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by Rabbi Mendy Herson
Are you grown up? Out of school and out of the house?
Is your education complete?
Before you answer that last question, consider the profundity implied by the term 'education'.
It's not just the three 'R's and their academic partners. It's so much more.
There is a deep objective to educating a child, and it's not simply a function of knowledge. 'Education' is about initiating a child into his/her own personality and talents, equipping them for a meaningful life in a complex world.
Chassidic thought points out that when you launch any new endeavor, you need to pay special attention to its initial stages; you need to ensure you give it a healthy send-off, before you can exhale and trust in its ability to follow a healthy pattern. You need to be wholly invested in those early, vulnerable chapters.
Similarly, in helping to launch a child's life, a parent/teacher needs to shower love and support, building a sense of security and empowerment. Within that healthy cocoon, a child can hit a healthy stride, growing to meaningfully engage the world.
That's the soul of education.
And it doesn't stop with childhood; the concept applies to any situation where the subject is too vulnerable to find his or her own way forward over a threshold.
That's one reason this Holiday is called Chanukah, which literally means 'Inauguration' or 'Education.'
When the Hellenists took control of Israel, and began to seduce the Jews with their hedonistic ways, the Jews were in a particularly weak position, both spiritually and militarily. Their lives went dark; they couldn't extricate themselves from this threat to their very existence.
But, in the final analysis, we never go totally dark. There's always the spark of elemental connection to G-d that can never be extinguished. Digging deep for that backstop of moral strength, the Jews refused to surrender their religious practices. They wouldn't - they couldn't - separate themselves from their G-d and their heritage.
And G-d - like the quintessential loving Parent - responded. Seeing their childlike vulnerability, G-d showered them with loving care, with spiritual and military strength, with supernatural light in their lives, to make it over this difficult threshold.
That's what we celebrate on Chanukah: The miracle of G-d's care and love lighting up the darkness.
In those days.
Rabbi Mendy Herson, together with his wife Malki, direct Chabad of Somerset, Hunterdon & Union Counties in New Jersey. This is from Rabbi Herson's blog. To read more visitchabadcentral.org
This week we read the Haftora for Mikeitz. It contains one of the most famous stories in the entire Bible.
Two women came before King Solomon. Both women lived in the same home and had given birth to sons within days of each other. One woman, while asleep, rolled on top of her baby, suffocating him. She switched her baby for the other woman's living child. When the second mother woke up to nurse her baby, she found that he was dead. Upon closer inspection though, she realized that it wasn't her son, and understood what happened.
The women cried out, "My son is the live one and your son is dead," and they argued before the king.
Solomon already knew through prophecy who the real mother was. However, he wanted to show with logical proof who was the mother. King Solomon came up with a risky but creative solution.
He told then, "Bring me a sword," and they brought a sword. He said. "Divide the live boy in two, give one half to one and the other half to the other."
You could imagine the scene; everyone standing around and a 12-year-old king is suggesting the most heinous of judgments. Had it been correct to coronate the king so young? But then, the living baby's mother, having compassion on her son, said, "My lord, give the baby to her, just don't put him to death," and the other one said, "Let him be neither mine nor yours, divide him."
The king spoke up and said, "Give her (the first woman) the living child, and don't put him to death." A voice came from heaven and confirmed, "She is the mother."
What is the deeper meaning of this story?
The two mothers symbolize two influences in the world: the Torah and modern society. They are battling over every Jewish child. Modern society's child was smothered and died, meaning that each new way of thinking ultimately dies as a more "innovative"or "enlightened" way of thinking dawns. But man-made wisdom, as noble as it sounds at the time, end up failing, and in many cases, backfire and end in disaster.
The Torah's way of life remains the same. Even more, being that Torah is from G-d, it is always true and not subject to change.
The question is, who will get the child?
The judges are the parents. Many make a grave mistake, thinking they will educate equally in both. This is cutting the child in half, not physically but spiritually, mentally, morally, and emotionally. As the real mother said, "Give the baby to her, just don't put him to death." Of course the Torah way is best, but it is better to give the child to the world's way, than to cut him in half.
Giving your children a Jewish education and upbringing, is by far the best thing that you can do for them.
May we all have nachat from the children, and bring them up in the Torah way. Then we will surely merit the coming of Moshiach!
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.
by Sarah Bendetsky
As evening fell, we found ourselves in a large barrack without flooring. I tossed and turned on a cold, wet blanket. I tried to snatch some precious sleep, to gather strength for the coming morning. Then, an unexpected sound reached my ears, the sweet sound of a familiar tune. I wondered how I recognized the voice and the song, like an echo from the past.
It took time, but eventually I was able to put a name to the singer. It was the voice of the cantor Yossel Mendelbaum. He was singing "Mikdash Melech," one of the stanzas of "Lecha Dodi" that is sung each Friday night to welcome the Shabbat.
He was singing it in the style of the Bobover chassidim; I had heard it before in the city of Krakow. At the time, I was nine-years-old. I had paid a visit to the synagogue of Bobov in honor of the Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Ben Tziyon Halberstam. Yossel Mendelbaum was the cantor on that occasion.
I arose and used the sweet sound to guide me toward its source. I discovered a group of men quietly singing familiar songs, with Yossel conducting the choir. Of his impressive appearance, as I had remembered it, there now remained just a thin moustache over narrow lips, hovering beneath a nose that seemed to overly protrude from his fallen face. Nevertheless, his pleasant and heartwarming voice had not changed. His was a voice I could not forget.
"Come sit with us," one of the group invited me. They were all natives of Krakow who had been brought to the Plaszow camp after having passed through the Skarzysko camp, where they had been forced to work for Hasag, the Nazi arms manufacturer, producing weapons and ammunition.
I spent a long time with these men, and I left with the positive feeling that I had just acquired new friends. Given the conditions in which we struggled daily to survive, that was a highly prized experience. The melodies were sung in hushed voices, but accompanied by the overwhelmingly emotional singing of Yossel, they warmed my heart and breathed a ray of hope into my being.
Before long it was Chanuka. Yossel Mendelbaum kindled the first light. An empty rifle bullet casing held the flame, and the entire group sang with deep concentration.
"Ma'oz Tzur... Mighty Rock of my salvation, to praise You is a delight!"
Someone distributed pieces of baked potatoes among us - a true luxury! This was a most bizarre celebration to mark the Chanuka miracle that occurred to our ancestors, while we were living like men condemned to death, waiting to be hanged. I encountered the Mendelbaum group almost every day.
One day in the month of Teves, 5705 (1944-1945), a transport of prisoners left our camp. Rumor had it that the transport was heading for Germany. Yossel Mendelbaum and his friends were included. I mourned the loss of my connection with Mendelbaum. He had taken me back to my rich childhood.
Forty years later, I served as the Israeli Consul-General in New York. I was invited to an event at the synagogue of the Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam.
The event took place during Chanuka, December, 1984. The synagogue was located in Boro Park and the event was overflowing with hundreds of chassidim wearing holiday garments.
With my clean-shaven face and clothing, I certainly did not blend into the crowd, but that did not prevent the Rebbe from inviting me to sit beside him at the head of the table. He was interested in hearing of the situation in the Holy Land, and he inquired about the welfare of my family. Among other matters, I told him about my brother, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, and described the time we spent together in the horrors of the Holocaust.
As we were talking, the Rebbe raised his hand. Immediately, the hall fell silent. Out of the stillness, a voice rang out in melody. All my bones trembled at that sound. I recognized that voice! This voice had followed me in Krakow and in the Tschenstochau concentration camp.
I refused to believe that it could truly be the voice of Mendelbaum. According to my calculations, he would have to be in his eighties by now. It was difficult to imagine that he was still alive and singing.
My thoughts were cut off abruptly as the Rebbe turned to me with further questions and I responded. But the voice continued to echo in my ears. I then told the Rebbe about meeting Yossel Mendelbaum in Tschenstochau. I described hearing Mendelbaum sing that Shabbat eve for the Rebbe's late father, Rabbi Ben Tziyon Halberstam, whose position the Rebbe now filled. I spoke of the conditions we endured in those concentration camps, our discussions there, and of our sudden parting. The Rebbe smiled and again lifted his hand. One of his attendants approached and the Rebbe whispered something in his ear.
Moments later, an impressive-looking man with a white beard approached and stood beside his Rebbe, then leaned forward and awaited his Rebbe's instruction. The Rebbe rose from his seat and led the man to me. Pointing at the elderly chassid, the Rebbe informed me, "Here, this is Yossel Mendelbaum!"
I stood up in shock, unable to utter a word.
The Rebbe attempted to soften the meeting, adding, "His beard has whitened, but his voice has grown even more powerful since then."
Yossel and I then spoke together for a while.
Yossel returned to his place, and following the Rebbe's request, he sang the stanza of "Mikdash Melech" that I had told the Rebbe about. It was an exceedingly moving moment.
Hundreds of chassidim sat facing me and surrounding me. In my eyes, they suddenly changed into those Jews barely surviving their miserable conditions with whom I had shared pieces of potato in the barracks of the Tschenstochau camp.
I suddenly felt the freezing cold that had turned our bones into ice. It was only the voice of Yossel Mendelbaum singing "Ma'oz Tzur" on that first night of Chanuka that managed to thaw the unbearable freeze.
Reprinted from Tale for the Shabbos Table by Zalman Ruderman BSD Publications
Rabbi Yanki and Shainy Hecht recently moved to Lincoln, California, to establish a new Chabad center in the city.
Rabbi Zalman and Libby Groner have settled in Metairie, Louisiana, to bolster the work of Chabad in that city.
Rabbi Leibel and Malka Jacobson moved to Ames, Iowa. They will be servicing the Jewish students at Iowa State University, as well as the Jewish Community of Ames.
Rabbi Dovi and Shula Begun moved to Brickell in Downtown Miami, Florida, to focus on classes and programming for YJP Miami - Young Jewish Professionals Miami.
Rabbi Mendy and Fruma Bresinger moved to Montreal, Quebec, to join the growing staff of Chabad Zichron Kedoshim.
Rabbi Levi and Mushka Pinson have arrived in Berlin, Germany, to serve the students on campus as part of Chabad Berlin.
Rabbi Meir and Mushki Shmotkin moved to east of San Francisco and established Chabad of Alameda, California.
4th Day of Chanuka, 5715 (1955)
...You can well appreciate the inner pain and anxiety that have been caused by the reported changes introduced in the character of the yeshiva in recent years, changes which are inimical to the character of the yeshiva and harmful to its students.
I shall mention but several of the more grievous ones:
The purpose of chinuch (Jewish education) is to bring up the Jewish child, boy or girl, to a life of the utmost possible degree of perfection, religiously as well as morally and ethically.
Co-education is not conducive to the attainment of this end; on the contrary, it is a sure step in the opposite direction.
The state of morality of present day youth is too painful a subject to dwell upon. Even non-Jewish educators have largely come to realize the harmful effects of coeducation.
Statistics, by no means complete, since for obvious reasons they are not fully reported or even recorded, reveal the state of moral depravity to which coeducation leads.
It has therefore been one of the cardinal and basic principles of our educational institutions not to permit coeducation at all costs, and it grieves me very much to hear that the yeshiva has not abided by this principle....
It is also self-evident that one of the main purposes of the yeshiva is to prepare the Jewish child for life in an environment in which Jews form a minority.
Jews have always been "the smallest among the nations," but our strength does not lie in numbers. It is the Jewish way to be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Living according to our holy Torah, adhering to and practicing the high standards of our mitzvot in our everyday life, has made us "different," but herein lies our strength, and this is what has preserved us through the ages.
This Jewish consciousness and rightful pride in our destiny has to be implanted in our children from their earliest formative years, and the vital importance of it cannot be overemphasized.
The fact that we live in a democratic country, with a full measure of freedom, makes such Jewish consciousness even more imperative, for being a small percentage of the total population, the forces of assimilation assert themselves more strongly than elsewhere.
It is the duty of the yeshiva to remove from the child any vestige of inferiority complex about his Jewishness in a predominantly non-Jewish environment he may have, until he grows up to understand that democracy and freedom are not a cauldron of assimilation, but rather the contrary: they offer the possibility for everyone to take his place, enjoy his rights and live according to his faith one hundred percent, and the opportunity to the Jew to fulfill his life's destiny.
(Incidentally, this is also a better way to win the respect of one's gentile neighbors, rather than by attempts to emulate them and invade their privacy, their religious customs, etc.)
With the above truth in mind, it has been a basic principle in all institutions founded by my father-in-law, of saintly memory, and in others to which his influence extended, to set up a system whereby the sacred Jewish subjects are taught in the morning and the secular subjects in the afternoon.
Apart from the fact that the child's mind is more receptive and retentive in the morning, there is the basic principle of impressing upon the child the order of importance of these two departments, namely, that the Torah and Jewish way of life come first and foremost. Only in this way can he be brought up to properly appreciate his great Jewish heritage, and with pride and fortitude face any challenge he may encounter as a Jew.
It is therefore very painful to learn that the yeshiva has disregarded this vital principle, and that in certain classes, at any rate, the order has been reversed...
Again, I repeat: I am aware of the usual arguments purporting to "justify" the above defects, and even call them advantages. The actual harm, however, is not minimized thereby.
The best of educators cannot always fully estimate the lasting imprint of what appears as small and unimportant in the child's education.
The child, in his tender years, has well been likened to a seed, or young plant, upon which the slightest scratch may grow to unforeseen proportions and crippling effects.
By the same token, every effort to correct even the smallest defect in the child's education is inestimable in value.
Great are the opportunities of those whom Divine Providence has given influence over an educational institution, especially one founded by the saintly leader of Israel...
How do we "Publicize the Miracle" of Chanuka?
According to the Talmud, an essential part of kindling the Menora is to publicize the miracle of Chanuka. Our Sages instituted that we light the Chanuka menora in public view, outside the entrance of our homes and at a time that people are still passing by in the streets. Customs vary by community, but many fulfill this requirement at home by lighting the menora near the door or window. Public lightings of large menoras were initiated by the Rebbe. Chabad-Lubavitch centers world-wide sponsor such events.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
During these days of Chanuka we emphasize the miracles that G-d wrought for our ancestors, "In those days, in our times." The first miracle was the victory of the small Jewish army over the vastly superior and more numerous Greek army. The second miracle, and this is the miracle which we symbolically celebrate each time we kindle the Chanuka menora, is the miracle of the one small cruse of pure olive oil which lasted for eight days rather than the one day for which it was intended.
That G-d was and is willing to perform miracles for His people shows His tremendous love for us. But, G-d's expression of love for us depends on our expression of love for each other. Thus, in addition to the love we should show a fellow Jew because he is our brother, we must show him additional love because G-d loves him. The importance of loving our fellow Jews is emphasized by the fact that this course of conduct will enable each person, his family, and the entire Jewish people, and ultimately the whole world, to leave the exile in the immediate future.
The Chanuka lights that we kindle in our home on each night of Chanuka are a symbol of G-d's love for the Jewish people. They have their source in G-d's light, in the light of the miracle of Chanuka, a miraculous light. As we kindle the Chanuka lights on the remaining nights of Chanuka, let us remember the miracles they represent, the Source of the miracles, and why G-d performed those miracles for us. And let these thoughts spur us on toward greater love of our fellow Jew, especially including, of course, those closest to us.
May we merit not only the lights of Chanuka this year, but also the Great Light of the Final Redemption, through the revelation of Moshiach, NOW.
And they did not recognize him (Gen. 42:8)
The Talmud explains (Chagiga 16a) that there are three things that cause a person's eyesight to dim if he looks at them, one of which is a "Nasi," a prince. Concerning a Nasi, the Torah states (Num. 27:20), "And You shall put some of Your greatness upon him." As Joseph was the Nasi and leader of Egypt, his brothers refrained from looking directly at his face, and therefore failed to recognized him.
(Sichot Kodesh 5727)
If I lose, I lose. (Gen. 43:14)
Jacob was afraid that he would lose yet another son when his sons brought Benjamin to Egypt. "I lose" the first time was for Joseph and Shimon who were still there, and the second "I lose" was for Benjamin. Jacob was also referring to the exiles of the Jewish people. "I lose" the first time is for the first Holy Temple that was destroyed, the second "I lose" is for the second Holy Temple that was destroyed. After the Redemption, G-d will give us a third Holy Temple that will never be destroyed.
The Torah portion Miketz and Chanuka
The Torah portion, Miketz, is always read during Chanuka, a holiday on which it is customary to give "Chanuka gelt (money)" to children. Interestingly enough, money is discussed numerous times in this week's portion: When the famine struck, people from all over brought money to Egypt to buy grain; Joseph secretly put back the brothers' money to their sacks; when the brothers returned to Egypt for more grain, they took with them double the original sum of money; after Joseph revealed to his brothers who he was, he gave them gifts and money.
(Likutei Levi Yitzchak)
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 giving employment to 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 out a thousand 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 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 though 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. "They would have killed me!"
"Surely your mitzvot 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
Shabbat is compared to the World to Come. In the blessing after the meal on Shabbat we add: "May the Merciful One let us inherit that day which will be all Shabbat and rest for life everlasting." The afternoon prayer of Shabbat describes the day in words used about the days of Moshiach: "a rest of love and generosity, a rest of truth and faithfulness, a rest of peace, serenity and security, a perfect rest..." Indeed, so closely bound are Shabbat and Moshiach that our sages declare, "If Israel were to observe properly the Shabbat twice, they would immediately be redeemed." Other sources say this prescription for Redemption applies even if the Jewish people observe Shabbat properly only once.
(From Reflections of Redemption, by Rabbi Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann)