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Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

DECEMBER 19-20, 2014 28 KISLEV 5775

Rosh Hodesh Tebet will be celebrated on Monday & Tuesday, Dec. 22 & 23.


"Whoever fulfills the misvah of kindling Hanukah lights on a regular basis will be blessed with sons who are learned in Torah." (Talmud Babli Shababt 23b)

This statement presents obvious problems. Firstly, why should the performance of this particular misvah be recompensed with the reward of learned children? What is the connection between the two? Secondly, in view of the fact that kindling Hanukah lights is practiced in thousands of Jewish homes, every household should be bursting with Talmidei Hachamim, which, alas, is not the case?

Rabbi Pinchas Roberts explains this Gemara in the name of Rabbi S. Wolbe zt"l. Whenever we consider sending our children to yeshivah for a lengthy period or to join a kollel for advanced study, the problem of earning a living immediately comes to the fore. It is generally accepted that to achieve a degree of Torah scholarship requires years of dedication, and according to the "laws of nature," this would surely jeopardize his prospects of becoming a breadwinner for his family. Torah knowledge does not guarantee an income, and by then, it is too late to train for a worthwhile profession.

It seems an insufferable problem. But only for those people who have never fully absorbed the lesson of Hanukah. In the year 3622, a miracle took place that completely defied natural laws. A small crucible of oil, enough for one day only, burned for eight days until fresh pure oil became available. This wondrous event taught the Jewish people that nature does not hold sway and rule our lives. It is in fact merely the concealed tool of Hashem through which He works His designs with almost endless regularity. Occasionally, however, His Divine control becomes clearly visible in rare flashes which are termed "miracles" - as on Hanukah when "normal" oil burned "abnormally" long. This proved conclusively that nature is but the Hand of Hashem hidden behind the commonplace.

Viewed in this light, the statement הרגיל בנר חנוכה suggests a new connotation. It does not mean someone who simply kindles the Menorah and nothing more - that in itself will never produce learned offspring. It refers to a person who, when lighting, also contemplates the momentous lesson of that famous crucible of old. He constantly reflects on its message that nature is not a separate entity with authority to dictate our conduct in life and become an obstacle in the pursuit of Torah and misvot. For us, the only power that exists is the Hand of Hashem and if we aim to bring honor to His Name by learning Torah, He will surely bless our efforts with success, even if it goes against the natural trend. This is the moral of the Hanukah candle and once it is assimilated, we will find the necessary courage to allow and even encourage our children to become Torah scholars without worrying about their source of income. Hashem, Who directs every facet of life will never forsake His devoted servants, when and if they ultimately need to pursue a livelihood. 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


"Now let Pharaoh seek out a discerning and wise man and set him over the land of Egypt." (Beresheet 41:33)

We wonder at Yosef's unsolicited advice. Pharaoh had asked him to interpret his dreams: no more, no less. What prompted Yosef to advise the monarch on how to implement a solution to the dream's formidable message?

The Ketab V'Hakabbalah explains that, indeed, "Let Pharaoh seek a discerning and wise man," is an inherent component of the dream's interpretation, without which the dream's solution would remain unfinished business. When we read the account of the dreams, we note that the Torah mentions that Pharaoh woke up twice, once after each dream. Likewise, when Pharaoh related the dream, he repeated the fact that he woke up twice. Why did Pharaoh's waking up twice warrant mention? Obviously, he woke up after the dream.

Apparently, Yosef saw a powerful message in the fact that Pharaoh "woke up." The dream was telling Pharaoh, "You must remain awake! There is no time for sleeping." Thus, Pharaoh was in need of an astute advisor who would be on top of things and not allow for sleeping to occur.

How sadly true this is for so many of us. We receive a Divine message, an idea, an inspiration, but rather than acting upon it immediately, we return to our slumber. So much potential for success has been "slept away," because we did not take the message seriously, or we were just too tired to respond sensibly. Yosef was not just rendering advice, he was interpreting the underlying message of the dream. (Peninim on the Torah)


Mirrors seem to reflect reality; however, they don't always give the true picture. When you look in the mirror, your mood affects what you see. When you feel good about yourself, the image in the mirror looks really great. But when you feel down, not even the greatest garb can make you feel happy with your reflection.

This syndrome applies as much to the spirit as to external appearance. The Yeser hara (Evil Inclination) plays on our emotions to deter our success in spiritual endeavors. When we are excited about undertaking a new responsibility, he influences our thoughts towards "I am not good enough," or, "I am not yet at that level." He even reminds us of past failures to prove that we are not like those who are good enough to meet the challenge.

The author of Duties of the Heart, Rabbi Bahya ibn Pakuda, began writing this classic work, then stopped short. "Who do I think I am," to write a book to teach others?

After a while, however, he realized the following: If everyone thought this way, nobody would do anything. So he resumed writing, and the result is the great classic that has influenced generations of Jews.

When you have the urge to do something good, and doubts intrude about your own worthiness, ask yourself, "Are these the wily workings of my Evil Inclination? Is this another of his attempts to imbue me with misplaced humility?" Then proceed. You can do it! Understanding your enemy's tactics will lead to success after success in your daily battle for spiritual survival. (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)

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