DECEMBER 10-11, 2004 28 KISLEV 5765
One of the most famous questions in Halachic literature involves the lighting of the Hanukah menorah. We all know that we celebrate Hanukah for eight days because the pure oil which the Hashmonaim found when they rededicated the Temple was supposed to last one day, but it lasted eight days. The obvious question is: if so, the miracle was only 7 days since there was enough to last for one day. Why then is the holiday 8 days? Hundreds of answers have been offered to this question. One interesting one is based on an amazing statement by one of the Rabbis that this flask which was found by the Hashmonaim was put away many years earlier because of something special which happened to it. It seems that the Kohen used to fill up a flask using a ladle and that was enough to fill up the seven lamps of the menorah. One time, the Kohen filled up the flask with the usual amount in the ladle, and he realized that the flask was still not full. He again ladled in more oil and it still wasn't filling up the flask. He did it for a total of eight times, and by then he realized that this is a miraculous flask. He therefore hid it for the future, and this is the one which lit the menorah at Hanukah time for eight days.
We therefore celebrate eight days of Hanukah to commemorate that special miracle that Hashem prepared the cure before we even recognized the ailment. Let us celebrate Hanukah confident in the knowledge that Hashem always prepares the antidote before the illness. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"What is Hanukah?" (Talmud Babli Shabbat 21b)
The Talmud asks this question: What is Hanukah? Rashi explains the Gemara's question; due to what miracle did our Sages declare this holiday? The Gemara proceeds to explain that the miracle of the flask of oil that burned for eight days instead of one caused the Sages to declare this holiday. Have you ever noticed how quickly the holiday seems to fly by? Before you know it, it is already the last night. Part of this feeling is probably a result of the fact that the observance of this holiday doesn't really amount to much. A little longer Shaharit and about ten minutes at the Menorah each evening, and that's about it. It's even a regular workday without any special restrictions. Some special foods and a dreidel are not really part of the main meaning of the holiday. In fact, no other holiday observance seems as mundane as Hanukah. But if the miracle was so important, why didn't the Sages give it more substance, like the other holidays? On the holiday of Purim, we read the Megillah. Why no Megillah on Hanukah? Even the name of the holiday needs explaining. The name Hanukah is a contraction of two words, Hanu-kah, which means they rested (from their battles) on the twenty-fifth day (of Kislev). It seems strange to name the holiday after a lull in the war, rather than after the actual victory itself.
Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum explains that the situation of what took place was very unusual. The Greeks wanted us to live, only not as Jews, but as Greeks, and made many decrees against the holiness of the Jewish way of life. Many Jews agreed and became like Greeks. The Kohanim family of the Maccabees fought the Greeks to end their decrees. This small band was pitted against their own Hellenistic brothers, making it a period of gloom and confusion for the Jewish people. After many battles, the Maccabees succeeded in seizing control of the Bet Hamikdash, and prepared to reinstate the Temple service. At that point, the miracle of the oil occurred, but the war lasted another twenty years. Many more hard battles were fought, but the miracle of the Menorah was the turning point. It was a ray of hope that broke through the terrible darkness of the exile. The Jews saw that Hashem didn't abandon them. The holiday is a holiday specially tailored for the Jew in exile, to offer strength and encouragement. That's why the name is Hanu-kah. They rested, but the battle went on. There is no Megillah to read for Hanukah, because the story is not over yet. We are still in exile, and at war. As long as the Jew is in exile, he continues to draw hope and inspiration from the Hanukah story, incomplete as it is.
So therefore the Hanukah observance reflects this idea. It was meant to be a "mundane" holiday. It is set in the regular workweek. It gives us a small light of encouragement to continue. Our goal is to let that candlelighting spread its influence throughout the rest of the day and the year. In the middle of the mundane, hope must be kept alive. Happy Hanukah and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"The food will be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine" (Beresheet 41:36)
The concept of taking moments of "abundance" and storing these moments so that they may be later utilized during moments of "famine" may be applied in our daily life. We often come upon moments of "famine," when our spiritual strength is strained and we are in need of spiritual support to overcome the trials of the hour. How we have utilized our moments of "abundance" will decide how successful we will be when we face these rough times. The daily prayers are prime sources of spiritual sustenance. The Kuzari compares the three daily tefillot to the three daily meals. Just as each meal provides the nourishment necessary to sustain us until the next meal, each tefillah provides us with the necessary spiritual strength until the next tefillah is recited. In truth, our whole life will include both years of abundance and years of famine.
The degree to which we have dedicated ourselves during our formative years of opportunity and abundance will decide how well sustained we will be when faced with the various trials of life. (Peninim on the Torah)
"And Israel said, 'Why did you cause me bad by telling the man that you had another brother?'"(Beresheet 43:6)
The Midrash censures Ya'akob for evaluating the situation as bad. Hashem said, "I am involved in having his son rule in Egypt and he says, "Why did you cause me bad?'"
There are many events in each person's life that might appear to be negative when they first happen. But if a person were to know the entire picture of the consequences of these events, he would readily see how Hashem planned them for good. What is needed is patience. When an event that seems to be against your interests happens, ask yourself, "How can I be certain that this will turn out bad in the end?" The answer is that you never can. It is always premature to evaluate non-tragic life situations as bad. Acquire a "wait and see" attitude towards events. This will prevent you from much needless suffering in your life.
To internalize this principle make a list of events that happened in your own life that at first seemed to be negative but which you later saw were positive. (Growth through Torah)
"And behold from the Nile rose up seven cows, which looked good" (Beresheet 41:2)
Rashi comments that their looking good was a sign of the years of plenty, for then people look good to one another and are not envious of each other. The idea that Rashi expresses is important for happiness in life. When you allow what someone else has to rob you of your own happiness, you will frequently suffer. But if you learn to appreciate what you have to its fullest, you will be so filled with good feelings yourself that you will not be disturbed by what anyone else has. The more you focus on the good in your life the less it will make a difference to you if anyone else has more than you. When you master this attribute of feeling joy for what you have, your whole life is a life of plenty. (Growth through Torah)
Question: Why do we cover our eyes when reciting the first pasuk of Shema? Answer: 1) This is to prevent us from looking around and being distracted from our concentration on the pasuk. This is also why we recite this pasuk out loud.
2) A blind person is considered like a dead person. By covering our eyes, we are declaring that we are prepared to give our lives for the sake of Hashem. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)
"Binyamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs, and they drank and became inebriated with him." (Beresheet 43:34)
Rashi teaches that this was the first time Yosef's brothers drank wine since the day that they sold him as a slave. At this point, they did not yet know that they were dealing with Yosef. Why, then, were they willing to drink now after all these years?
The underlying cause of the brothers' hatred toward Yosef was jealousy. When Yosef's brothers brought Binyamin down to Egypt, Yosef gave them all gifts. However, Binyamin was given five times as much as any of the brothers. The brothers realized that they did not feel any jealousy toward Binyamin and had overcome the trait of envy that they had previously felt. For this reason, they saw fit to rejoice and allow themselves to drink wine again.
It is a great accomplishment to overcome one's character flaws. When one sees that he has succeeded in making improvements, he should feel gratified. This will help motivate him to strive for further enhancements. By the same token, one should always compliment others on their self-improvement and encourage them to keep up the good work. A kind word of support can make the difference between whether a person continues to try or whether he gives up.
Question: What character trait do you feel you have improved? Do you compliment others when you notice a change for the better in their behavior?
This week's Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7.
The usual haftarah, like our perashah, tells of the dream of a king and what came about as a result of the dream. Shelomo, the new king of Israel, is told by Hashem that he can make one request for himself. Shelomo requested wisdom so that he could judge his people fairly. The haftarah then tells the famous case of the two women who both claimed a baby to be their own. When his ruling that the baby should be cut in half revealed the true mother, his wisdom was demonstrated to the world.
However, we read a special haftarah this week in honor of the holiday of Hanukah. This haftarah speaks of the time when the Menorah of the Second Bet Hamikdash was inaugurated. The prophet Zechariah is shown a vision of a golden Menorah, complete with a bowl of oil and two olive trees to ensure that the supply of oil will never run out. An angel explains to Zechariah that the vision symbolizes the fact that Hashem provides for all of man's needs.
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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