1. Today is Shabbos Chanukah and this year Shabbos Chanukah has a special quality because it occurs on the seventh day of Chanukah.

During Chanukah we read the Torah portions which describe the offerings brought by the Nesi’im (princes) at the time of the dedication of the Tabernacle in the desert. This emphasizes the point that the holiday of Chanukah, and the dedication of the Temple and altar in the days of the Chashmonean are related to the earlier dedication of the Tabernacle.

On the seventh day of Chanukah we read the portion of the Torah describing the offerings brought on the seventh day of the dedication of the Tabernacle:

On the seventh day, the prince of the children of Ephraim, Elishama the son of Amihud. (Bamidbar 7:48)

We may presume that this connection to the seventh Nasi applies every year on the seventh day of Chanukah. When it occurs on Shabbos there is another factor — it is the same day of the week on which the Nasi Elishama actually brought his sacrifices to the Tabernacle. [The first day of the dedication of the Tabernacle was Sunday, hence the seventh prince brought his offerings on Shabbos.]

Commemoration of special days in the Jewish calendar is normally set by the day of the month and generally does not depend on the day of the week. When, however, the two coincide, and the commemoration, by date, matches the original day of the week, then we may attribute special meaning to the concurrence.

When the seventh day of Chanukah falls on a weekday we still read the portion of the seventh Nasi, but when it occurs on Shabbos — as it does this year — then we can find a unique quality in the concurrence. The significance should also be expressed in a practical lesson that we may garner for our Divine service now and through the year.

What was special about the offerings of the prince of Ephraim which was brought on Shabbos. The Midrash relates:

The prince of Ephraim presented his offering for the dedication of the altar on the Shabbos day.... Lest you should exclaim: How is it that he desecrated the Shabbos? Surely the offering of an individual cannot override the Shabbos, and yet this man presented his offering on the Shabbos day? The Holy One, Blessed be He, tells you, “He did not do it of his own accord, for I told Moshe: ‘They shall present their offering, each prince on his day, for the dedication of the altar’“ (Bamidbar 7:2). They must present their offering one after the other without any break. (Bamidbar Rabbah 14:1)

In every other instance the offering of an individual does not override the Shabbos but here the offering of an individual did override the Shabbos. [Thus we learn how precious the princes’ offerings were to the Holy One, Blessed be He.] (Ibid. 13:2)

The rule, that the offerings of the prince of Ephraim may be sacrificed on Shabbos may be justified in one of two ways:

(A) It was an extra judicial ruling. Although the Nasi’s sacrifices was considered a private offering — which normally could not be sacrificed on Shabbos — here there was a direct injunction (for this time only) to sacrifice it on Shabbos.

(B) Although the prince had to use his own funds to pay for the korban (sacrifice) and he could not collect its costs from other members of his tribe (see Rashi, Bamidbar 7:12), nevertheless in telling us about his offering, the Torah “states his genealogy after his tribe” (Ibid.). This shows that the sacrifice was made for, (and attributed to,) the whole tribe (remember: “The Nasi is the whole”). Now, it is also accepted that each tribe is viewed as a community (tzibbur). If so, the sacrifice of the Nasi would be considered a communal offering rather than an individual offering and therefore could be sacrificed on Shabbos.

Logic would favor the second explanation, which recognizes the offering of the Nasi as being a communal offering; this reasoning will also be enhanced by the fact that:

(A) In the sacrifices of the Nesi’im we find several unique practices not found in any other sacrifices. It is more probable and plausible that such unique aspects should be found in a communal, rather than in a private, korban.

(B) The purpose of the offerings of the princes was to dedicate and initiate the altar — this could only be through communal sacrifices. If a personal korban were enough then the process of dedication should have ended after the first day’s sacrifices were burnt. Why did the process take 12 days? When however, we understand that the initiation process needed communal offerings we may then say that all 12 offerings of the 12 tribes together add up to the true community — all of Israel — and then the dedication is complete.

As the Midrash says, that although the princes came day after day, on the last day, after all the offerings had been brought, it was then considered as if the entire community had brought their offerings, and it was then viewed as the dedication of the altar.

So we see, the offering of the prince of Ephraim, which was brought on Shabbos, underlined and accentuated the rule that the sacrifices of the princes were to be brought from personal resources by assumed the role of a communal offering.

It is from this rule that we learn the practical lesson how greatly to evaluate and appreciate the importance of a single Jew.

A person might think that his particular action, or thought, or word is not so important in the overall picture of things.

The offering of the Nasi of Ephraim on Shabbos tells us that the action of an individual can include the strength and importance of the community. If was his personal korban, yet it was counted as the offering of the entire tribe.

Every individual Jew has inherent importance. It is a quality which we inherited from our Patriarch Avraham. Avraham had to stand up all alone against the whole world, which was why he was called “Ivri,” and he was not afraid. Similarly, every single Jew is connected to G‑d and stands firmly and proudly; as a Jew, he really counts. We find this concept in Halachah: “something which is stationary (immutable) does not become nullified (neutralized)” (see Kesubos 15a).

This individual preciousness may then be surpassed by the quality of the community — the tzibbur — as we find in the case of prayer. In speaking of the superiority of communal prayer the Gemara quotes the verse in Iyov:

Behold G‑d is mighty and despises not any (the many who pray to Him). (Iyov 36:5)

Here we see a special quality in the many over and above the individual. The korban of the Nasi of Ephraim had both of these qualities.

By his innate essence, man has a gregarious social nature and he needs the company of other people (Moreh Nevuchim part II chapter 40). It follows that a person’s behavior cannot be geared only to his own personal needs and desires, because his interaction with others will also influence others. Other people will learn from his good actions and his good words.

Here we see that the action of one individual can influence many others, which shows how the individual may be seen as the group.

This also conveys the serious responsibility which rests on each individual to strive that all his actions should be proper and good, for it is not merely a personal preference, but something affecting the community.

Thus, Shabbos Chanukah has a special lesson beyond the message of the general theme of Chanukah. A person’s personal conduct has wide ramifications, it affects the community at large. When he is aware of this, he actions will take on a new aspect of concern.

This subject may be connected to the naming of Ephraim in this week’s portion of Mikeitz:

Because G‑d has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. (41:52)

We may still be in the land of suffering but the galus cannot cause us to lose our momentum in matters of holiness (“G‑d has made me fruitful”) and, “But the more they oppressed them, the more they proliferated.” And, whereas Ephraim was younger than Menashe:

But his younger brother will become even greater, and his descendants will become full-fledged nations. (Bereishis 48:19)

Despite the fact that we are in the diaspora we still find success and excel in spiritual matters. So the actions of the individual are important and our actions in the period of the exile will bring the redemption.

The Midrash explains that the Jewish people had to remain in Egyptian bondage long enough for the exodus to include the aspect,

And they will leave with great wealth. (Bereishis 15:14)

This was despite the fact that they pleaded with Moshe to tell G‑d that they relinquished and waived and claim to the riches and wealth, so long as they would leave Egypt sooner.

In our days we pray and cry that the galus should end and Mashiach should come. Should someone say that now, too, the galus must be extended to make the redemption greater, we answer, that in the time of the Talmud our sages already announced:

All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed! (Sanhedrin 97b)

Therefore, by now there is certainly no more to be accomplished by remaining in the galus. All arguments to the contrary are to be refuted and we must concentrate our actions in preparation for the redemption. May it come speedily, the true and complete redemption through out righteous Mashiach quickly and truly in our days.

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2. Every holiday in the Jewish calendar of seven days includes all the days of the week. This represents the basic time cycle of existence. Although this cycle has repeated itself myriads of times since creation, nevertheless, Chassidus explains that when we say “Today is the first day of the week” (Siddur), it is as if we are entering the first day of creation. It follows that a holiday of seven days encompasses all the days of creation — the full time cycle.

The day of Shabbos effects completion and perfection in all the days of the week. This general theme of Shabbos applies also to the Shabbos which occurs during a holiday week.

When we deal with a cycle of eight — such as the holiday of Chanukah which has eight days — then the eighth day does not represent the start of a new cycle after the completion of the seven, rather it introduces an aspect which is loftier than the realm of the time cycle of seven days.

Chassidus says that the eight day hovers above and protects the cycle of seven and the Shabbos, which is part of such an eight-day cycle, serves its role as the perfection of the cycle of eight, including the (eighth) day which transcends and protects the rest.

By Biblical injunction the holidays of Sukkos and Pesach last for only seven days, Chanukah however is eight days long. Being unique to Chanukah we should stop for a moment to consider this aspect of eight in the holiday of Chanukah.

Why does the Chanukah Menorah have eight candles (besides the Shamash), when the Temple Menorah, which it commemorates, had only seven branches?

The answer which is usually given is really quite obvious. The branches of the Chanukah Menorah represent the days of the miracle of the oil, which were eight. Why did the miracle last eight days? Because it took four days to ravel each way to bring new, pure oil. But we may still question. All aspects of the holiday were associated with miracles: (the victorious battles) finding the cruse of oil, the fact that it burned longer than usual, etc. G‑d could have made another small miracle and they could have brought the oil faster! Why, suddenly here, in procuring the oil, must everything revert to the natural amount of time needed to fetch the oil?!

This question is strengthened by the logic that G‑d should have willed it that they should have obtained the oil sooner — so that the holiday would be seven days — and then everyone’s menorah would be just like the seven branched golden candelabra in the Temple!

We therefore come to the conclusion that G‑d willed that Chanukah should be eight days. Why? to connect the days of the holiday with the number eight, and its esoteric meanings. Chassidus explains that the seven branches of the Temple Candelabra symbolized the “seven shepherds” and the eight-branched Chanukah menorah symbolized the “eight princes of men” (See Michah 5:4).

Because the Chanukah Menorah had to be associated with the number eight, for that reason the miracle lasted eight days. G‑d worked it out that it should take four days to travel each way to and from the oil-pressing district, so that it took eight days till oil was brought.

Now, the eight days of Chanukah represent the transcending cycle, above nature and above the normal order of the development of the world. What lesson do we carry with us from the holiday of Chanukah. Each year, when we celebrate a holiday, the inspiration is generated for the entire year — when the holiday includes an eighth day this continuity is accentuated to the point that the power of infinity also comes into play (the eighth day). Here we garner the power to take the light of Chanukah and the “flooding out of the fountains” in an infinite manner.

And may this lead us to the ultimate perfection that all Jews will gather together when the prophecy will be fulfilled:

A great company shall return here. (Yirmeyahu 31:7)

With the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, truly in our time.

3. Recently a volume of the maamarim (Chassidic discourses) of the year 5656 was published and in the volume there is a maamar for Chanukah which begins: “It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah lights....” The subject matter of this discourse has been discussed in several other Chassidic essays; yet there is a special preciousness in something new.

The Mitteler Rebbe wrote about the nature of the Chassidim who have a strange desire to study maamarim which are not available (a manuscript rather than a printed book, or one newly published rather than one long in print). Although his general tone was not complimentary, he did express this as the “nature” of chassidim.

Actually, Torah recognizes this nature. When it admonishes us that the words of Torah should always be as “new” in our eyes, it presupposes that anything “new” is automatically more precious.

One of the reasons for the publication of many Chassidic works in recent times is the hope that it will encourage and evoke more interest and study.

Actually, if certain manuscripts were not published for so many years, perhaps they should remain stored away in the treasury of sequestered objects?

To this we will answer with the parable taught by the Alter Rebbe concerning the widespread teaching of Chassidus.

Mashal — there was once a crown prince who became seriously ill and no cure could be found for his sickness. It was then discovered that the only cure that might work could be prepared by grinding the most precious jewel in the coronation crown of the king. This powder could be dissolved in a elixir and could then be administered to the suffering child. In the interim the boy had become so deathly ill that it was questionable whether the doctors could get a drop of the drug through his sealed lips. Nevertheless the king ordered them to crush the jewel and try their utmost to save the child.

The moral of the story was, that the esoteric teachings of Chassidus were the crown jewel of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and to revive the Jewish people Chassidus had to be taught.

But, the question arises today, now that there are tens, hundreds, and thousands of Chassidic works that have been published, why grind up another gem? If this maamar was under wraps for so many years why print it now? Was it not Divine Providence which kept it from the printer for so many years?

The answer is that if the only way to get certain people to learn Chassidus is by publishing new works, then we must grind up another gemstone, maybe this one will sink in.

What is important is for everyone to realize that we have a responsibility to really learn the maamarim and other new Chassidic works — this will justify the act of printing.

But care must be taken not to allow the evil inclination of a foothold in its campaign to stop the study of Torah. For example:

When a chassid sits down to study the Chanukah maamar of 5656 which was just recently published, the evil prompter, may argue, “This same discourse appears in the older book, Torah Or, why learn the maamar which was said by the Rashab, go back to the source where he took the material from, the discourse of the Alter Rebbe!”

The “yetzer” continues: “Ninety years ago the times required that this maamar be said, but these times are different — go back to the source.”

Well, the chassid wipes off the dust from the book and then replaces it on the shelf, with all the proper respect for the holy book!

How foolish!

Every aspect of Torah has infinite depths and each way it is taught and each way it is learned reveals new aspects and depths and new heights. This is true when two students of Chassidus study a maamar, how much more so when the maamar is retaught by the Rebbe — the teacher who adds his explanatory remarks and reteaches the topic. If you haven’t found the new depths it is because you have not striven.

You have nothing to lose, learn it now in the style of the Rashab.

Being Shabbos there is no room today for any more debate on this topic and the main thing is to increase the study of Chassidus and especially the new publications.

I will now teach the maamar which was spoken 90 years ago — because it is new it is more precious.

It should be understood that when such a discourse is taught it is presented now in the same way as it was then. All Torah should always be studied in the manner it was transmitted from Sinai.

As the Gemara says:

Just as there it was in dread and fear and trembling and quaking, so in this case too.... (Berachos 22a)

It is also taught that when a student studies Torah G‑d faces him and learns with him. When one studies with this in mind it will be in the manner “as if today he receives if from Sinai.”

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4. When Yosef meets his brothers he recognizes them but they do not recognize him. The following dialogue ensues:

“You are spies!” he said to them, “You have come to see where the land is exposed to attack.” No my lord!” they replied. “We are your servants who have come only to buy food....” (Bereishis 42:9-10)

On this verse Rashi comments:

No my lord — do not say this, for behold we are your servants who have come only to buy food.

This Rashi leaves us with several questions:

(A) Without Rashi’s additional words the verse seems quite understandable even for the five-year-old Chumash student; what does Rashi add?

(B) It appears that Rashi may be emphasizing that the words “No my lord” refer to the future. In other words, the brothers indicated to Yosef that although in the past he may have had reason to accuse them of spying, from now on he should no longer suspect them. However, it is not clear where Rashi deduces this from. Why do the words “No my lord” infer “do not sat this” (future) — they could mean, simply “you are making a mistake!”

(C) In order to interpret these words for the future, we must say that they introduced some new facts at this point which would motivate Yosef to drop his suspicions. But we do not seem to find any new argument on their part here. They had already told Yosef that they had come “From the land of Canaan to buy food.” Yosef had rejected that claim and had accused them of spying. If so, what new information do they want only to buy food and that Yosef should no longer accuse them?

The classic commentaries on Rashi all discuss these problems and go into lengthy discussions of the matter, but with all due respect to them, we are searching for a plain explanation which may be understood by the five-year-old Chumash student and all their commentaries are too complicated.

As often happens, we will also find a fundamental “Klotz-Kashe” here, and despite its perplexity all the commentaries seem to ignore it.

We are told in this episode how the brothers vehemently and relentlessly protest their innological argument for defense.

When a foreign power sends spies to gather intelligence in another country they must be as inconspicuous as possible; only one or two people are sent — not a large group.

The five-year-old Chumash student knows that when the children in class get together and want to steal the “Afikoman” or the teachers “cane” they will not send a large group of children, for the teacher will immediately be made aware of their schemes.

Here, the brothers had come as a group of ten men, as they were men who stood out in a crowd. As Rashi had mentioned: “for they were all handsome and stalwart men” (Rashi, Ibid.:5). This was a clear proof that their intention was not to spy out the land.

On the contrary, the fact that ten stalwart men came together, proves that they were family men who had to come for the purpose of procuring food for their families.

The “Klotz-Kashe”:

Why do we not find this argument used by the brothers? Since Rashi does not deal with this particular question, the answer must be obvious even for the five-year-old Chumash student.

The explanation:

Yosef had not accepted their original story that they had come to buy food. Therefore they saw no use in telling him that his evaluation was wrong — so far. Instead they said: we will not give you new information so that in the future you will see us as honorable men. What was the new information? We find it in the next verse:

“We are all the sons of the same man.”

Why did they assume that this fact would change Yosef’s mind?

Look back for a moment. Rashi told us:

They hid themselves in the crowd that people should not recognize them, for their father had bidden them not to show that each should enter be a different gate in order that the evil eye should not have power over them (i.e. they should not attract the envious attention of the people) for they were all handsome and stalwart men. (Rashi, ibid.:5)

Consequently, they thought that Yosef suspected them because he did not realize they were from one family, as they did not enter together. If Yosef had realized that they were of one family and knew each other, he never would have imagined them to be spies — no one sends a group of ten conspicuous people to be spies.

Now that they were informing him that they were in fact — brothers — members of a large family — he would understand that in truth they were coming to buy food, and from not on he would no longer accuse them of spying.

In fact, in the manuscripts of Rashi we find the words, “We are all sons of the same man,” included in the Rashi under discussion. After writing the words: “...for behold, we are your servants who have come only to buy food,” Rashi continues “we are all sons of the same man.” Following these words, Rashi again cites the same words as the caption for his next commentary. Evidently, either the copyist of the typesetter thought that it was a redundancy and left it out the first time, not realizing that it adds to the comprehension of the whole subject in context.

This fact, that they were all sons of the same man also emphasized another aspect of their honesty.

A spy must be able to conceal his actions, he must be two-faced. For this purpose you need a certain type of individual, one who has these traits of trickery, which are not normally found by the average person. Therefore they carry on with their proof of innocence:

We are all the sons of the same man. We are honorable men. We would never think of being spies. (Ibid.)

It is not probable that all ten sons of the same man should all have the same traits necessary for spying — we are certainly honest men!

In answer to these seemingly strong arguments of the brothers, Yosef now says:

“No!” retorted [Yosef]. “You have come to see where the land is exposed.” (Ibid.:12)


(I still insist that you are spies, for what you have just said bears this out) for you have entered by ten different gates of the city; why did you not all enter by the same gate? (Since you are really brothers and traveled together?) (Ibid.)

Yosef was saying: You thought I accused you because I did not know you were brothers, on the contrary, since you are brothers the only reason you came by different gates is to see where the land is exposed!

Rashi’s commentary is now reconciled and fits in with all the previous and following verses.