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Parashat Mikess


On the way back from Egypt, Yaakov's sons, the founders of the sacred tribes of Israel, stay over in an inn. One son opens his luggage to feed the animals, and suddenly finds in his sack the money which he had taken to Egypt to purchase food. After he reported his finding to his brothers, "Their heart left them, and they trembled one to another saying, 'What is this that Hashem has done to us?'"

Let's imagine what would have been our reaction if such an incident were to happen to us. Would we not have been elated, having found money which we weren't expecting? At best we would have wondered about its source. But the Torah here provides us with guidance how to react in such a situation: "What is this that Hashem has done to us?" What is being told to us from the Heavens, what is being alluded to?

This perspective allows us the comfort of knowing that nothing happens coincidentally; it forces us to recognize that everything is destined from Above.

This is also the message of Hanukah. In the "al hanisim" prayer, we praise the Al-mighty for the great military victory of the small Hashmonaim armies against the Greek Empire. But the commemoration of this miracle is accomplished by lighting the candles, as we remember the great miracle which occurred during the time of the second Bet Hamikdash, the reinstating of the service after the Greek occupation. This commemoration establishes that we are aware "what this is that Hashem has done to us." We declare our belief that this victory occurred only so that we may serve Hashem in His Bet Hamikdash.

This, indeed, is the message for us in our age. We must ask ourselves, "What is this that God has done to us?" Why have we merited that which our ancestors have not, to return to the Promised Land and redeem it from its desolation, to withstand the threat of seven powerful nations? How much does this obligate us to commit ourselves more than ever to Torah and misvot!


Yosef was locked in prison for twelve years. For twelve years, he lived in gloom and darkness. Then, suddenly and without warning, "Pharaoh sent, called Yosef, and they hurried him from the pit. He shaved, changed his clothes, and came before Pharaoh." Before you know it, Yosef is the viceroy of Egypt!

Hazal note that this trend occurs regularly to sadikim as well as to the nation as a whole. "From crisis to tranquillity, from darkness to light, from descent to ascent." Recall Mordechai who rose from sack-cloth, mourning, fasting, wailing, and eulogy to being displayed gloriously throughout the city as Shushan celebrated. When the Jews were in Egypt, from the suffering of bondage where they were not even given straw to make bricks they were redeemed and emerged to freedom. Similarly, during the time of the ultimate redemption, from all the crises and difficulties of the precursor to the messianic era, salvation will emerge. This trend we find first with Yosef, who left prison to become the Egyptian viceroy.

Furthermore, we are told, "They rushed him from the pit." The process occurred quickly and frantically. Such was the case regarding the salvation of Shushan, when Haman was rushed to Esther's feast which led to his downfall. Rabbi Ovadyah Seforno zs"l writes, "They hurried him from the pit - as is the case regarding all divine salvation which always occurs in an instant, as it says, 'For My salvation is soon to come' (Yeshayahu 56:1), and, 'If only My nation would listen to Me, Yisrael would walk in My ways, in an instant I would humble their enemies and I would send My hand against their oppressors' (Tehillim 81:14). This was also the process involved in the redemption from Egypt, as it says, 'For they were chased from Egypt' (Shemot 12:39), as Hazal said (Haggadah), 'Our forefathers' dough did not have a chance to rise until the Al-mighty revealed Himself to them.' He has told us that this will happen in the future, as well, as it says, 'Suddenly he [the Messianic King (Radak)] will come to his palace, the master whom you seek, and the angel of the covenant [Eliyahu (Radak)] for whom you long, behold he is coming, said the Lord of Hosts' (Malachi 3:1)."

In a well-known passage in the Midrash, Eliyahu is said to have instructed Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi as to where he can meet Eliyahu. He told him how he would recognize the prophet: his entire body would be full of wounds. He represents the generic soul, that of the entire nation, and when the people sin and thereby injure the national soul, their sins are perceived in the physical condition of the Messianic King, and he is inflicted on account of our misdeeds. He deals with his wounds one at a time, treating each wound as soon as it surfaces. Why does he not treat his injuries like regular patients, who apply the medication all at once? Because he is afraid lest he delay the moment of redemption for even a single instant. He wants to be sure that he is ready the very moment of redemption, that nobody will have to wait for him to bandage his wounds. Haven't his people waited already for two thousand years? We can certainly wait another five minutes! But no - this is how the divine salvation unfolds. It cannot be delayed for even a single moment.

If we take a careful look around us, if we examine the events of our times, an era which has brought such drastic changes in the way people live - we must ask ourselves, technology continues to progress in leaps and bounds, reality is changing constantly, what is the common denominator shared by all these advances, the thread which has remained constant throughout the changes of the last few generations? The answer is, clearly, speed, the advanced rate at which things run. To think that just one hundred years ago the overwhelming majority of people traveled with a horse and buggy! Roads were paved and rail tracks were built, and suddenly vast distances between different locations shrunk. Steam engines were soon replaced by electric-run trains, just as steamboats were replaced by speedboats. The original airplanes were improved and eventually the Concord was produced. The old radios which needed time to warm up were substituted by transistors which are activated in an instant. The original, slow computers were quickly outdated and considered archaic. Microchips now transmit millions of bytes of information in a matter of milliseconds, and today's progress is ancient history compared to tomorrow's technology. The old rotary phones were replaced by touch-tone. People, too, have become rushed, pressured, running here and there, left without time to relax, anxious and uptight, always hurrying.

In the political world, too, processes which unfolded over a century, encompassing two world wars and countless smaller battles, the rise of communism and its aftermath, the death of tens of millions in concentration and labor camps, in famine and floods, all of this was overturned in such a short period of time, as if from Above all these processes were brought to an abrupt halt.

All of this signifies the developing redemption, about which it is said, "Suddenly the master whom you seek will come," suddenly the most fundamental change will occur, and new, fresh light will shine upon siyon!


Based Upon the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit"a Taken from "Torat Hamoadim", by Rabbi David Yossef shlit"a, rabbi of Har Nof, and Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at The Laws of Hanukah

1) On Mosa'ei Shabbat Hanukah in the synagogue, the Hanukah candles are lit first, and only then is havdalah recited so as to delay the end of Shabbat as much as possible. Although the one who actually lights the candle detaches himself from Shabbat automatically through this act, nevertheless, the rest of the congregation, who are not fulfilling their misvah through this lighting, can retain their observance of Shabbat for those extra moments. Furthermore, lighting in this order contributes to the publicizing of the miracle, for if havdalah is recited first then people will begin to leave, and fewer people will be present for the lighting of the Hanukah candles.

2) All this pertains specifically to the lighting of Hanukah candles in the synagogue. Regarding the lighting in the home, however, since the lighting itself constitutes a break with Shabbat, havdalah should be recited first, as the misvah which occurs more often always takes precedence. Hanukah candles should then be lit following the recitation of havdalah.

3) In the synagogue, when the Hanukah candles are lit first, the berachah over fire ("borei me'orei ha'esh") is not recited over the Hanukah candles, as it is forbidden to derive any form of benefit from their light, and one recites this blessing only over light from which one derives benefit. However, one may recite the berachah over the "shamash" (though it is preferable to recite the berachah over a torch-like candle).

4) Many particularly pious individuals are careful not to perform any activity forbidden on Shabbat until what's known as "Rabbenu Tam" time (generally a little over an hour after sunset). People who are accustomed to this practice should follow this procedure on Shabbat Hanukah, as well, and thus they should not light Hanukah candles until after this time.

Although it is preferable to light Hanukah candles as early on in the night as possible and the custom of extending Shabbat is merely a custom, nevertheless it is a worthy practice as it has been observed by many great rabbis, and it is also the view of the Shulhan Aruch whose rulings we have accepted as authoritative.

5) The custom is to eat festive meals on Hanukah, and some say that these meals are considered meals of misvah. All opinions agree that if these meals are accompanied with songs of praise to Hashem then they attain the status of "se'udat misvah." This is certainly true if divrei Torah of any nature are recited at these meals.

6) Some have the custom to eat dairy products on Hanukah, in commemoration of the event recorded in the Midrash about Yehudit, daughter of Yohanan Kohen Gadol, who fed the enemy general cheese which made him thirsty, eventually leading to his intoxication, allowing her to decapitate him, effectively ending the siege.

7) We include "al hanisim" in our birkat hamazon, before the paragraph of "ve'al hakol." If one forgets to recite al hanisim and remembers before mentioning Hashem's name in the blessing, then he goes back and recites it, and then continues with birkat hamazon as usual. However, once he says Hashem's name in the berachah he does not go back to insert al hanisim. Preferably, in such a situation, he should insert in the "harahaman" section, "Harahaman hu ya'aseh imanu nissim ve'niflaot..." as is printed in many sidurim and birkonim.

8) Similarly, if one forgot to recite "al hanisim" during Amidah, if he remembered before saying the name of Hashem then he goes back and recites it. However, if he already recited "Baruch atah Hashem" then he simply continues with his tefilah. Preferably, after "elokai nessor" he should say "Modim anahnu lach al hanisim ve'al hapurkan..." until "'nodeh leshimcha hagadol selah".


Rabbi Yaish Kohen zs"l

On the last day of Hanukah 5758, fourteen years will have passed since the passing of Rabbi Yaish Cohen zs"l, the son-in-law of the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Yosef Ohayon zs"l, author of "Avkat Rochel."

Rabbi Yaish zs"l was born in Morocco around ninety years ago, and already in his childhood he demonstrated his good manners, unusual humility, and upright behavior. It is told that he once returned from a celebration in the synagogue and found in his pocket left-over food which apparently fell from the table. He immediately returned to the synagogue to bring back the remains. Due to his extraordinary integrity, the governor appointed him to collect the taxes. He was very meticulous to ensure that he would not overcharge the people. Although the governor was disturbed by the fact that Rabbi Yaish would not overcharge, and would thus bring in less revenue, he was nevertheless happy with this tax-collector, as he could rest assured that no money is being mishandled or embezzled.

An exceedingly G-d-fearing man, Rabbi Yaish would fast throughout the Ten Days of Repentance as well as every Erev Rosh Hodesh. Once he became very sick as a result of his fast, but still refused to eat until he received "hatarat nedarim" by three competent rabbis.

His charitable quality was particularly remarkable. Whenever he would hear of a family in need, he would have no rest until their needs were cared for. If he came across a neglected synagogue, he would immediately look after its renovation. When a relative came upon hard times, Rabbi Yaish filled his store with merchandise from his own money. When those funds were lost, as well, Rabbi Yaish, in fulfillment of the dictum that one must give to the poor even many times over, once again filled the store with merchandise!

He also followed in the ways of our patriarch, Avraham, with regard to the practice of inviting guests. Once, the governor forbade the welcoming of strangers into the area unless the host would accept full responsibility for their actions. In order to fulfill the misvah of welcoming guests, Rabbi Yaish willingly accepted responsibility for all his guests.


"Yosef opened all that was in them"

"The famine was all over the land, so Yosef opened all that was in them," referring to the storage of grain. The Or Hahayim zs"l asks, why did he open all the storage houses? Didn't he know that seven full years of famine lay ahead of him? We would have expected him to have distributed the grain gradually, in rations, so as to ensure a sufficient supply throughout the years of famine. He answers that herein lies the great wisdom of Yosef. For were he to have distributed only a little at a time, such that people would sense the devastation of the famine, there would be mass hysteria and people would save more and more, resulting in even a greater lack of grain.

"That which G-d is doing He has shown Pharaoh"

Rabbi Avraham Azulai zs"l asks in the name of his teacher, the Ar"i zs"l, why did Yosef suggest storing grain, when he was summoned only to interpret the dream, not to offer practical advice. The answer lies in a statement in the Gemara (Berachot 55) that the Al-mighty Himself announces three events: famine, surplus, and the appointment of a competent leader. Thus, Yosef told Pharaoh, "That which G-d is doing" - by Himself, referring to famine and surplus, "He has shown Pharaoh." Therefore, you must also find the appropriate leader who was appointed from Above: "Now, Pharaoh should appoint a wise, intelligent man..."

"Yosef remembered the dreams"

Rabbi Hayim Kefusi zs"l asks, didn't the Torah already write, "Yosef saw his brothers and remembered them?" Why does the Torah need to add, "Yosef recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. Yosef remembered the dreams which he dreamt about them..."? Furthermore, why did Yosef appoint himself as his brothers' judge, accusing them of espionage so as to bring about the fulfillment of his dreams? In truth, one question answers the next. When he saw that he recognized them immediately but they -all ten brothers - did not recognize him, he said to himself, "This cannot be! This defies the natural order! This must be a signal from Heaven that I am to bring about the fulfillment of the dreams!"


The Polar Bear

All around is nothing but endless masses of snow, gigantic icebergs, and bitter cold dipping as low as -58 degrees fahrenheit. Despite all this, there live many animals even in these harsh conditions, among them, the polar bear.

The Al-mighty provided these animals with the necessary equipment to protect themselves from the dangers of the severe cold. The polar bear is covered with thick, white fur, and underneath it is supported by layers of fat, offering further protection.

The bear's feet, too, are covered with fur which also gives it traction as it walks on the ice. Thanks to these excellent means of protection, the bear, who is known as an outstanding swimmer, is capable of catching its food as he swims even in near-freezing water.

Its white fur affords it outstanding camouflage against the snowy background of its environment, thus allowing it to sneak upon its prey unnoticed.

However, the polar bear has many enemies. Its high-quality fur has attracted many hunters, almost to the point of extinction.

In recent years laws have been passed restricting the hunting of polar bears in order to allow them to continue living in these frozen areas, there natural habitat from the six days of creation.

We see how the Creator has endowed His creatures with the necessary facilities to exist in any conditions in which they were meant to live.


The Severed Hand (9)

Flashback: Despite the Sultan's kindness to the youngster, Eli, and his father, Mustafa Halil, the father joined the rebellious conspiracy and opened his home to be used for meetings of the rebels. They forced Dr. Shepisser, the Sultan's doctor, to poison the Sultan, and they signed an agreement to protect him after the assassination. Now, the doctor's wife is speaking with a fortune-teller who is entertaining the dignitaries' wives and wishes to impress Mrs. Shepisser.

The doctor's wife gazed at the fortune-teller and did not understand what she was talking about. Her husband had told her nothing. The sorceress looked again at the acorns in the ashes and muttered, "I can see...I can see that this will take place in the next few days...Yes, I can see that in your husband's hand there is an important piece of paper...there are many over it carefully, for it is the source of his success and fortune. Be over it carefully..." Suddenly she cried frantically, "If it is lost, there will fall on your heads terrible calamity - you will be lost forever!"

From the corner of her eye she gazed at the doctor's wife and saw that she has not succeeded in her attempt to impress her. She took a nut from the bowl, looked at it carefully, and said, "I can see...I can see that your husband participated this week in a very important meeting. There were officers, generals, the heir to the throne." She glanced again at the woman before her, who remained indifferent. Is it possible that she is just pretending? This woman must be convinced of her magical powers! She informed her of that which was told to her secretly: "The Sultan himself was there!" She once again gazed at the nut and said, "Or, he who will soon become the Sultan. I see...I see that your husband kills somebody!"

"Lies!" shouted the doctor's wife. "You are a liar! My husband never killed anybody!"

"Ask him," said the woman with a smile of victory. "Ask him, and only then will you realize that I speak the truth. Ask him, and you will realize that I know things about him that his own wife does not know!"

The woman left in a fury, and her friends realized that she heard frightening things. "We told you that she knows everything," they said...

to be continued

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit"a

Menucha for Pursuit of Da'at (part III)

Printing, and now the offset process, are of the greatest value to the dissemination of the Torah, and jet-plane transportation is most properly utilized by Torah-students who travel to the far-off Yeshivot. Just as radio is best employed for the teaching of the Talmud, so also are the advances in the exact sciences intended for our recognition of the Creator by means of recognizing His wisdom. In Shelomo's time, the 40 years of peace were utilized as the great opportunity for the pursuit of this study, and all the phenomena of the world passed in review before the eyes of this noble generation: plants, beasts, fowl, denizens of the sea and insects.

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