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December 18, 1998 30 Kislev 5758

Rosh Hodesh Tebet will be observed Shabbat and Sunday, December 19 & 20.

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THE MESSAGE OF HANUKAH by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Hashem, You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, etc." (Al Hanisim)

Each holiday has its own special misvah and message. If we do the special misvah of the holiday without thinking about its meaning, the holiday is incomplete. If we sit in a succah without thinking about the fact that Hashem provides for our material needs we are not getting the full benefit of the holiday. What is the special meaning of Hanukah? If Hanukah is a reminder that Hashem saves us and gives us independence, we have already learned this lesson on the eight days of Pesah. The miracles of Pesah were greater than the miracle of the oil burning in the menorah for eight days.

Rabbi Yisrael Miller explains that the wording of the Al Hanisim prayer tells it all. It tells of Hashem delivering the enemy into the hands of the few Jewish heroes. On Pesah we thank Hashem but no mention is made of Moshe Rabenu. We focus on Hashem alone and give him all the credit; there was no human intervention. On Hanukah, although we give great thanks to Hashem, we also stress the roles of human beings - the victory of the few, the pure and righteous students of Torah. This makes the message of Hanukah unique. Pesah shows us that Hashem has tremendous power. Hanukah shows us that He is ready to use that power to help us help ourselves.

We do not see open miracles today and we often find ourselves alone facing great obstacles in our personal lives and in our collective lives as a community. If we pray sincerely and dedicate ourselves to live up to Torah ideals, we can sense that Hashem is still with us. He is all-powerful, ready to use that power to help us.

Today there is a great reawakening of Torah awareness in America. It's a modern day miracle, but it happened together with a handful of today's Maccabees who refused to surrender and built yeshivot, kollels and synagogues. Hashem helps. But like zeroes after a number, the effect is only if there is a number with which to begin. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah.

Answer to Pop Quiz: Poti Fera (a.k.a. Potifar)

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