December 26-27, 2008 30 KISLEV 5769
"So Jacob said to his sons, 'Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?'" (Beresheet 42:1)
Due to the famine in the land of Israel, Ya'akob Abinu sends his sons to go to Egypt to acquire food. At that time the family had plenty of food. Nevertheless, he instructed his sons, "Do not flaunt your level of comfort in front of the families of Esav and Yishmael." You must be considerate of the fact that they are suffering from a lack of food. Should they perceive that you are unaffected by the general hunger, they will become jealous of your lot and detest you.
In previous years, under normal economic conditions, I have discussed this issue at length, that we must take a cue from Ya'akob's direction and be wary of incurring the jealousy and hatred of the gentiles around us. This also applies to the manner in which we conduct ourselves amongst our fellow Jews, to train ourselves to behave modestly in the face of our neighbors and friends. However, today the situation has changed. It is important at this time to spend modestly for two reasons. Firstly, one must spend only the money that one has. Gone are the days where one can buy on credit beyond his means. It is careless to spend with the assumption that one's income will increase. Secondly, modesty is important to your fellow Jew, to enable him to adjust his own lifestyle without feeling the upscale pressure from his friends. As we approach the vacation season, adjustments need to be made. Vacations beyond one's means is a thing of the past. Elaborate displays at weddings should be curtailed.
Aside from all of this which concerns our own economic health, the economic health of all of our Yeshivahs and hesed organizations is in jeopardy. Our community must stand united, ready to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that our Yeshivahs and hesed organizations continue to thrive. Without them where are we? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
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
"Did I not speak unto you saying, 'Do not sin against the child?'" (Beresheet 42:22)
The Gerer Rebbe (Bet Yisrael) suggests that the words, "Do not sin against the child," allude to another form of "sin" against a child. He is referring to the parents' responsibility to provide their children with a quality Torah education. Parents who neglect to give their children the opportunity to have a Torah hinuch are placing them at a disadvantage. They are themselves sinful. As parents, it is our moral obligation to transcend our personal prejudices and vested interests in order to provide for our children's eternity.
There is an interesting story regarding the Bet Halevi, who was confronted with a communal problem in the city of Slutzk, Poland. A substantial number of distinguished families in the city refused to send their children to the Torah school. Rather, they sent them to the secular school, which provided no Torah studies. Furthermore, the student body and faculty were obviously not conducive to spiritual development. He promptly called these individuals to his "office," attempting to dissuade them from continuing in this outrageous manner. He did not achieve his goal, however.
When the Bet Halevi saw that his pleas fell upon deaf ears, he called a communal meeting in the shul to rebuke these irresponsible parents. He began his admonishment by citing the Talmud in Ketubot 54a, which states that a widow is supported from the inherited property of the orphans. This halachah is applicable only as long as she retains her status as a widow, demonstrating fidelity to her first husband. Once she has begun to beautify herself, she indicates that she is interested in remarrying and no longer has any allegiance to her first husband.
The same concept applies to Klal Yisrael in galut, exile. We are like a widow, who looks to Hashem Yitbarach for sustenance and support. When we begin to accept the blandishments of the gentile nations and adorn ourselves with the multifaceted trappings of gentile persuasion, we indicate a schism in our relationship with Hashem. No longer can we entreat Hashem to have pity on us during our exile. By venerating the secular and relegating Torah to a demeaning second place, we are unfaithful. His heartfelt words made an enormous impression upon his audience, and they immediately enrolled their children in the community's Torah school. (Peninim on the Torah)
"And Yisrael said, 'Why have you dealt ill with me to tell the man that you had a brother?'" (Beresheet 43:6)
From his loss of Yosef until this juncture, the Torah refers to the Patriarch as Ya'akob. This is the first instance in which the Torah refers to him with the name Yisrael, signifying strength. The name Ya'akob implies a depressed state of mind in which one feels despondent. It describes one who is "limping behind" circumstances (as in Ekeb Esav - Esav's heel), unable to master over them.
Rav S. R. Hirsch z"l explains his sudden change in the following manner: The believing Jew only feels despondent when he is at a loss to know what he should do. The righteous Jew becomes depressed by two things: guilt for having done wrong and doubt regarding the correct course of action to follow. He never fears the future, for he places his complete trust in Hashem. As long as Ya'akob was in doubt about whether or not he should allow Binyamin to leave, his name appears as Ya'akob.
From the moment that his departure seemed a pressing necessity because his life was in peril (whether he stayed at home and starved or he went on the treacherous trip), Ya'akob culled his resources and became Yisrael. As soon as a Jew realizes it is beyond his human powers to provide for himself, he is told, "Gol ad Hashem - Roll over to Hashem" (Tehillim 37:5). This refers to that which is too difficult for one to handle alone. Therefore, with quiet resolve, the Patriarch reproached his sons only for having unnecessarily mentioned their youngest brother at all. In regard to the future, however, he placed his resolute faith in Hashem. (Peninim on the Torah)
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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