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Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

DECEMBER 11-12, 2009 25 KISLEV 5770

Hanukah will be celebrated from Friday night, December 11 until Shabbat, December 19.


"[The Hashmoneans] searched and found only one flask of oil that was lying with the Kohen Gadol's seal" (Talmud Babli - Shabbat 21b)

The Talmud teaches us that the essential commandment of the Hanukah lights is one light each night for a man and his entire household. Those who embellish the misvot, which is called "mehadrin," light one candle for each member of the house. For those who embellish the misvot even more, "mehadrin min hamehadrin," Bet Hillel says that on the first night one lights one light and continuously adds one more every night. We don't find this concept of mehadrin by other misvot. We know there is a concept of beautifying the misvot, called hidur misvah but why is there such an emphasis of this concept on Hanukah more than other misvot?

Rabbi Raphael Pelcovitz explains that the Talmud tells us that a small jar of oil, which was sufficient to last only one day but miraculously lasted eight days was found. It was identified as being pure because it was sealed with the seal of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol. The question arises, however, as to why the Kohen Gadol would put his seal on a container of oil when this was not required by halachah, nor was it the custom to do so. It was not his responsibility to prepare and preserve oil for the Menorah.

The oil that the Kohen was responsible for was that which was used for his daily offering. The Torah commanded the Kohen Gadol to bring a meal offering, a Minhah, twice a day. This offering was made of flour and oil. This was his responsibility. It is therefore suggested that the jar of oil that was undefiled was the oil prepared and stored not for the Menorah, but for his use and that is why it had his seal on it. Interestingly, the quality of this oil was normally inferior to the quality of oil used for the Menorah. However, if the Kohen Gadol was meticulous in the observance of his special misvah, he would enhance and beautify it by contributing the finest oil for his meal offering. The jar of pure oil at the time of the Hanukah miracle belonged to the Kohen Gadol and was of the highest quality, fit for the Menorah.

It is suggested that this is the reason the concept of mehadrin is found in conjunction with the kindling of the Hanukah lights. Since the miracle of Hanukah occurred through oil which was the choicest of the choice, because the Kohen Gadol at the time wanted to serve the Almighty in a manner that would bring glory to Hashem, by setting aside the finest oil for his Minhah, we therefore mirror that commitment by introducing the concept of mehadrin into our observance of the Hanukah lights. Happy holiday and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

After Yosef was sold into slavery, the brothers, led by Yehudah, sent Yosef's multi-colored coat, dipped in goat's blood, to their father. They asked him "Haker na , Recognize if you please, if this is your son's coat." Later on, when Tamar sent the staff and the ring belonging to her father-in-law, Yehudah, she also said to him these same words, "Haker na, Recognize please if these are yours (so it shall be known that I conceived from you)." The Rabbis tell us that Yehudah was punished midah k'neged midah, measure for measure. He used words which caused anguish to his father and Tamar used these very words which caused him embarrassment. The concept of measure for measure is indeed very powerful, and is one of the ways by which Hashem's Providence is shown throughout all the generations. If we study this perashah well, we will see that what Yosef did to his brothers was also done to him, measure for measure.

When the Jewish people were lax in the service of the Temple in the times of the Syrian-Greeks, they lost the privilege of service in the Bet Hamikdash. When the Hashmonaim showed sacrifice and went above nature to rededicate the Temple service, Hashem also went above nature and gave us the military miracle and the miracle of the lamps lasting eight days.

We have to know that this is the way Hashem works, measure for measure. This should encourage us and inspire us to do the correct things and not do something against Hashem or against other people, because the element of measure for measure is always active. May we be privileged to see the Hand of Hashem for only good things. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And [Yosef] became a successful man, and he stayed in his Egyptian master's home" (Beresheet 39:3)

The epithet "Egyptian" is repeated several times in this chapter as if to draw our attention to the immense transformation taking place in Yosef's life. From the sublime heights of holy life in Ya'akob's home, Yosef was dragged down to the abysmal depths of the depravation that was Egypt. The immoral character of the Egyptian lifestyle was the direct antithesis of the upbringing in Yosef's home. Potifar's wife, rejecting all moral scruples, was the prototype of the Egyptian woman.

Rav Eli Munk z"l suggests that the Torah intentionally set out to emphasize this contrast. In order to fully appreciate the profound piety of Yosef Hasadik, one must first reflect upon what he was confronting. Yosef must have possessed exceptional qualities in order to have reached this exalted position in Potifar's house.

Similarly, we should consider the background of those who have braved the counter-currents of an assimilationist society and have discovered the road which leads them to the Torah. Their resolute courage is to be lauded. The travail which they had to experience in order to reach and be accepted by the observant community should be appreciated. Perhaps the most significant aspect of their endeavor is the world from which they came. When one perceived the distorted sense of values which had caused the moral breakdown of society, one can truly admire ba'alei teshubah. Their superhuman courage and strength of character should be a lesson for us all. (Peninim on the Torah)


Parents will testify that you can't make everyone happy. The home is as political as the halls of any government building. If one child merits a special reward, it is sure to arouse jealous complaints from his or her siblings. If Mom would like to treat the kids to a special day of entertainment, you can be sure that what will excite Jacob will leave Ruthie with a long face. People just seem to see things from their own point of view.

When the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) went into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he said a special prayer on behalf of the welfare of the community. In this once-a-year opportunity to approach Hashem on behalf of his brethren, the Kohen said, "And please do not fulfill the request of the travelers." Why not? Because travelers pray for the weather to be moderate and dry so that the roads are easy to pass and their trip is comfortable. However, these ideal travel conditions are not beneficial to the farmers who need sufficient rain for healthy crops to bring to market. The Kohen asks that the general good should supersede the good of the minority, those who are traveling.

It is not unusual to maneuver for your own best interests. If you do so, try and consider how your request will affect the general public or other members of your workplace, organization, or family. Look beyond your own interests and put yourself in other people's shoes. See things from their point of view. This will bring peace and harmony and yield a better outcome, in general, than that which might be brought about by the selfish interests of any individual member of the group. In the end, everyone will be better off. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

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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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