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Haftarah: Amos 2:6-3:8

DECEMBER 16-17, 2011 21 KISLEV 5772


"But from the leftover jugs a miracle was performed for [Israel who are likened to] roses." (Maoz Sur)

There is a famous question of the Rabbi Bet Yosef. The miracle of Hanukah centers on a little jug of oil that was found in the Temple, which was pure and bore the seal of the High Kohen. The oil was used to light the Menorah in the temple. There was only enough oil to burn for one day. But, a miracle happened and it lasted for eight days, which was enough time needed to make more pure oil. The question of the Bet Yosef was that if they found a jar whose oil could last one day but burned for eight, the miracle was only for seven days, not eight, since the oil could burn naturally for one day. So why do we celebrate for eight days? We should only celebrate for seven.

Hundreds of answers were given to this question. Let's hear another one. The sefer called Mishmeret Eliezer (quoted in Torah Lada'at) explains that an answer can be derived from another question. There are two conflicting Midrashim. One says there was enough oil to burn for one day and another Midrash says there wasn't enough oil even for one day. We can explain this contradiction by noting a difference between oil and water. When you pour water from a jug to another receptacle, it all comes out. But when you pour oil, a small amount of oil remains ion the bottom of the first jug. So we can explain the contradiction by simply saying that the Kohanim had to transfer the oil from the jug to the Menorah and a tiny amount was left in the jug. So actually a jug that contained one day's worth of oil was found, but it could only burn for less than a day, since some remained in the jug. So according to this answer we can answer the original question of the Bet Yosef. The first day that it burned was also a miracle because there wasn't enough oil even for the first day, so a miracle happened even on the first day.

Now according to this we have a clearer understanding of the song of Maoz Sur that we quoted. From the remainder of the jug a miracle happened. From the fact that some remained in the jug a miracle occurred even on the first day. Therefore "men of understanding" instituted eight days for song and rejoicing.." Happy Hanukah and Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Yosef came to them in the morning and saw that they were distressed." (Beresheet 40:6)

When Yosef heard the dreams of Pharaoh's ministers and interpreted them correctly, he gained a name for himself as someone who had prophetic powers to understand dreams, and this led him to stand in front of Pharaoh to explain the monarch's dream. This ultimately got him elevated to power and he was able to save his father's family and Egypt from starvation.

The Torah points out that all this began because Yosef saw that the ministers were upset. It's a remarkable trait in a person to be able to see someone else's problem even though he himself is suffering. Yosef was imprisoned for many years thus far, and had much cause to become withdrawn into himself and stop worrying about others. We see from here that Yosef was someone who noticed if others were suffering and was willing to get involved in order to help. This is the making of a leader and this is something we can learn from. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And he dreamt another dream [about the sun, moon and stars bowing down to him] and he told it to his brothers." (Beresheet 37:9)

Yosef's brothers hated him after he told them the first dream. Why did he continue to antagonize them by relating his other dream?

The Gemara (Berachot 55b) states in regard to dreams, that we dream at night what we think about during the day.

In relating the first dream, Yosef told his brothers about the material success and wealth he anticipated. Though they all worked together in the field, he would become richer, and they would bow to him. When the brothers heard this, they hated him because they figured that the dream depicted what he thought about during the day.

Yosef was eager to prove to his brothers that the first dream was an act of heaven and not related to his daytime thinking. Therefore, he told them of the second dream which was about an impossibility (how could his mother who died bow to him?). He hoped they would believe, that just as he did not think about this during the day, he also did not think about the contents of the first dream during the day.

The brothers realized that his dreams were valid and that they were a signal from heaven; therefore, upon hearing the second dream, they became jealous of him. (Vedibarta Bam)


It is difficult to control our desires. After all, the latest development in technology can make our lives easier, and the newest model of automobile can increase our comfort and safety while we travel. Still, many people do realize that they should control their desires and strive to develop defenses against the onslaught of advertising put forth by consumerism's advocates.

But there is more to living up to the standards of modern society than meets the eye. The great work Chovot haLevavot, written about one thousand years ago, says, "As the world becomes more sophisticated, the destruction becomes even greater; evil ways become good in men's eyes…The proper approach of making do with little is considered peculiar…and everyone copies what the other does…One who enjoys only as much as he needs is called lazy…One who chases after luxuries is called industrious…"

Written in another age, Rabenu Bachya's wisdom is even more applicable to our times.

We must realize that even if we overcome our base desires, we could still be exposed to the success of others. The competitive spirit will then kick in and create a whole new plethora of "needs." Even those who are satisfied with their standard of living will often strive for more only to avoid the jeers or pity of friends and family.

Hashem implanted a natural competitive spirit in the human being. Its purpose is to promote the spiritual competitiveness that produces spiritual growth. However, when aimed in the wrong direction, this natural competitiveness can ruin our satisfaction with what we have and make us covet the possessions of another.

You certainly must earn what you need to live, but then you should direct your competitive spirit towards others who have surpassed your achievements - not in materialism, but in wisdom and character building. Keep up with the Levys in areas where the Levys are on target, racing towards genuine success. Ignore them when they are heading for "toys" that serve the body, but not the soul. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)


"When the Greeks entered the sanctuary they defiled all the oils." (Gemara Shabbat 21b)

If the purpose of the Greeks was to extinguish the light of the Menorah and prevent its rekindling, why did they defile the oil; they could have accomplished this more effectively by using it up or destroying it?

The true objective of the Greeks was not to prevent the rekindling of the Menorah, but rather that it should be rekindled with defiled oil; hence they purposely left a supply of defiled oil in the Sanctuary to be readily available for this purpose.

The Greeks were willing to recognize the Torah as a beautiful literary creation, exceptional wisdom, and a profound philosophy, provided it was considered as a human creation, like their own mythology. As such, the Torah could be, nay, ought to be, changed and modified from time to time, so as to harmonize with the character of the ruling class and the novel ideas and mores of the period. Thus, it was not the suppression of the Torah that they aimed at, but "lehashkicham Toratecha - to make them forget Your Torah" - and not treat it as G-d given.

Similarly, they were not averse to the moral and ethical values contained therein, but their concern was "leha'aviram mehukei resonecha - to violate the decrees of Your Will" - not to observe the Divine hukim, the so-called "supra-rational" precepts, which more than any other distinguish the Jewish way of life.

Their objective was, thus, not to prevent the rekindling of the Menorah, but that its light should come from oil that had a Greek "taint." (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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