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Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

DECEMBER 11-12, 2015 30 KISLEV 5776

Rosh Hodesh Tebet will be celebrated on Shabbat & Sunday, Dec. 12 & 13.


"Hanukah candles are lit in the synagogue before Habdalah." (Shulhan Aruch, Orach Chaim 681:2)

The Shulhan Aruch rules that the Menorah lighting precedes the making of Habdalah on Saturday night in shul, even though there is a rule that when confronted with two misvot at the same time, the one that occurs more often gets the green light to go first (tadir kodem). In our case, we do Hanukah lights first in order to delay the exit of Shabbat as long as possible (Mishnah Berurah ibid. #2.) Rabbi David Yosef explains (Torat Hamoadim chapter 8 paragraph 9) that even though the one who lights the Menorah removes from himself the sanctity of Shabbat by lighting the Menorah, nevertheless since the rest of the congregation is not fulfilling its obligation of Hanukah lights in shul, they still retain the holiness of Shabbat a few more moments until Habdalah is said. Therefore, when each individual lights the Menorah at home, since he will remove the sanctity of Shabbat when he lights, the other rule of more common occurrence (tadir kodem) kicks in and therefore our custom is to say Habdalah at home before Hanukah lights.

Rav Pam would often extract from this discussion an important practical lesson on how one should treasure every moment of Shabbat and not rush to see it depart. This is illustrated by the fact that we disregard the principle of tadir by making Habdalah after the Menorah just to delay the departure of Shabbat for a few more moments. How unfortunate is it that many people rush Shabbat out by saying Arbit at the earliest permissible time!

Shabbat is the time of tranquility. Rashi says (Beresheet 2:2), "When Shabbat arrives tranquility arrives." The Tur (295) writes that even the wicked who experience terrible punishment in purgatory, enjoy tranquility on Shabbat. Nonetheless, at the conclusion of Shabbat the wicked return to their punishment and, a Rama (295:1) notes, this is the reason why Jews recite the perek of "Vehi noam" (Shuva) on Saturday night in Arbit, to extend the reprieve of the wicked from purgatory for a few more minutes.

There are various opinions as to when Shabbat is over. Is it 40, 60, 72 or 90 minutes after sunset? What is the official time in Gehinam to bring the wicked for the resumption of their punishments? Yesod Veshoresh Haavodah (8:1) quotes Kabbalistic sources which say that the wicked return to Gehinam at the time when they held the conclusion of Shabbat during their lifetimes. If they were from those who impatiently waited for the earliest time to end Shabbat, their punishments will resume at the earliest time as well. If they tried to extend the Shabbat as long as possible, they will receive the same courtesy from Heaven as well. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"If I don't bring Binyamin back, I will be a sinner forever."(Beresheet 43:9)

Yehudah wanted to convince Ya'akob to allow Binyamin to go down to Egypt with them. Otherwise, the viceroy would not allow their other brother out of prison. Yehudah therefore told Ya'akob, "If I don't bring back Binyamin I will be considered a sinner my whole life, including Olam Haba, the Next World." The Gemara says that because of these words, Yehudah was not allowed into Olam Haba for many hundreds of years, until Moshe Rabenu prayed fervently, and got Yehudah into Olam Haba.

We see from here how careful we have to be when using words, even about ourselves. Although Yehudah said these words for a noble purpose of reuniting the family, nevertheless, his words affected his future in a very drastic way. We should never utter words which can have a dangerous effect on ourselves or on anybody, even when just joking or playing. Saying things like, "I could die from embarrassment," or, "I'm going to kill you for that," or, "You're dead," and the like, should be avoided at all costs. Although we don't mean these things literally, words uttered have a powerful force. We should train ourselves to say words of berachah (blessing) even when upset or angry. Many people from the old generation used to say, "You should be blessed," or the like, when they got upset with that person. This way, not only did they not say anything negative during an argument, but by saying nice things they made the arguments shorter. This is something to think about and train ourselves to do.

Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


Hazal stress that Yosef's release from prison took place on Rosh Hashanah. They intimate a parallel between Yosef's release and the pending decision concerning our own future. What relationship exists between Yosef's release on Rosh Hashanah and our prayers for a happy and healthy new year? Horav Mordechai Eliyahu, zl, explains that, throughout the year, man incarcerates himself in a self-imposed makeshift prison under the control of the yesser hara, his evil-inclination. As long as the yesser hara rules over him, enticing him to sin, man remains in prison. If he is able to break free of the yesser hara's hold over him, he liberates himself from the prison.

On Rosh Hashanah, man is reminded that Yosef had also been in prison and was released. He eventually went on to become the Egyptian leader, controlling the lives of every man, woman and child in that country. As Yosef arose from the abyss of prison on Rosh Hashanah, so, too, do we escape from the grip of the yesser hara. Man, however, has a way of justifying his weakness in succumbing to the yesser hara by saying that, after all, "I am only human. The evil inclination is stronger than I am." To him, Hashem replies, "You begin. You make the attempt at breaking the grip the yesser hara holds on your life." Once you start the process, Hashem will do the rest. We must begin the motions down here; Hashem will complete the process.

On Rosh Hashanah, we tell man that he must break out of prison. Otherwise, he remains a prisoner to his inclinations. When the yesser hara sees him breaking free of his ties, he leaves him alone. The yesser hara is not interested in wasting its time. Only someone who manifests a sense of servitude to the yesser hara will be its focus. If he sees a person attempting to repent, to rise out of the morass of sin, he will move on to someone else. Man must have control over his destiny. Som tasim alecha melech, "Place upon yourself a king" (Debarim 17:15), is the injunction for the nation to select a proper leader. It may also be used as a personal exhortation for one to reign over himself. Hashem helps those who exhibit strength - not cowardice. To declare that one has erred and wants to return takes incredible strength. It is but the first step. Hashem will lend a hand to he who is sincere. (Peninim on the Torah)


"But Binyamin, Yosef's brother, Yaakov did not sendů for he said, 'Lest disaster befall him.'" ( Beresheet 42:4)

The words yikranu, spelled with an aleph, is related to kara, to call, to designate. When Yehudah repeats (to Yosef) his father's fear concerning Binyamin's safety, he says, "So you should take this one, too, from my presence, and disaster will befall him" (44:29). In this instance v'karahu is spelled with a hay, related to karah, denotes an unrelated occurrence by chance. Thus, we have two words which sound the same: with an aleph, it implies deliberation, designation, calling with a purpose; with a hay, it denotes a chance meeting, an unrelated occurrence which just happens. Why is there a change in the wording when referring to Ya'akob Abinu and Yehudah?

Horav Yaakov Galinsky, zl, explains that Ya'akob was implying a powerful lesson concerning Hashgachah Peratit, Divine Providence. Chance is not a real category, and the word coincidence should not be in the believing Jew's lexicon. Every occurrence is orchestrated by Hashem for a reason and a purpose. Nothing "just happens." Every creature is Hashem's agent, deliberately placed in a designated place at a specific time, to carry out Hashem's will. To send Binyamin on a journey meant subjecting him to a danger. Travel in those days was not like it is today. We have a rule that "Satan prosecutes during a time of danger." When one is in a dangerous position, he is subject to Satan's negative denouncements, which can have an adverse effect on his safety. Ya'akob knew this. Yehudah also knew this. When Yehudah spoke with the Egyptian viceroy, he had to talk a language that a pagan understood. The pagan does not understand the concept of Providence. To him, it is all coincidence and chance. Thus, Yehudah said karahu with a hay. Otherwise, the pagan would not have understood.

Indeed, the Ramban writes that the primary lesson of the Exodus from Egypt was to open up our eyes, to teach us that every occurrence has a reason and a purpose. In his famous commentary (Shemot 13:16), he writes, "From the great and awesome miracles, man learns to concede in the hidden miracles." The overt miracles teach us that everything - regardless of its overt nature - is a miracle. Nothing just happens!

As Ya'akob Abinu was about to take leave of this world, he gathered together his family, and said, "Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the End of Days" (Beresheet 49:1). Here, too, Ya'akob uses yikra with an aleph, because he sought to ingrain in the Jewish psyche the principle that whatever will happen (in the End of Days) will not "just happen," but will be a purposeful and providential message. What will "happen" will actually be Hashem sending a summons.

Rav Galinsky quotes Horav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zl, who observed that people stop their conversation to listen to an announcement. For example, a group of people are gathered together engrossed in conversation when they hear an announcement over the loudspeaker, informing them about a funeral that is about to take place. Immediately, the conversation stops, so that they can find out who has passed away.

Why do we not listen to our messages? Hashem is constantly talking to us. The messages come in various forms. At times, something happens to a friend or acquaintance, and we are supposed to derive a lesson from it. It would be a grave mistake to ignore the subtle and not-so-subtle hints that are occurring around us. (Peninim on the Torah)


It's a daily battle. No matter how hard you try, you can't seem to get the children to stop bickering at the dinner table. Manners? Forget about it; there is no hope! Get the kids to clean their rooms? Don't fantasize, please!

Let's face it - not only children, but adults as well act quite differently in a familiar, comfortable environment where they can be totally relaxed. Even the way people dress breaks all rules when they are safely ensconced in the confines of their own homes.

Things really change, however, when a family has houseguests. Adults have the good sense to "clean up their act," and even more miraculous is the transformation of their rambunctious offspring into sparkling, neat, well-behaved kids. Having new "eyes" on the premises prompts better behavior.

David Hamelech didn't wait for guests. His approach was to imagine that Hashem was opposite him at all times. The Shulhan Aruch opens with the instruction to always imagine that Hashem is present wherever you may be, and is watching all that you do. Yet most of us still have a tough time envisioning Hashem watching us at close range. It is even more difficult to imagine His immediate presence when we are at home doing our menial chores.

A good training technique is to imagine that you have guests as you work through your daily routine. Walk, talk, sit, and dress to impress your VIPs. Be on your "guest behavior." It may be only play-acting, but you will avoid slipping into a "sloppy" mode of behavior that is really beneath your dignity. (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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