1. On this Shabbos there is the double theme of Shabbos Mevorchim and Shabbos Chanukah. The aspect of Chanukah represents a stronger sense of “newness” since it comes but once a year, while the aspect of Shabbos Mevorchim recurs 11 more times during the year. What is really unique about this Shabbos is, that on a Shabbos Mevorchim we also have the Shabbos of Chanukah. Actually though, Shabbos Chanukah is itself also connected with the idea of “berochah,” or “blessing.”

On Chanukah, the Mizbeiach (Altar) and the Bais Hamikdosh were rededicated, as related in the “Al Hanissim prayer,” “... cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary ...,” in other words, the sanctification and rededication of the Temple.

But the word Chanukah has the same root as the word “chinuch” which means “education.” When a child is initiated into education it is done with the additional “blessings” of candies and gifts. Similarly, in all cases of initiation, society accepts the custom of adding and bestowing a blessing on the person or thing being “educated” or initiated. This, of course, stems from the Torah principle. Consequently the concept of Shabbos Chanukah can also include the aspect of bestowing blessings and, as such, it also incorporates in itself the idea of Shabbos Mevorchim.

What is the theme of Shabbos Chanukah?

Our main activity on Chanukah is to kindle lights which will illuminate also outside of the home, as the Talmud states: “It is incumbent to place the Chanukah lights by the door of one’s house on the outside.” From this we also learn that in all aspects of “A mitzvah is a candle, and Torah is light,” namely, Torah and mitzvos, a Jew must be involved with his own household as well as the world outside.

The time prescribed for candle lighting also emphasizes this point, as the Gemara says: “Its observance is from sunset until there is no wayfarer in the street [the foot ceases from the street] ... until... the feet of the Tarmodoi have been eliminated.”

The Chanukah lights are kindled when darkness reigns in the world; then the Jew comes and illuminates the darkness, and the light continues to shine until it eliminates the forces of darkness. Chassidus explains that the word “Tarmodoi” (Ta’R’M’O’D’O’I) has the same root as the word “Moredes” (M’O’Re’De’S’). These are the forces which rebel and reject G‑dliness in the world. The Chanukah candles effect the elimination and destruction of these negative forces. So the theme of the Chanukah lights extends not only to fellow Jews who might be outside, by illuminating their lives, but also to the gentile nations of the world, as Rashi comments on Tarmodoi: “the name of a nation.” Even among the gentiles there should be no one who rebels against G‑d.

Actual rebellion against G‑d is surely not a realistic possibility, because the Talmud relates, that even the nations of the world refer to G‑d as, “G‑d of G‑ds,” accepting the rule of Heaven. The Chanukah lights can even influence the spirit and attitude of the nations so that they will not even contemplate rebellious thoughts and ideas. The way to accomplish this is by teaching them to observe the Seven Noachide Laws as precepts given by G‑d in conjunction with our Torah. The Rambam stresses this when he writes in the Laws of Kings, chapter 8:

“Moreover, Moshe, our teacher, was commanded by G‑d to compel all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach ... provided that he accepts them and performs them because the Holy One, Blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah ....”

Thus, our influence on the gentile nations in the matter of the Laws of Noach is also related to our illuminating the world with Torah.

All the aspects of this idea may be found expressed in the Haftorah (the reading of the prophets) of this Shabbos. And since this Haftorah is always read on Shabbos Chanukah while the second Chanukah Haftorah is rarely read, only when the Chanukah week extends to two Shabbosim, the message of this Haftorah clearly conveys the essential theme of Chanukah. The Haftorah begins:

Sing and rejoice, 0 daughter of Tziyon .... And he showed me Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol standing before the angel of the L‑rd and the adversary [Satan] standing at his right hand to thwart him. And the L‑rd said to the adversary, the L‑rd rebukes you, adversary ... for is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire?

The explanation is further given that the arguments of the Satan were related to, “... was clothed in filthy garments ...,” because of the sins of people close to him, and then the angel of G‑d answered and said:

.. to those who stood before him saying: “Take off the filthy garments from him,” and to him he said: “Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I clothe you with festive garments (meaning virtues).”

Then the prophet Zechariah said: “Let them put a pure mitre on his head, so they set a pure mitre on his head ....” The prophecy then goes on to relate: “I have looked, and behold, a candlestick all of gold ...,” finally concluding with the words: “This is the word of the L‑rd to Zerubavel, and he shall produce the headstone ....” These last words of course refer to Moshiach, from the seed of Zerubavel, and as the Metzudos Dovid explains: “Moshiach will produce the special good stone and place it as the foundation for the future building of the Bais Hamikdosh.”

From this Haftorah there emerges a certain appreciation for the Jewish people, disregarding their particular condition. Even when they are covered in ‘filthy garments,’ G‑d does not heed the arguments of the Satan and even “... rebukes you, 0 adversary ....” Then the filthy garments are removed and replaced with festive garments (pleasant, white garments), and a pure mitre is placed on the head. So much so, that eventually all the Jewish people will be in a state of a “golden candelabra.” The promise is given that while still in the golus, Moshiach will come and build the future Bais Hamikdosh.

So the Haftorah teaches us the great quality of every Jew — not to look at the external level or position, rather to see and realize that together they are a golden menorah. Now you can see how important it is not to forget about or ignore even one Jew no matter what his level. Rather we must use every effort with every means at our disposal to encourage and influence every Jew to shine with the mitzvah candle and Torah light, and draw out and reveal the real essence of the golden menorah.

When we speak of initiating activities which will reach out to those Jews who are temporarily on the “outside” there might be those who present the argument, “By what right do you demand that a Jew should leave his-own surroundings, which are permeated with holiness, in order to work with Jews who are on the outside and may be clothed in ‘filthy garments’?” With this argument he justifies his own reaction and heaps accusation and libel against those, who he says, are dressed in “filthy garments.”

The Haftorah teaches us that when the Satan comes with his accusations, G‑d answers with “rebuke,” how dare you libel this Jew? He is a “brand rescued from the flames.”

Especially in our era, after all the oppression and all the destruction of our generation, every Jew is a “brand rescued from the flames.”

In fulfilling the role for which he was created, to vilify and malign the Jews, even the Satan is rebuked by G‑d, but for a Jew to slander and derogate another Jew, this is absolutely abnormal. Let him not fool himself that by speaking evil of another Jew, a brand saved from the fire, he is doing a mission of holiness. On the contrary, he is an agent of the “Satan,” who in his diligence to vilify the Jews has found a willing messenger in this Jew who clothes this sinister act in a “cloak of piety.”

This accuser is himself a brand plucked from the flames, now, was he really more worthy than the others, the saints and martyrs, who sacrificed and sanctified their lives on the altar? Yet for some reason he was spared. Does he now abuse this G‑dly grace which saved him, and assume the evil mission to malign and calumniate those Jews who were spared from the altar?

“But,” he continues to contend, “these Jews are dressed in ‘filthy garments’!” Therefore the Haftorah goes on to say,

.. and he answered and spoke to those who stood before him saying, “Take off the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you; and I clothe you in festive garments ... So they set a pure mitre on his head ....”

G‑d’s many angels and messengers will remove the filthy garments; it is not your concern. What the Prophet did see was a completely pure gold candelabra, signifying that all Jews stand as a golden candelabra; no Jews are on the outside — the golden menorah is complete.

Now the “sly one” does not rest and puts forth the following contention: “Since the Torah teaches that, ‘You must admonish your neighbor,’ how can I be still when I see a Jew with filthy garments?”

To this we reply: “First adorn (correct) yourself.” Are your garments so clean? Why, this slander itself has besmirched you enough! As the Talmud relates in the tractate Arachin: “Whoever speaks slander increases his sins even up to the degree of the three cardinal sins: idolatry, adultery, and murder,” which are so severe that one must be ready to die rather than to transgress them!

You might also muse over your own actions of last night — can you find a place to hide from your shame!? Oh, you console yourself, that people are not aware of your conduct, but it is revealed to Heaven, and as our sages taught us in Pirkei Avos: “Whoever desecrates the Heavenly Name in secret, punishment will be meted out to him in public.”

Stop for a moment and contemplate this. In this same prophetic vision, the Prophet says: “... for he that touches you, touches the apple of His eye.” Start up with a Jew and you poke the apple of G‑d’s eye. Can there still be a Jew who has the audacity and impudence to give this effrontery to G‑d? (may G‑d save us)!

You think you are the golden menorah and they are “outside,” in truth they are all part of that menorah and you — maybe, if you are lucky — will be considered as one of the legs of that menorah which you try to expel. They do not libel their fellow Jews; they do not have the chutzpah, while you dare to attack the apple of G‑d’s eye.

Our only hope is to pity this person and find some virtue in his merit, since he too is included in the golden candelabra and he too is a descendant of Avraham, Yitzchok and Ya’akov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah. Hopefully and surely G‑d will find some way to remove his filthy garments!

Since we speak these words of admonition on Shabbos Chanukah, when we recite a blessing before and after the Haftorah, which says: “G‑d rebukes the Satan,” surely these words will accomplish their goal.

Just as the Haftorah emphasized the theme of outreach to fellow Jews, so too, the Haftorah also includes activity relating to the gentiles.

The prophecy begins with the words: “Sing and rejoice, 0, daughter of Tziyon: for, ‘Lo, I come, and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the L‑rd.” This of course refers to the Jewish people. Immediately, following this however, the verse goes on: “And many nations shall join themselves to the L‑rd on that day and shall be my people.” When the sages instituted the kindling of the Chanukah candles in the doorway of our homes to illuminate the public domain outside, the purpose was to convert the “darkness” of the mundane physicality into “light” and G‑dliness. This of course can be accomplished when we motivate the inhabitants of the world, in a pleasant and friendly way, to accept the Seven Noachide Laws, because they were commanded by the Holy One, Blessed be He.

One may ask: “Isn’t this prophecy related to the time of Moshiach, as are other prophecies of the prophet of redemption — Yeshayah — namely: ‘And many people shall go and say, come, let us go up to the mountain of the L‑rd ... and He will teach us His ways ...’? So why all the fuss, we have the promise that it will come about anyway?” But the answer is that all promises of Torah are also directives, and when do they come true, when we work for them — and if we do, then the promise will come true sooner.

Nowadays the work has been made much easier. Divine Providence brings a Jew in contact with a gentile on business matters. The Jew can easily take an interest in the gentile and encourage him to fulfill the seven mitzvos, which he explains, are for his benefit. When the non-Jew sees that his acquaintance, the Jew, is interested in his well-being, he will surely be influenced. As a fringe benefit of this process the Jew will also benefit in matters of business — materially and spiritually.

Shabbos Chanukah and the Haftorah which we read teaches us in an emphatic way, that the theme of Chanukah is to illuminate the outside, to reach those Jews who are “outside” and make them shine with the mitzvah candle and Torah light, so that it will be apparent and manifest that they are part of the golden candelabra. Additionally we must reach out to the nations of the world and motivate them to fulfill and to keep the mitzvos of the children of Noach. As the Talmud states: “Until the feet of the Tarmodoi will be eliminated” — which is a preparation for the future and which will bring about that: “Many nations shall join themselves to the L‑rd on that day.”

Shabbos Chanukah also teaches us another lesson in addition to those which we glean from the weekdays of Chanukah, namely, that of delight. Our activities must be permeated with enjoyment and delight.

When one considers the seemingly enormous task of reaching out and influencing Jews all around himself, among them also someone whom he may dislike — it may cause discouragement. Despite this, he has been given the responsibility to help and to teach his fellow Jews. Now if additionally he is under the obligation to teach the non-Jews that he has contact with, he could be filled with apprehension and hesitation which might lead to weakness or depression, Heaven forbid! Here the message and theme of Shabbos Chanukah calls out and clearly shows us that all this must be done with joy and delight. Just as the delight of Shabbos is not only spiritual but also physical, eating and drinking — rich meat and old wine — even napping on Shabbos is delightful! So too, when these outreach activities are filled with delight, no difficulty is felt, rather there is excitement and energy which brings wonderful success and results in all aspects.

This will also infuse and inspire his work all through the year. Continuing activity is a characteristic which carries over from every holiday of the year and this continual effort will carry over from Chanukah also to the entire year.

May G‑d grant that each and every one will take the lesson of the days of Chanukah — to illuminate outside the home, throughout the year, and to effect a “year of light” (“light year”) so that we will merit the ultimate perfection of light, as expressed in: “Arise and shine, for your light has come,” the light of the Holy One, Blessed be He, the eternal light which will not be followed by darkness, at the true and complete redemption through the righteous Moshiach, speedily and actually in our days.

2. We have learned from Shabbos Chanukah that when we reach out to illuminate the “outside” we must proceed with delight. Another lesson of Shabbos Chanukah may be learned from the time of kindling the Chanukah candles on eve of Shabbos. Normally the correct time for candle lighting would be after sunset, but on Friday night that would already be Shabbos, therefore the Chanukah candles must be lit while it is still day.

Theoretically there could have been two choices on Friday night, 1) to kindle the lights early — as we actually do, or, 2) not to light on that day at all, which we may deduce, a minori ad majus, from the mitzvos of lulov and esrog. Lulov, although it is a Biblical mitzvah, (from Sinai) it is nevertheless cancelled when it coincides with Shabbos. Certainly Chanukah candles, which are only a rabbinic mitzvah, can be cancelled when they conflict with Shabbos.

It would appear more reasonable to say that rather than change the proper time of lighting, better not to light at all. After all, the Chanukah candles commemorate the miracle of the candles of the Bais Hamikdosh. In the Bais Hamikdosh the menorah was always kindled during the day, just after the daily sacrifice of the afternoon. The purpose of the Temple menorah was not to advertise something, which is why they were lit inside the Sanctuary. Conversely, the Chanukah candles come to advertise the miracle, which is why they are lit at night. If the Chanukah menorah is lit before sunset it would only be acceptable as an “ex post facto” observance. As we say, “Of what use is a candle in broad daylight?” there would be no advertising of the miracle.

Consequently, on Friday night of Chanukah it would be logical not to light the menorah at all. Our sages would not have ordained a practice which would only be valid in a ex post facto manner.

The explanation however is that when we realize the intense importance of the illumination of the Chanukah candles and how they light up the darkness we can understand the motivation of our sages who chose to light the candles earlier on Friday night, rather than to cancel and eliminate their shine.

An illustration of this may be seen from the law that on Tisha B’Av we are not permitted to study Torah, because: “The precepts of the L‑rd are just, rejoicing the heart.” But how can we not learn Torah on Tisha B’Av? So we find a way and learn those subjects which are permitted.

Similarly when a Jew realizes that his purpose is to illuminate outside his door, after dark, and if because of Shabbos he cannot create that light after sunset, then he must seek ways and means to accomplish his goal. What does he do? He advances the lighting time and kindles the Chanukah menorah while there is still light, adding more oil to make sure the lamps continue to glow and push away the darkness of the night.

Being that time and space are relative and interdependent, Shabbos Chanukah also teaches us a lesson with regard to the place of the menorah light.

It is true that our goal is to reach out and to illuminate the outside world, and in order to do that we must reach out to those who are on the outside and kindle their mitzvah candle and Torah light. But what if they are presently to be found in such far out places which a Jew is not permitted to approach? As the Gemara mentions in tractate Avodah Zorah, a Jew may not walk on the street of idols.

Nowadays when we find Jews who have been entrapped by different idolatrous cults, may Heaven protect us, how can we save them? We are prohibited from entering such places! How do we free the Jewish souls who have been cast into these abominable places?

Here we may take the lesson from the time of candle lighting, which was advanced to effect an earlier lighting, which then illuminated the darkness to a later time. Although we cannot enter or approach those forbidden places, yet we can and must increase all aspects of the light of Torah and mitzvos in our places to the point of immense power and intense light. This light will then penetrate, pervade and infiltrate even into the forbidden places.

To be more precise: If you hear that in some forsaken corner of the world, like the far recesses of India, there is a Jew who has been entrapped and ensnared by some cult of idolatry, this fact shows that you have the strength and ability to do something to save that individual. The news which you received was a form of Divine Providence which G‑d caused for a reason, namely that you should help save that Jew from descending to the depths of spiritual self-destruction. How? You must not go there? The answer: Increase your light and holiness in your space of the world to the strongest degree and intensity and it will reach that “lost” Jew and penetrate the darkness. And, as we see today that our action here may be advertised and spread all over the world, he will be reached by the dictum: “Taste and you will see that G‑d is good,” and he will see that the only true good is in G‑dliness and he will decide to approach Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos.

When everyone will increase their Chanukah activities to illuminate the outside world with the light of Yiddishkeit and holiness, this will bring that we shall merit the “light” of the Third Bais Hamikdosh — the light of the menorah in the Third Temple.

For the Chasmonean, Chanukah is related to the Third Temple. Rambam writes that the verse: “And make for Me a Sanctuary ...” refers to all of the Temples. Regarding the Tabernacle in the desert, the Midrash says that it was completed on the 25th of Kislev but its dedication was postponed. And G‑d repaid the day of the 25th of Kislev with the dedication of the Chasmoneans. If so, Chanukah brought completion to the Tabernacle and also to the Third Temple of the future, which is related to it. And it brings completion and wholeness to the future Temple. So may it be with us, soon may the Temple be rebuilt. Truly now!

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3. It is appropriate at this point to remind and encourage everyone concerning Mivtza Chanukah. Being that today is Shabbos it would seem that the actions of Chanukah do not apply. The candles of Friday night were lit before Shabbos and tonight they will be lit after Shabbos is over. The aspect of praise and thanks (Hallel) to G‑d, which constitutes the real essence of Chanukah, has already been fulfilled this morning. So what aspect of Mivtza Chanukah does apply now?

The emphasis of the lesson of Chanukah is that all aspects of Torah and mitzvos shall be done in a manner which will illuminate the world outside the house — that all actions of Torah and mitzvos must be advertised and publicized.

In the case of Torah study it is well-known that the purpose of study is “to learn and to teach,” as the Alter Rebbe rules in the Laws of Torah study:

There is a Torah commandment incumbent on every wise man of Israel to teach all his pupils, even though they are not his children, as it says: “You shall teach them thoroughly to your children.” And the sages have it by tradition that “your children” means “your students.” Similarly, he must strive in performance of mitzvos, that just as he performs mitzvos he must influence others to do likewise.

Although the systematic study of Rambam is relatively a recent development, yet since it has gained widespread acceptance, we must see in it Divine Providence. Therefore we must find a relationship between the selection of Rambam for today and the special theme of the day. In this case, the selection is the last two chapters of the Laws of Utensils and the first chapter of Mikvaos.

In general we know that Chanukah is connected with the conditions of “tumah” and “taharah” (spiritual or ritual defilement and purity). When the Talmud asks, “What is Chanukah?” it answers that the Greeks entered the Temple and made the oils tameh, including also all the other holy objects there. Then when the miracle took place they “made Your Sanctuary tahor.” The miracle of the oil was also related to the fact that they could find only one cruse of tahor oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, which could last in the menorah for only one day, but miraculously burned for eight days, until tahor oil could be pressed.

Here is the clear connection between Chanukah on the one hand, and the Laws of vessels and mikvah (ritualarium) on the other hand, which speak of the vessels and food which became tameh and the mikvah which makes vessels and people tahor. These laws apply so that we may be able to enter the Temple and to prepare the oil for the menorah. This starts with the Laws of Mikvah as the Rambam writes in Chapter 1:

Whatsoever is tameh, whether a person or a utensil, can become tahor only by immersion in water that has gathered (on) the ground.

Regarding the main theme of Chanukah a question comes to mind.

At the beginning of the Laws of Chanukah the Rambam writes:

In the time of the Second Temple, when the Greeks ruled over Eretz Yisroel, they issued evil decrees against them, proscribing their religion and forbidding them to study Torah and to fulfill the commandments. They laid hands on their property and on their daughters and they entered the Temple and made breaches in it, and defiled that which was ritually pure (tahor). And the Jews were in sore straits in consequence thereof and suffered great persecution.

As we see, “defiling” that which was tahor was not the only problem needing a miracle on Chanukah. The Greeks caused much more suffering and problems for the Jews. If so, when the Gemara asks, “What is Chanukah?” meaning, “On account of what miracle was Chanukah established?” why does the Talmud answer: “For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein... and found only one cruse of oil which lay with the seal of the Kohen Gadol”? What about “proscribing their religion” and all the other oppressive matters?

We may explain this according to the words of the Rambam at the end of the Laws of Mikvah (immersion in a ritual pool), where he explains the general concept of tumah and taharah.

First we must remember that which has often been expounded, that the decrees of the Greeks were not necessarily against Torah and mitzvos per se, but rather: “To make them forget Your Torah and violate decrees of Your will.” They were against the idea that G‑d commanded. This is more clearly evident in the statutes of Torah which have no apparent explanation or logical reason, being clearly the “decrees of Your will.”

Now at the conclusion of the Laws of Mikvah the Rambam clearly states:

“It is plain and manifest that the laws about tumah and taharah are decrees laid down by Scripture and not matters about which human understanding is capable of forming a judgment, for behold they are included among the divine statutes. So, too, immersion as a means of freeing oneself from tumah is included among the divine statutes. Now tumah is not mud or filth which water can remove, but it is a matter of Scriptural decree and is dependent upon the intention of the heart....

It is clear that in order to stress that the intent of the Greek decrees was to abolish the “divine statutes,” the miracle of the oil which related to tumah and taharah was of paramount importance to the sages. Unquestionably, we are dealing with a case of statutes!

Aside from the lesson drawn from the Rambam’s general outlook on tumah and taharah and its relationship to the Shabbos of Chanukah and the miracle of Chanukah, we should also note a specific ruling which the Rambam brings into today’s section. In chapter 1:2:

Wherever “washing of the flesh” or “cleansing of garments” from tumah is spoken of in Scripture, it means nothing else but the immersion of the whole person or object in an immersion pool.... It is said: “It must be put into water and it shall be tameh until the evening; then shall it be tahor” — a basic principle applying to all that are tameh that they should enter into water.

In Halachah 10 the Rambam continues:

It is not needful that the water enter the secret parts and the creases in the flesh for it is said: ‘And his hands he has not rinsed in water,’ implying that the water need cover only those members of the body that are visible; but even then such parts should be exposed so that the water can easily come upon them....

The source of this Halachah is in tractate Kiddushin (25a):

It once happened that a bondmaid of Rebbe Yehudah’s household performed “tevilah” (immersion), ascended from the water and a bone was found between her teeth, whereupon Rebbe ordered her to perform a second immersion. Granted that we do not require the water to enter, we insist that there shall be room to enter. And it is in accordance with R. Zeira who said: “Whatever is fit for perfect mixing, the mixing is not indispensable. Whatever is not fit for perfect mixing the mixing is indispensable.”

With this in mind, the dilemma raised earlier whether or not to light Chanukah candles on Friday night becomes more perplexing. For since it is a case where you would not be permitted to light them at the right time, then if you light them earlier it should not be acceptable, like something which is “not fit for perfect mixing.”

The explanation that was expounded earlier must now be emphasized even more strongly. When you do not have the ability or the opportunity to illuminate in a certain place or time — then you must strive even harder to find all possible avenues to overcome the obstacle and, specifically, to bring light to that time and place.

There is yet another lesson to be gained from the selection of the Rambam of today. In the paragraph quoted above (halachah 2), the Rambam continues: “... for even if a person has wholly immersed himself, except for the tip of his little finger, he continues to be unclean,” and in a further rule (paragraph 7) the Rambam continues:

.. And if he is hairy he must immerse all the hair of his head, since it counts as part of his person on the authenticity of Scripture.

This halachah rules that even some seemingly insignificant act or thing can still play a very important role and may disqualify all your actions. When you apply this principle to the general teaching of Chanukah you must realize that every good act you do must be advertised to encourage others to follow and to do likewise. Not only when you donate large sums of money should it be publicized, but even when you find yourself in some far away town and you meet a pauper who stretches out his hand to you to ask for alms and you give him a penny, even this is an important act. As such you should encourage others to learn from you and to likewise give tzedakah, too. This act too must be publicized and advertised, so that others should learn from and emulate your ways, and will be motivated to perform the great mitzvah of tzedakah which will bring along another mitzvah in its wake, giving them an appetite for more good acts in the future.

May it be G‑d’s will, that everyone will increase their actions of illuminating the outside in a joyous way with delight and then you will not have to check the calendar to see if it is Chanukah! You will light up the world always!

Our actions and mitzvos performed in a pleasurable manner will bring the state of perfect pleasure and relaxation as we will now recite in the Minchah service: “from You is their rest,” with the true redemption through our righteous Moshiach, actually in our time.

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4. In Rashi’s commentary on this week’s portion, in chapter 43, verse 14, Rashi cites the words: “And G‑d Al-mighty,” and he comments: “Now you lack nothing except prayer, and therefore I pray for you.” Ya’akov meant to say that, now that you have gathered all the necessities and are ready to go back to Egypt: the fresh fruits of the land as a gift, double money, the money that had been restored in your packs, and also your brother — now you lack nothing but prayer and I will pray for you, that: “G‑d Al-mighty give you compassion....”

Following this, Rashi once again cites the words: “And G‑d Al-mighty,” and he explains:

Who gives plenteous mercy and in whose hand is sufficient power to give, may He give you mercy. This is the real meaning of the words. A Midrashic explanation

Several questions arise, needing elucidation.

1) The words of the verse: “And G‑d Al-mighty give you compassion,” is interpreted by Rashi to be the essence of Ya’akov’s prayer. But is it prayer? Does it not really bear the form of a blessing? Prayer is normally addressed to G‑d and requests something, these words are addressed to his children and bestow his blessings on them, that G‑d would bring them compassion in the eyes of the man. In fact, the commentary of Da’as Zekainim refers to this sentence and says: “Why did Ya’akov bless them using the name of the Almighty?”

2) If, despite the first question, we do say that this was a prayer, why would Ya’akov have to pray for them? It would be more appropriate and advantageous for them to pray for themselves, as Rashi earlier commented in Vayeira that: “... the prayer of a sick person is more effective than the prayer offered by others for him and it is more readily accepted.”

3) Can it be that Ya’akov prayed at the end!? First they made all preparations, gifts, money, etc., and only then Ya’akov realized, as if by an afterthought, that now, “you lack only prayer”? Is this possible? On the contrary, prayer should have been first and foremost! In fact we do find the proper logical order when Ya’akov met Esav. First he prayed, and then prepared the gift and made arrangements for possible battle.

And finally, but of primary importance, is the “klutz” question [which, although seemingly simplistic, is actually fundamental and profound]. Ya’akov’s words come as part of the dialogue with Yehudah who had argued that, “... had we not lingered, surely now we had returned twice.” Yehudah reasoned with Ya’akov that there was nothing to fear, it was a mere formality for Binyamin to be seen by the Egyptian ruler, and they would all be back home in no time. All very natural and simple. If so, why was there really a need for Ya’akov’s prayer?

When Ya’akov was afraid that Esav would come and harm him, he had to pray for G‑d’s protection and Providence — but when the process is natural, automatic and by natural law, there should be no danger; what is the need for Ya’akov’s special mention “now I will pray for you”?

Let us therefore understand Rashi as follows:

When Rashi cites the words: “And G‑d Almighty,” it appeared to us that he was explaining the intent of these words as representing a prayer — so the question was asked, that it looks like a blessing, not a prayer. In fact, however, Rashi does not mean to explain that the words, “And G‑d Al-mighty,” were part of Ya’akov’s prayer, rather Ya’akov meant them to be the hoped for result of his prayer. So Rashi says — now that you have done everything, do not think it is enough, I still have to pray for you, and as a result of my prayer, “G‑d Al-mighty will give you compassion....”

It also becomes clear now, that when Rashi cites the words, “And G‑d Al-mighty” a second time, he is not introducing a second commentary on the same initial words, rather it is a continuation of the same first commentary, which flows into the second part of Rashi. Ya’akov says that he would pray, and then Rashi continues to paraphrase Ya’akov, that as a result of the prayer, G‑d Al-mighty will help. Now, since Rashi mentions the name “Al-mighty,” he also explains the meaning of the word “Al-mighty” according to an earlier commentary (Bereishis 17:1):

I am He, whose G‑dship suffices for every creature, therefore “walk before Me” and I will be your protector. Similarly, wherever in the Scriptures this Divine Name Al-mighty occurs, it signifies the idea of His sufficiency — all depending upon the context.

So here Rashi says:

.. Who gives plenteous mercy and in whose hand is sufficient power to give. May He give you mercy.

This also clarifies the unusual usage of the Divine Name “Al-mighty” in a prayer. It is not part of the prayer, rather it is the expected result.

Why the need for prayer at all? Was this not a simple case of natural occurrences as Yehudah had reasoned?

Ya’akov reasoned otherwise. Ya’akov explained to his sons that in truth, the case was really not so simple. Even when everything appears’ to be natural and uncomplicated you cannot know what will evolve — and you must pray. As Rashi mentions further, that Ya’akov had a “diffusion of prophecy” at that moment and saw that problems would arise in Egypt and they could [and would actually] all be imprisoned. So Ya’akov implored them — even though you think that you have everything you need and everything will probably work out for the best, do not think that “you lack nothing” — you still need prayer!

It is now also clear why Ya’akov had to pray for them and why they could not pray for themselves. They looked at this whole episode as a natural sequence of events with a predictable outcome — they did not feel the need for prayer; they had nothing to pray for! When can one pray? When the need is felt, when something is lacking. Here they felt that they had whatever they needed.

This teaches us an important moral lesson in man’s Divine service. One might argue, “I follow the dictum to be happy with my portion,” and when in the Amidah prayer he says: “Graciously bestow upon us from Your wisdom, understanding, and knowledge” he cannot comprehend it. “Why should I request wisdom, understanding and knowledge, when I am the wisest, most understanding and most knowledgeable person?” So the lesson we learn is that when someone thinks he lacks nothing — this is his greatest deficiency! What about “Be happy with your portion”? The answer is simple. That refers to material things, but when we speak of the spiritual, being satisfied is the greatest weakness!

There is a well-known dictum which explains the verse: “... in the heavens above and upon the earth below.” When you deal with earthly, mundane matters and want to measure your success and accomplishment, position and wealth, you must — you should — look “below” to those who have less than you, and be satisfied with your lot. Compared to them you are really rich. When dealing with spiritual matters however, you must look up to those who are above you. Measure your accomplishments relative to those who have studied more than you, compare your spiritual level to those who have attained piety and then you will strive to rise and do more. In spiritual matters you cannot be complacent with what you have!

More specifically, as Pirkei Avos tells us: “Who is wise? He who learns from every person....” This Mishnah is profoundly accurate, concise, clear and bright; when can you be considered wise? Only when you are ready to learn from every person. So when a group of people get together to study and review Torah, if you say — “I have learned this already — I know it — why hear it again?” — remember that you are not wise until you learn from this group too. How they study and understand this particular teaching can be instructive to you.

The result of this approach must bring to Jewish unity.

We are going to read at Minchah: “Then Yehudah stepped near to him,” representing the connection of Yehudah to Yosef. The Haftorah of today makes it even more clear:

Take one stick ... For Yehudah, for the children of Israel his companions ... take another stick ... for Yosef ... for all the house of Israel his companions, and join them one to the other and make them one stick; and they shall become one in your hand.

The purpose of Yehudah’s approach was to effect unity with Yosef, which comes about when all Jews are involved in the two aspects of Torah and tzedakah. Torah personifies Yosef and mitzvos personifies Yehudah. And since action is essential, may we merit soon to the ascent of Yehudah starting with the great action of G‑d — the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach and the building of the Bais Hamikdosh truly soon. Immediately!

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5. One of the special themes of Chanukah which applies especially to women is that they are also included in the miracle, and that the miracle was effected through a woman whose name was Yehudis, as related in the “Scroll of Yehudis.”

This week there is an Encounter for Women; may they accomplish their goal, that each woman should encourage and strengthen her friend in all areas of Yiddishkeit.

It should be emphasized that there is a special relationship between women and the education of children, as we see that a very important part of education is assigned to women. During a child’s earliest years when the foundations of all later aspects of education and learning are being set, we see that the children are mainly in their mother’s care, as the Talmud says: “A child who needs [the care of] his mother.”

Additionally, the nature of gentleness in women gives them the ability to more easily find the paths to the heart of the young boy or girl, and therefore their influence in educating the child is much greater than the men’s.