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December 27, 2019 - 29 Kislev, 5780

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When Your Oil is Running Low  |  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

When Your Oil is Running Low

by Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman

Today was one of those days that you usually hear moms kvetch about. Except that today, mom was out of town. On an early flight to Atlanta for a family celebration. So I was mom.

Today began, well really today began last night. All parents have such days, when it seems that all that can go wrong, will.

One kid woke up with fever about an hour into my nap (calling it a night's sleep would be overstating things) complaining of a sore throat. After settling him, the coughing began with another one of the children. It really didn't stop. Still hasn't. Post nasal drip is what we were told again and again.

There was a Bar Mitzva scheduled for this morning so I was grateful when I managed an early doctors appointment. Wasn't as grateful when they two kids came back strep positive.

Then the whirlwind began, baby sitter, bar mitzva, older kid to the bus, Chanuka party in Boston, dinner baths, Menora lighting, etc.

I had really looking forward to lighting the entire eight candles of the menora. To me this has always been my favorite time of the holiday, the culmination of an awesome holiday. I don't always get sentimental, but this is my thing.

Bleary eyed, I gathered the kids around and we lit the candles. However one of my wicks just wouldn't say lit. I lit it and re-lit it again and again but it wasn't working. I pushed the wick deeper into the oil hoping that it would absorb more oil, perhaps then it would light, but that too didn't work.

I then pulled the wick out more, even though the bottom of the wick would no longer reach the bottom of the oil glass (i.e. it would burn less time than the others) but this way at least it would stay lit.

It worked. In fact it worked so well, that now that flame was larger than the others. Then it hit, me.

What to do when your oil is running low? When you feel like you've run out of fuel to keep your flame lit, what can you do? Most people (myself included) try to bring the flame to it again and again. But if the fuel injector is not working, it still won't light, no matter how many times you try. Then, common sense would be to stick the wick deeper into the oil trying to immerse yourself in your source of inspiration thinking that this should for sure work. But alas, this too does not always do the trick.

Sometimes, you have to trust that the fuel that has been previously injected is sufficiently potent.. Rather than go back for more inspiration - pushing the wick back into the oil - trust that the given inspiration is enough to keep your flames lit. Pull that wick a bit further from the source. See if it will light and stay lit? See if you have now mastered the message of the lights of the holiday, not just to light them but for them to be lights that are self- sustaining lights.

In all likelihood, you will find, particularly on this eighth and final night of Chanuka, that the light has so permeated you and your candles that when you pull it from the source, not only will your candle light, but it burn better and brighter than before.

Is this not the whole point of the Festival of Lights? To take that light and bring into the cold bitter winter that follows?

The last day of Chanuka is called ZOT Chanuka, meaning THIS IS Chanuka. And well, isn't this exactly what Chanuka really is all about?

Trust yourself and try it.

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman and his wife Raizel run the Chabad of Peabody Jewish Center. Rabbi Schusterman is a proud father of 7 who enjoys many hobbies, including exercise, skiiing and writing. He is a certified mohel and loves to write on a wide variety of topics. Read more of his writings at RabbiSchusterman.com.

Living with the Rebbe

Chanuka commemorates the miracle that happened with the seven-branched Menora in the Temple. So why do we light eight lights for eight days?

Also, the Talmud states that the mitzva to light Chanuka candles begins at sunset. However, the Temple Menora was lit an hour and a quarter before sunset. Again, why does our commemoration differ from the way the original Menora was kindled?

The answer is that the main point of Chanuka candles is to light up the darkness. The miracle of Chanuka came at a time of great the darkness after the Greeks defiled the Temple, and made a point of defiling every bottle of oil that was there, by breaking the seal of the High Priest that ensured its purity. They didn't break the bottles or pour out the oil, they merely broke the seals. We see then that it was more important to the Greeks to defile the oil than to destroy the Temple. What was their intention?

The Greeks didn't want to destroy us physically, they wanted to sever our connection to G-d. They had no problem with us keeping Judaism as a beautiful, inspiring practice, but not out of a sense of obedience to the Giver of the Torah. The pure oil that was defiled was symbolic of all that. The concept of purity and impurity is not logical. It is a Divine decree. And that is what the Greeks couldn't deal with, and sought to destroy. Of course, once they started to prohibit certain observances, it snowballed into a war on Judaism.

This is why the miracle of finding the jug of oil still intact with the High Priest's seal was so significant. The pure jug represented a part of us that is always connected to G-d, and that connection can never be severed.

Each of us has a G-dly soul, an actual "piece" of G-d within us. The soul has five parts, the highest being "yechida" which is always connected with G-d. Not the way G-d relates to the world, but much higher, the essence of G-d, beyond existence. This part of the soul, cannot be touched by negative influences, just the opposite, when we tap into that part of the soul, we affect the world around us in the most amazing way, lighting the darkness of the world, not just that our light dispels the darkness, but that the darkness itself begins to shine.

And this is symbolized by the number eight. According to Jewish mystical teachings, seven is the number that represents the natural order of the world and eight is beyond existence.

Now we can understand why Chanuka is eight days, and the Chanuka Menora has eight lights. Because Chanuka is about our connection to G-d beyond existence, making the darkness itself shine. And this is why we light the Chanuka Menora at sunset. We light as it begins to get dark, because the purpose is to light up the darkness.

May the light of our Chanuka menorah turn the darkness of the exile to light in a way that the darkness itself begins to shine, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come!

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.


A Slice of Life

Chanuka Mini-Miracles
by Ami Zanzuri

I would like to share my Chanukah miracle with you.

On the first Friday that I moved into Greenpoint, I called Chabad of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to be able to locate a temple I can go to on Shabbat. I spoke to Rabbi Yisroel Nissim and he invited me for Shabbat but it rained so I didn't go.

Sunday, December 25 (2016) was the second night of Chanuka. I decided to go get something to eat. As I finished eating I received a text from my sister and I replied to her saying, "I didn't even light the menora yet tonight and I don't have one!"

Five minutes later I paid and walked out of the restaurant. As I was walking up the street it was very empty, it seemed like there was not a soul here in Greenpoint. Mind you there was not a car on one of the busiest avenues.

I was about to reach my front door when I spotted a car with a Menora on top.

I waved the car down and told the rabbi, who was in the car with his wife, "I don't have a Menorah and I didn't even light today. Would you happen to have a spare?"

He said, "Of course I have one for you!"

As the rabbi reached over to get me a Menora he asked me what is my name and I told him "Ami."

He shouted with excitement and said, "You're Ami!?"

I instantly realized that he is the rabbi I spoke to on Friday!

He got out of the car to give me a big Bear hug.

I told him it doesn't make sense that I just texted my sister telling her my situation. And as I look to the left he pulled up literally in front of my door!

I told him this can't be a coincidence. He gave me a sufganita (jelly donut). He welcomed me to the neighborhood and invited me to join the Chanuka party taking place this week.

These things are written down and how they happen are unexplainable. I had just messaged my sister a few minutes before! If I had walked out of the restaurant 30 seconds earlier or after I would not have met the rabbi, I would not have gotten a Menora, I would not have lit the Chanuka candles. I would have gone back into my home feeling incomplete. My soul must have spoken to G-d. When I left the restaurant I was thinking of someone who would FaceTime me and do the candle lighting for me but that wouldn't happen since no one came to mind.

And the fact that he was pulled up exactly in the front of my doorstep inch to inch, we can't call this chance, the miracle is obvious.

G-d works in the most mysterious ways.

I call this story "The Miracle on Manhattan Avenue." When the soul asks, G-d can only listen. Wishing everyone Jewish or Not a light filled eight days!


Dozens of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, wounded in the 2014 Gaza War, remained in rehabilitation Sheba/Tel Hashomer Hospital for months afterwards. "The Light will Win!" was Chabad's Terror Victims Project that visited these wounded soldiers on Chanuka.

CTVP has been with these soldiers and their families from the time they were wounded and continued to be with them as they went through the difficult and painful process of rehabilitation. (And to this day, they are with soldiers and victims of terror throughout their trials and travails.) CTVP monitors their progress and provides assistance of all kinds - financial, emotional and practical - for both the soldiers and their families, and does so for as long as they need.

That year, on the second night of Chanuka, the soldiers, their families, and the CTVP staff and volunteers gathered in the Rehabilitation Department of the hospital.

At a moving ceremony, the group, led by Rabbis Menachem Kutner and Yossi Swerdlov, kindled the Chanuka candles together symbolizing the miracles and wonders that our ancestors experienced in long-ago days. And symbolizing the miracle of the survival of the courageous soldiers and the hope for full healing for all of them.

All of the stories of the soldiers are miracles in their own right. But one story in particular stood out that evening, as a miracle took place in the view of everyone present.

Ohad was critically injured during the war. CTVP had gone to his bedside right after his admission to Soroka Hospital, learning from his family of the severity of his condition. Ohad lay unconscious from a traumatic head injury.

Ohad had miraculously regained consciousness. He was transferred to Tel Hashomer for rehabilitation. With great effort, he was slowly relearning to speak. His first words were Mom and Dad, but he was not able to say much more.

Ohad was invited to light the Menora with Rabbi Kutner. Rabbi Kutner said the blessings and Ohad held the candle with his left hand which was functional.

Then, suddenly, the room went quiet as Ohad slowly began to mouth the words to the songs "Haneirot Halalu" and "Maoz Tzur" along with Rabbi Kutner. The familiar tunes that he had learned during his childhood created a miracle before the eyes of everyone.

His parents ran up to him and showered him with hugs and kisses mixed with tears of joy. There was not a dry eye in the room as everyone acknowledged this great miracle and expressed thanksgiving to G-d.


What's New

World's Largest Menorah

Be part of the Chanuka celebrations at the World's Largest Chanuka Menora at Fifth Ave. and 59th St. in New York City. The menora will be lit on Sunday, December 22 - Thursday, December 26 at 5:30 pm. On Friday, December 27 the Menorah will be lit at 3:45 pm and on Saturday night, December 28 at 8:30 pm. On the eighth night of Chanuka, Sunday December 29 it will be lit at 5:30 pm. On both Sundays there will be live music, free latkes and Chanuka gelt. For more info call the Lubavitch Youth Organization at (718) 778-6000. For public menora lightings in your area call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

New Emissaries

Rabbi Menachem and Shevi Aron have recently become emissaries of the Rebbe to Rural and Regional Australia (RARA).The current RARA emissaries, Rabbi Yossi and Malki Rodal, are moving to Newcastle, New South Wales, to establish a permanent Chabad presence there.


The Rebbe Writes

21st of Kislev, 5730 [1969]

I duly received your letter with the enclosed tzedakah [charity] contributed by your group of girls. Enclosed are the receipts.

May G-d grant that the zechus [merit] of the tzedakah should stand each and every one of you individually and all together in good stead for the fulfillment of your heart's desires for good in all your needs.

I hope you will have an inspiring Chanukah, especially in light of the fact that Jewish women had a significant role in the miracle of Chanukah, as you surely know. The women's contribution began with their self-sacrificing determination to observe the laws of tznius [modesty and decorum] and extended to the whole area of Torah and mitzvos. Be it remembered that in these days they were confronted with a trend which had swept not only non-Jewish nations, but unfortunately also a substantial part of the Jewish people - who called themselves "Hellenists," faithfully following the customs and fashions of the day as set by the Greek culture prevailing at that time.

An event in Jewish history, particularly one that has been eternalized by a mitzvah [commandment], especially for eight consecutive days, surely must provide food for thought, not only as an important historic event, but also and especially, as one that has a pertinent and timely significance for our own day and age. This should also make it easier to overcome whatever difficulties there may be, whether real or imaginary, to do so with confidence, joy and gladness of heart.

The message of Chanukah for Jewish girls and women is that they should not allow themselves to be influence by the environment, even though they are "few" and "weak" (as mentioned in Al Hanissim [added to the prayers on Chanuka]). Victory will be theirs if they assume a strong and determined posture, the benefit of it will be not only for them but for the entire Jewish people, indeed for all future generations, as was the case with Chanukah.

Surely it is unnecessary to elaborate to you at length as to the cult of the ancient Greeks, which was to worship physical strength and beauty, discarding all modesty. So shameless they became in their conduct, that they ascribed the same obscenities and vulgarity to their pagan gods, as is well known from their mythology.

In light of the above, the issue insofar as Jewish girls are concerned, is not merely the length of a dress, whether it be longer or shorter, but the fact that following the trend of the non-Jewish cult means subservience to it all along the line.

Secondly, this is not a personal matter where a Jewish girl can think it is a matter of her own to so as she pleases, but it has far-reaching implications involving other girls and is indeed a matter of concern for all our Jewish people.

Thirdly, there is no basis to think that what can a girl do in the face of such a majority and a trend, etc. The message of Chanukah provides the answer in regard to all three mentioned points.

I hope and pray that those girls who have shown strength and independence in the matter of tznius, will continue to do so even with greater strength while those who have not seen the matter in the true light of the Torah until now, will begin to do so from now on and will continue in the right direction, going from strength to strength in accordance with the teachings of the Chanukah lights, which are kindled in growing numbers from day to day.

Although this letter has been addressed to you in reply to your letter, both your letter as well as the reply are, of course, intended in behalf of the entire group. I hope, therefore, that you will bring it to the attention of each and every one of the group and that it will help you and them in your determination to show a living example to other girls and groups as to what the proper thinking and conduct of a Jewish girl should be. In this way we may be certain in the eventual victory of light over darkness and the realization of Al Hanissim in our own time, to its very conclusion, "to give thanks and praise to Your great Name."

Wishing you and all your friends a happy and inspiring Chanukah,

With blessings,


All Together

MESHULAM means "complete." Meshulam (Nehemiah 8:4) returned with Ezra and Nechemia to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile. According to the Midrash, Meshulam was another name for Zecharia, whose deeds were "complete." Another Meshulam was a sixth century b.c.e. scribe (II Kings 22:3). MACHLA means "fat." Machla (Num. 36:11) was one of the five daughters of Tzelafchad, and lived while the Jews were in the desert. Tzelafchad had no sons, so Machla and her sisters lobbied to receive their father's inheritance in the Land of Israel. Moses was consulted and brought the matter before G-d. A command was established in their merit for all time.


A Word from the Director

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.


Thoughts that Count

And he woke up...and behold, it was a dream (Gen. 41:7)

There are two kinds of dreamers: those who know that they are only dreaming but enjoy the dream anyway, and those who do not realize that they are dreaming and mistake it for reality. The first type of person is able to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and realizes that his dream is deceptive. But the second kind cannot make this distinction, and holds his delusion to be true.

(From a letter of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe)


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 he sought to weep, and he entered his room and he wept there...and he restrained himself (Gen. 43:30-31)

The soul "weeps" because it does not want to be in a body; it abhors its fleshly confinement and longs to be reunited with G-d. Nonetheless, it "restrains" itself and overcomes its inclination, recognizing that G-d wants the body and soul to work in tandem to observe His commandments.

(Ohr HaTorah)


It Once Happened

For the Chasidim of Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl, Chanuka was a special time. Regardless of the distance, thousands would come from all over the country for the privilege of watching the Rebbe kindle the menora.

One year, on the eve of the first night of Chanuka, the Rebbe's attendant announced that there would be a small deviation from tradition. Instead of kindling the Chanuka lights in the menora he had inherited from his saintly father, Rabbi Nachum, the Rebbe would be using a different one. He offered no reason. "All I know is that the Rebbe told me to take it out of storage and get it ready," the shamash said. "I don't know where it is from, only that it is exceptionally beautiful."

That evening, when the sun went down, Rabbi Mordechai strode into the huge synagogue to fulfill the mitzva (commandment). Everyone was already waiting eagerly. Thousands of eyes followed the tzadik's every movement.

Indeed, the menora that had been set up was not the Rebbe's usual one. And although the attendant had described it as "exceptionally beautiful," this was truly an understatement. The Rebbe recited the blessing and lit the wick, then stared into the tiny flame for a long time. It was obvious that the Rebbe's thoughts were far away.

A few minutes later the Rebbe shook his head slightly, as if returning to the world around him. Then, without even looking up, he started speaking:

"Many years ago I visited the village of Cherbin," the Rebbe began. "The Chasidim there greeted me very warmly, and I was invited to stay in the home of a certain Reb Meir. This Reb Meir, who had once been a follower of my late father, was the wealthiest man in town. He was a true Chasid in all of his 248 limbs and 365 sinews. His love for the Torah and his desire to perform mitzvot in the most beautiful manner possible knew no bounds.

"Towards the end of my stay in Cherbin Reb Meir led me into his treasury to show me his riches. There, in one corner of the room, was the most extraordinary silver menora I had ever seen. Reb Meir told me that he had paid a fortune for it, and planned on using it the very next Chanuka. I picked it up to admire its workmanship and artistry.

"'Reb Meir,' I said to him suddenly, looking him in the eye. 'Would you give me this menora as a gift?' My question momentarily startled him, and he was silent for a minute. But after considering my request he immediately agreed. 'Yes,' he said. 'I would give all my wealth to the Rebbe.'

"When I got back to Chernobyl I instructed my family to put the menora in storage. When Chanuka arrived I did not ask for it, but continued to use the menora I had inherited from my father. My family was somewhat surprised by this, for why had I brought the other one if I wasn't planning on using it? But as time passed, everyone forgot that the other one even existed.

"This year, however, I decided to change my custom, and now I will tell you why:

"A few days ago, Reb Meir of Cherbin passed away. When he ascended to the heavenly court, it seemed obvious that his rightful place was in Gan Eden [the Garden of Eden]. Thousands of angels testified to all the good deeds Reb Meir had performed throughout his life. One after the other they described his love of Torah and his exceptional performance of mitzvot.

"Reb Meir was about to pass through the gates of Gan Eden when all of a sudden, an angel without any eyes stood up and cried out, 'I object!' Pandemonium broke out. The blind angel was given permission to speak, and proceeded to tell the story of the silver menora Reb Meir had once purchased at great expense.

" 'What you don't know,' the angel explained, 'is that this menora was bought from a poor Jew in Cherbin who was forced to sell it because his wife and children were starving. This menora had been in his family for 13 generations, and was almost as dear to him as his life. For years he refused to sell it. Reb Meir was well aware of the poor man's circumstances. The otherwise generous and charitable Reb Meir had such an intense desire to own the beautiful menora that he deliberately exploited the poor man and offered financial assistance only through the purchase of the menora.'

"The heavenly court decided to review the case. In the end it was ruled that Reb Meir should go to Gan Eden, but not directly. To atone for the anguish he had caused, he would first have to wander around through the celestial spheres accompanied by the blind angel.

"Many years ago, when I visited Reb Meir's house and he showed me the menora, I knew what was going to happen. I took it from him so that when the proper time came, I would be able to help him make amends. Tonight, when I lit the first candle of Chanuka in that menora, it corrected Reb Meir's spiritual defect and allowed him to enter Gan Eden. It also restored the gift of sight to the blind angel..."


Moshiach Matters

Pharaoh sent and summoned Joseph, and they rushed him from the dungeon... And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you in charge over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:14-41) The Jewish people is presently in the dungeon of a harsh and bitter exile; for many years we have been bound and fettered by its shackles. But just as Joseph went directly from confinement to rulership, so, too, our whole nation will speedily leave the prison of exile and simultaneously ascend to the status of royalty with the full and Final Redemption.

(The Rebbe, 28 Kislev, 5750)


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