fact, a year later Rhodesia had a new president, a black man named Abel Muzorewa, and the country's name was changed to Zimbabwe. Shortly thereafter, in 1980, Robert Mugabe rose to power and his infamous reign lasts until this day.
My father, the rabbi of Bulawayo, fled Rhodesia at the end of 1978 along with most of the country's Jews, due to the unrest and instability. Sadly, Zimbabwe never recovered and the "Breadbasket of Africa" gradually crumbled. (Interestingly, I am the only Rhodesian-born Chabad rabbi in the world today!)
At this time, my father was offered the opportunity to serve the Jewish community in either New Zealand or South Africa. He asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and the Rebbe told him to go to South Africa. So, my siblings and I grew up in South Africa, a country that had tragically adopted a policy of racial discrimination towards its black citizens, but was a haven of safety and security for its Jewish ones.
I vividly recall the apartheid state of the 1980s. I remember the public busses marked, "Whites Only." I remember the signs in the park stating, "Whites Only." I even recall the large markings outside public restrooms that declared, "Whites Only."
Then, in 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. South Africa was embarking on a new road under the leadership of F.W. De Klerk. The local papers described the anxiety everyone was feeling - whites and blacks alike. The question on everyone's lips, "What will be?"
We were expecting bombings, civil war, a blood bath! The local papers were predicting it. The Afrikaans party would never allow the blacks to take over so smoothly, we worried. Would South Africa now become like Rhodesia across the border?
And so, I left South Africa on December 26, 1992.
But then Nelson Mandela rose to power as the country's first democratically elected leader.
Throughout this period of worry and concern, there was one strong voice that consistently reassured South African Jewry that there was nothing to fear, all would be well. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was adamant. He told many individuals, including my father, that South Africa would be a good place for the Jewish community until the coming of Moshiach.
And indeed, Nelson Mandela proved to be the conduit for the Rebbe's blessing. Mandela miraculously maneuvered South Africa through an impossible transition, and despite all the prophets of doom, the "Rainbow Nation" was born in a spirit of peace and reconciliation. The anticipated bloodshed and destruction did not happen - just as the Rebbe predicted.
I think we South African's truly understood that we had experienced a modern-day miracle when, during the 1995 Rugby World Cup final that South Africa contested, 100,000 people chanted in unison "Nelson, Nelson!" as he appeared on the field to present the trophy to the South African captain. The Springboks were dear to the hearts of South Africa's white Afrikaners and loathed by the nation's black majority. By donning their emblem and putting on the Springboks uniform, Mandela reconciled a fractured nation, badly damaged by racism and hatred. I remember that day well.
Mandela suffered horribly at the hands of the apartheid regime. He was not allowed to attend his own mother's funeral. He was denied access to the funeral of his son who died in a car crash. Nevertheless, to his immense credit, he never took revenge. He embraced all South Africans, regardless of race or affiliation, in a spirit of peace, understanding, and forgiveness. This is but one lesson we can take from this giant of a man.
I moved back to South Africa just three months after I emigrated. With time, my mother came to peace with her traumatic attack and my parents decided to continue living there.
I love South Africa. My parents still live there till today, as do some of my siblings. Many people would consider my parents crazy to continue living there after such an ordeal. But the Rebbe gave the Jews of South Africa a most unique blessing - that it will be a good place for Jews until Moshiach arrives, and Mandela was the catalyst who brought that blessing to fruition. Madiba was the catalyst!
Rabbi Vigler co-directs, with his wife Shevy, Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side in New York City. From chabadic.com
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. Friday, Dec. 30, the menora will be lit at 3:40 p.m. Saturday night, December 31, the eighth and last night of Chanuka, the menora will be lit at 8:30 p.m. For more info call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000. For public menora lightings in your area visit chanukah.org
Rabbi Chaim and Seema Lipszyc are moving to Spring Hill, Florida to establish a Chabad Center to serve the communities of Hernando and Citrus County.
Chabad of Aventura, Florida held a ground-breaking ceremony for a new 44,000-square-foot building.. The new building will two sanctuaries, a ballroom for 600 guests, a preschool and high-tech classrooms, a library and multi-purpose rooms, and a rooftop with gardens.
Chanukah, 5715 
...In this connection, and apropos of Chanukah, it would be timely to reflect on the significance of the Chanukah Lights. Although all Mitzvoth issue from One G-d, the perfect Unity, there are many aspects to every Mitzvah, just as the complexity of our physical world is likewise created from His Mitzvah. Nevertheless, the performance of the Mitzvah, accompanied by an appreciation of its significance, is definitely beneficial.
With this in mind, I wish to point out what I consider very significant in connection with the significance of Chanukah, as it is emphasized by the Chanukah Lights, specifically by the two conditions attending the performance of this Mitzvah: (a) The light is to shine forth "outside" and (b) the light is to grow every night by the addition of one more candle each night of Chanukah. Thus, the message of Chanukah is to bring home to every Jew his duty to spread the "light" of the Torah and the "candles" of the Mitzvoth, especially in times of darkness, and to do so with ever growing effort.
A man's influence is generally limited, either to his immediate environment, his family and friends, or if he is a teacher or lecturer, to a wider circle. The journalist, however, whose words and thoughts enjoy wide currency through the printed word, enjoys a much greater influence; he is less limited in space, since the printed word travels far, and in time, since it endures on record.
Thus you are privileged to have far greater opportunities in exercising influence than the average person, to help illuminate the darkness of the night with, I trust, ever growing effect. These are not mere opportunities, for as everything in Nature strives to transform itself form a state of potentiality to actuality, so all human potentialities must be actualized for the general good, the true good. The way of Providence is inscrutable. Although logically, as the Chanukah candles indicate, one should begin by lighting up his home first, and then seeing to it that its light dispels the darkness outside as far as possible, the process is sometimes reversed; bringing light to others far away, brings success in carrying the light closer home.
I send you my prayerful wishes for success in your personal affairs, which is closely associated with your public work and your influence, all the more so, since in addition to being a son of the "kingdom of priest and a holy nation," you are actually a kohen among Jews.
23rd of Kislev, 5713 
Sholom u'Brocho [Peace and Blessing]:
...With the approach of Chanukah, I extend to you herewith my sincere wishes for a happy and inspiring Chanukah.
The message of Chanukah is important and timely to all Jews, but even more so to Jews living in surroundings with comparatively little Jewish vitality and activity. It is precisely in such circumstance that Chanukah offers many a useful lesson. One such lesson I wish to make the subject of this message.
It is noteworthy that the Chanukah lights must be kindled after sunset, when it is dark outside, unlike the lights that were kindled in the Beth Hamikdosh [Holy Temple] much earlier, or the Sabbath lights kindled on Friday before sunset.
There is another difference: the Beth Hamikdosh-and the Sabbath-lights have their place indoors, while the place of Chanukah lights is at the entrance to the home (when Jews lived freely in their land, the place was outside the entrance). Finally, there is yet another distinction: in the former two cases the lights remain the same, while the Chanukah lights are increased every night.
The lesson which seems to be indicated by the Chanukah lights is that besides lighting up the home (Sabbath lights) and the synagogue and Yeshiva (substituting for the Sanctuary of old), the Jew has the additional responsibility of lighting up the "outside," the whole environment. Moreover, when conditions are unfavorable (it is "dark" outside), it is then not enough to make a light and maintain it, though it is also an achievement in view of the darkness; but it is necessary to steadily increase the lights, through steadily growing efforts to spread the light of Torah and mitzvoth, to illuminate not only one's home, but the whole environment as well...
Why is it customary to eat dairy foods on Chanuka?
Eating dairy foods reminds us of the miracles performed through Yehudit, daughter of Yochanan the High Priest. After serving the Syrian General Holefernes salty cheese, she plied him with wine. when we was in a drunken stupor she killed him, smuggled his head out of the enermy camp and into the city where it was hung on the wall. When the Syrian army saw this they fled.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
We're approaching the "home stretch" of Chanuka.
On Friday, we kindle the seven Chanuka lights and then the Shabbat candles. When Shabbat ends, we say the "Havdala" prayer separating Shabbat from the days of the week. Afterwards we light the eighth and final candle of the Chanuka menora for this year.
But what if there are people who have not yet lit the Chanuka menora this holiday? Is there a point to seeking these people out and helping assure that they will at least light the seventh and eighth candles even though perhaps they didn't light the first, second, third.... and sixth?
The Rebbe established a Chanuka Campaign. As part of this campaign, Chanuka kits are distributed, replete with candles, a menora, an educational brochure and even a dreidle and Chanuka "gelt." Even on the final night of Chanuka, even when that final night of Chanuka occurred on Saturday night, the Rebbe encouraged everyone to reach out to yet another Jew to assure that more and more light would be brought into the world to eradicate the darkness that exists.
"It is important to continue working on the Chanuka campaign to encourage Jews to light Chanukah candles. Even though many people worked very hard in all the previous seven days, and only the eighth day remains, it is necessary to intensify the efforts. The eighth day is called "Zot Chanuka" ("This is Chanuka"). It includes all the seven preceding days. We must go out and find an estranged Jew who does not know about the holiday of Chanuka, its laws, and its customs. We must teach him about the holiday. Then since "the heart of a Jew is awake," he will also light Chanuka candles."
So, before Shabbat, or after Shabbat, find a fellow Jew who has not yet lit the menora this Chanuka. Encourage him to "seize the moment" in the last moments of Chanuka and to make the world a far-brighter and far better place!
It happened at the end of two years (Gen. 41:1)
Sometimes a person comes to "the end" of his years, the conclusion of his life, and, from the proper perspective, he finds that he only lived two years - he was asleep the rest of the time.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)
Pharoah called Joseph, Tzafnat Paneiach (Genesis 41:45)
Pharoah changed Joseph's name because he didn't want his viceroy to have a Jewish sounding name. However, he continued to be called by the name Josef, as it is written in the next verse: "And Josef went out from Pharoah's presence."
And Jacob saw that there was food ("shever") in Egypt (Gen. 42:1)
According to Kabalistic teachings, the world is filled with "holy sparks" that must be redeemed by the Jewish people through Torah and mitzvot (commandments). These "sparks" are the result of "shevirat hakeilim" (literally "breaking of the vessels" - the Midrashic account of the building and destruction of primordial worlds prior to this one; shevirat is similar to shever). Jacob, with his prophetic vision, recognized the unusually high number of "sparks" that had fallen to Egypt, which was the reason for the Egyptian exile.
(The Magid of Mezeritch)
And he said to them: You are spies (Gen. 42:9)
Of all the possible accusations he could level against them, why did Joseph accuse his brothers of espionage? Joseph was afraid his brothers would utilize their visit to Egypt to investigate his whereabouts. By accusing them of being spies, he prevented them from asking too many questions. For no one who is accused of espionage is likely to make too many inquiries about a head of state...
(Rabbi Avraham of Pshischa)
It was dark outside. Nobody was out on the street. But in one building you would not have known it was night. It was the study hall of the Kotzker Chasidim in the heart of the forest. The Chasidim were sharing Torah thoughts. They sang Chasidic melodies and their faces were aglow with joy.
Chanuka was approaching and the next day they would kindle the first light of Chanuka. As they did every year, the Chasidim traveled to their Rebbe to celebrate the holiday in a special atmosphere of holiness. Dawn broke and the Chasidim were still going strong, as though they had slept through the night.
"Chasidim," called out one of the elders of the group. "The sun is rising; let us go to the Rebbe." They quickly got ready for the morning prayers which were recited in an especially joyous atmosphere. After that, they set out on the way with song and dance. "G-d willing, we will arrive by this evening when the Rebbe lights the menora," rejoiced one of the Chasidim.
The wind howled. The Chasidim wrapped their coats even more tightly and continued battling the strong wind. Just a few hours remained until they would reach the Rebbe's holy court. But the sky darkened, the wind picked up strength, and snow began to fall, making walking difficult.
"Chasidim, be strong, surely this is the Satan who wants to delay us from being with the Rebbe on Chanuka. Let us muster our strength and with G-d's help we will get there safely," called out Hershel encouragingly.
They continued walking but for some reason, the road did not come to an end. According to their calculations, they should have arrived at the Rebbe's court already. A thick forest surrounded them and the Chasidim realized they were lost.
Suddenly, they heard someone shout, "Halt!"The Chasidim froze in their places. A few moments later, a band of Cossacks on horseback surrounded them.
"Ha," the evil ones chortled. "We have caught fat fish this time. Jews!" The Cossacks felt around in the Chasidim's pockets and knapsacks and took every penny they could find. They then brought them deeper into the forest to a place only the Cossacks knew about.
The Chasidim walked quietly, each one immersed in his thoughts, making a spiritual accounting, and praying for a Chanuka miracle.
The Chasidim were soon led to dark underground cells. "We will wait here until the commander comes and decides what to do with you," said a Cossacks as he whipped one of the Chasidim. Some time went by and the commander appeared. He declared that they be hung. The Chasidim began pouring out their hearts in the recital of Psalms and they rent the heavens with their tears.
At that very same time, in the court of the Rebbe, many Chasidim were waiting. The menora was ready and the first cup was filled with oil. The Chasidim waited for the Rebbe to come out of his room and light the menora.
One hour went by and then another and Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk was still in his room. The Chasidim there were surprised. "Every year, the Rebbe lights the menora as early as possible because the mitzva is so dear to him. Why is he waiting this year?"
The clock showed that it was close to midnight and the Chasidim were still waiting. Suddenly, the door opened and the Rebbe came out in a rush. Something looked amiss.
There was silence in the room as the Rebbe walked toward the menora. The Shamash was lit and the Rebbe said the first blessing loudly. Then the Rebbe said the next two blessings and held the Shamash to the first light, but oy, the wick did not ignite. The Rebbe tried again and again with no success. He sighed heavily and the Chasidim knew something had happened.
The Rebbe extinguished the Shamash, looked at the Chasidim, and quickly left the synagogue. The Chasidim looked at one another in shock. A commotion erupted until one of the Chasidim gave a bang and said, "It is not time for talking. Let us recite Psalms to avert the evil decree." Books of Psalms were quickly opened and the Chasidim read chapter after chapter with tears.
In the meantime, the Rebbe went to his room and changed his clothes. He put on a coarse leather jacket, big boots, a hairy coat and a leather hat that covered his face. He wrapped himself in a scarf and went out a back door into the blizzard.
The Rebbe had a hard time walking through the deep snow, but this did not deter him from his mission. A few hours of exhausting walking passed until he reached his destination. He entered the forest and knew just where to go. He stopped at the entrance to the Cossack camp and stood there fearlessly. The Rebbe gazed at the Cossacks and they trembled. They quickly dropped their weapons and fled.
The Rebbe approached the hidden trapdoor, lifted it, and went down until he was facing the Chasidim.
"Rebbe!" they exclaimed in disbelief. "What is the Rebbe doing here? How did the Rebbe know we were in trouble?"
The Rebbe did not reply. He just motioned to them to get out and go with him to his synagogue so they could light the menora before daylight. "You did not wander far, the road to Kotzk is not long," the Rebbe said reassuringly. This time, the walk was easier and within a short time they were at the Rebbe's warm, inviting synagogue.
The Rebbe went over to the menora and lit the Shamash. This time, the first light lit immediately.
When the eighth light of Chanuka is kindled on a Saturday night it has many special connections with the Redemption. The meal after the Sabbath is referred to as Seudat David Malka Meshicha - the meal of King David Moshiach. Lighting the eighth Chanuka light also reminds a Jew that Moshiach is coming now, and we will soon have the eight-string harp of the Holy Temple. At that time, in addition to having the joy of serving G-d, the joy of Shabbat and the joy of mitzvot (commandments), we will also have the joy of the Redemption and the special joy of Chanuka (which are days of "praise and rejoicing").
(The Rebbe, after Shabbat, 8th night of Chanuka, 1985)