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Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

NOVEMBER 29-30, 2013 27 KISLEV 5774

Rosh Hodesh Tebet will be celebrated on Tuesday & Wednesday, Dec. 3 & 4.

Begin saying Barech Alenu on Wednesday night, December 4 in Arbit.


Afterwards Your children entered the Holy of Holies of Your Temple. They cleared Your palace; they purified Your sanctuary." (Al Hanisim)

The Rambam describes the misvah of lighting the Hanukah lights as a "misvah that is very beloved." This is a description that was never used by the Rambam concerning any other misvah. What is the reason for this?

In the song Maoz Sur the Macabees are described as "b'nei binah - sons of understanding." Usually the term binah refers to knowledge that is learned from something else. When it comes to serving Hashem, binah is when someone does the will of Hashem without being explicitly commanded. Binah is to figure out what Hashem truly wants from the explicit command from Hashem.

Rabbi Avraham Schor explains that really the Hashmonaim were permitted to light the Menorah even with impure oil. That is based on a rule that a communal service in the Temple, such as lighting the Menorah, can be done even in the state of ritual impurity. However, the Hashmonaim were on the level of using binah to figure out that Hashem really wanted pure oil; therefore they struggled and searched all over until they miraculously found one jar of pure oil. Therefore they are called b'nei binah, children of understanding; they understood the true will of Hashem.

It's interesting to note that this point is hinted to in the wording of Al Hanisim. At first the people of Israel are referred to as "Amcha Yisrael, Your nation of Israel," and later it says "ba'u banecha, Your children came." There is a vast difference between a servant and a son. A servant only does what is required of him. But, a son wants to do the will of his father to please him. Therefore the act of purifying the Temple and using pure oil was the act of a son to the father. It is also possible that the word "binah is a derivative of the word ben, a son.

This could be the meaning of the Rambam referring to Hanukah as a misvah so beloved, because this was a case of the Jews showing their love to Hashem and Hashem returning that love by making a miracle of the oil lasting eight days. So for us the major lesson of Hanukah is that we should want to fulfill Hashem's will with desire and it's not just enough to get by with the minimum obligation but not more. There are many things we don't understand in the Jewish law and sometimes this leads to us being lenient when we shouldn't. Sometimes it's because we don't know the true will of Hashem. We should be like children that want to purify our homes as the Macabees did. If we act as children of Hashem, then Hashem will act towards us accordingly, as it says in the Torah, "Veshabu banim legbulam, and the children will return to their boundary (in Israel)," and then we will have the opportunity to dedicate the new Temple soon, as the Macabees did then.

Happy Hanukah and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"What has Hashem done to us?" (Beresheet 42:28)

When Yosef's brothers went to Egypt to buy grain, they were brought before the viceroy (Yosef) and he suspected them of spying. Although they vehemently denied the charges, they were accused of a serious offense and the only way to clear their name was to go back home and bring their younger brother, Binyamin. On the way home, when one of the brothers checked his sack of grain, he found the original money in the sack and he cried out, "What has Hashem done to us?"

We see from here how a G-d-fearing person should speak. When things go wrong (as they invariably do) we try to find someone to blame. If we lose something in the house, we question who moved our things. If business is off, we look for causes and reasons to be able to pin it on. The sons of Ya'akob were holy men who realized that when something goes awry, it is from Hashem, and they asked, "What does Hashem want from us?" We must reinforce such behavior in our lives and in our homes. When things go right we say "Baruch Hashem," and if there is a problem we look to Hashem for the reason. When we train ourselves and our children in this manner, we will constantly be living with Hashem and He will dwell amongst us, which will only bring us blessings. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"The seven years of abundance ended and the seven years of famine began to come as Yosef had said." (Beresheet 41:53-54)

Why does it state "as Yosef said" regarding the seven years of famine, but not in relation to the seven years of abundance?

The non-Jewish world hates the Jew and envies his success. Thanks to Yosef, the people in Egypt experienced great affluence, but they did not want to give credit to a Jew. When the troubles started, suddenly everyone began accusing the Jews of causing the Egyptians' suffering. Alas, this is a recurrent pattern in Jewish history. (Vedibarta Bam)


There are certain things about school days that you never forget. Just the other day, I was listening to a speaker whose subject matter was very interesting, yet I had a problem focusing on what he was saying. As much as I tried to pay attention, I could not grasp the ideas he was trying to convey. Then I realized that he sounded a lot like an English teacher I had in high school. I remember that what she said was usually very interesting, yet I could not get through more than a few minutes of her class before I tuned out and started to daydream. The problem was that she spoke very loudly, almost screaming for the full forty minutes I was held captive in her classroom. This speaker hit me the same way. "If you must scream, then I must check out," my brain said, and proceeded to take me on fabulous trips during the lecture to all kinds of beautiful fantasy islands, shopping sprees, and other virtual getaways.

I saw exactly the opposite effect when I recently suffered through a case of laryngitis. The doctors suggested total rest for the vocal cords and warned me not to even whisper, because that was a strain that would further aggravate the problem. For two solid weeks I spoke in very quiet tones, measuring the value of each word as if it were a diamond.

It is written (Kohelet 9:17): The words of wise men are heard softly.

The result? Two lessons. One, only say the words that are necessary to get your point across. And two, people hear you much better when they are forced to pay attention to your soft words rather than your screams. Yelling, like blowing a car horn, should be used to warn of imminent danger, not to communicate important ideas.

When you are trying to overpower someone in conversation, argument, or reprimand, and your volume starts to peak, reverse course. Catch your listener's attention by lowering your voice rather than raising it. Speak softly, and it will have an effect. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

* * * * *

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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.

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