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Shabbat, December 24, 2016

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Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Jewish History

In the first year of rule of Cyrus, the King of Persia, Jews were given permission to return to Israel and rebuild the Holy Temple. A group of Jews led by Zerubavel set out for Jerusalem and began working on the second Temple. However, the Cutheans falsely accused the Jews of plotting a rebellion against King Cyrus and were successful in halting the construction of the Holy Temple for the remainder of his reign and throughout the reign of Ahasuerus, his successor. Construction resumed in the second year of the reign of Darius, Ahasuerus's son, on the 24th of Kislev.

Laws and Customs

This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim ("the Shabbat that blesses" the new month): a special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") of upcoming month of Tevet, which falls on Friday of next week.

Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the "birth" of the new moon. Click here for molad times.

It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat.

Links: On the Significance of Shabbat Mevarchim; Tehillim (the Book of Psalms); The Farbrengen

The eight-day festival of Chanukah begins tonight. In commemorartion of the miracle of the oil (see "Today in Jewish History" for Kislev 25) we kindle the Chanukah lights -- oil lamps or candles -- each evening for eight days, increasing the number of lights each evening. For this evening, the first night of Chanukah, we kindle one light. (In the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall; this evening, then, commences the 1st day of Chanukah).

IMPORTANT: Because of the prohibition to kindle fire on Shabbat, the first Chanukah light must be lit after after the Havdalah service marking the end of Shabbat at nightfall.

For the 1st Chanukah light, we recite three blessings; for text and audio of the blessings, click here.

For a more detailed guide to Chanukah lighting click here.

For additional Chanukah observances, see Laws & Customs for tomorrow, Kislev 25.

Daily Thought

There is an urge within us, at once both imbecilic and ingenious.

Imbecilic, because it will not look beyond its mudhole and move on.

Ingenious, because to defend its muddy fortress it will summon circumstance, DNA, unfit parents, incompetent teachers, society, evolution, creation, low self-esteem—a myriad of excuses to avoid making one step ahead.

Every excuse but the real one: its instinctive obstinacy to remain in the mudhole it knows so well.