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Hanukah, the days of light, is just about here. Hazal write (in the very beginning of the Midrash), "Darkness - this refers to the Greek Empire." We drive away the darkness through the lighting of the Hanukah candles. What is this darkness of the Greek Empire, and wherein lies the significance of the light, of the principle, "Misvah is a candle, and Torah is light"?
The Gemara (Berachot 28b) tells that when Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakai fell critically ill, his students came to visit him and asked him for a berachah. He said to them, "May it be His will that the fear of Heaven shall be upon you like the fear of human beings."
"That's all?" they asked. Their fear of Heaven shall only equal their fear of other people?
He replied, "If only that! You should know, that when a person commits a sin, he says, 'As long as no one see me.'"
There is a well known story of Plato, the great Greek philosopher who spoke regularly about the importance of ethics, purity of emotions and perfection of character, that one day, his disciples found him engaged in a certain reprehensible crime. Without flinching, he said to them, "When I do this, I am not Plato."
Sidkiyahu, the king of Yehudah, saw Nevuchadnessar, the Babylonian emperor, dismembering a rabbit's limbs and chewing them while the blood still dripped from them. What was Nevuchadnessar's reaction? He had Sidkiyahu swear that he would never tell anyone about what he saw.
In the "enlightened" world, this has become the guiding principle: act like a beast in the privacy of your home, and a refined human being outside. When a certain lecturer was caught leading a private lifestyle that directly contradicted everything he preached, he said, "So, what's the problem? Must a geometry professor become a triangle, or a biology teacher turn into a bacteria?"
This is the "darkness" of the Greek Empire. In the dark, when no one sees, they follow their natural instincts.
Regarding such conduct we may apply the Gemara's comment (in Baba Messi'a 83b) on the pasuk, "You bring darkness, and it becomes night - when all the beasts of the forest roam." The Gemara says that this refers to the wicked, who resemble the beasts of the forest in that they work under the cover provided by darkness. During the day, they are cultured and refined. But at night, in the darkness, in their private domain, their animal-like qualities are revealed in all their shame.
"Ha! Those who would hide their plans deep from Hashem! Who do their work in dark places and say, 'Who sees us, who takes note of us?'" (Yeshayahu 29:15). The children of Yaakov do not conduct themselves in this manner! The Shulhan Aruch begins, "When a person places upon his heart the notion that the great and sacred King, blessed is He, whose glory fills the entire world, stands over him and watches his actions, as it says, 'Will a man conceal himself in hiding and I will not see him, says Hashem!' then the fear and dread of Hashem will come to him, and he will be ashamed from Him always!"
Even in private we must recite berachot over food, observe kashrut, and avoid handling muksseh on Shabbat. We are Jews twenty-four hours a day!
It is told that the great Rav Elhanan Wasserman zs"l Hy"d would learn eighteen hours every day, wasting not a moment. However, he allocated three minutes of every day to review the headlines in the newspapers in order to update himself and what went on in the world.
And how did he do this? Not in his room and not in hiding. He rather spread the newspaper open on his study table, quickly read the headlines, and then returned to his studies.
When asked as to why he read the newspaper publicly, in everyone's view, he replied, "In order to demonstrate that what is permitted is permitted even publicly, and what is forbidden is forbidden even in private!"
This is the light with which we oppose the darkness of the Greeks - we have no different mode of conduct in private!
The Imrei Emet zs"l extracts this lesson from our parashah. Yosef's brothers thought that he sought to have them excluded from the spiritual inheritance of Avraham, just as Yishmael and Esav were. They therefore unanimously sentenced him to death. Yehudah, however, then voiced his opposition: "What is the purpose of killing our brother and concealing his blood?" Meaning, if he deserves execution, why should we do so secretly? Why should we hide it? An act done only in private is illegitimate and must be avoided.
Herein lies one of the messages of Hanukah - driving away the darkness and allowing the light to shine!
This Sunday night we will, G-d willing, light the first Hanukah candle. We will then add one candle each night, such that next Sunday night we will light eight candles. This practice, which has been accepted as authoritative halachah, follows the view of Bet Hillel. Its reasoning is clear: the miracle intensified with each passing day, as the amount of oil that would normally last for only a single day fueled the flame for a full eight days.
However, were we to follow Bet Shamai's view, we would begin with eight candles on the first night and then gradually decrease by one until we light just a single candle on the eighth and final night of Hanukah. This position raises the question, why would Bet Shamai have us progressively diminish the publicizing of the miracle if it intensified with every passing day?
The answer was given by the "great defender" of Benei Yisrael, the sacred Reb Levi Yis'hak of Berdichev zs"l. Bet Hillel felt it appropriate to commemorate the intensifying miracle, while Bet Shamai wanted to issue a warning: the more the miracle continues, the more our obligation to express gratitude increases - the more our emotions towards the miracle dull and weaken. As time goes on, we become more and more complacent and indifferent.
We may speculate that were there to have been in those days a daily, religious newspaper, the headlines on the 23rd of the Kislev would have read something like, "Renovations Near Completion; Intensive Planning for the Rededication of the Altar Expected to Take Place on Monday; Concern for the Lack of Pure Oil." Then, a special edition would be published on that Monday morning: "A Jug of Pure Oil Found in the Mikdash! For the First Time in Decades, the Menorah is Lit in the Bet Hamikdash - the Sacred Avodah Has Been Renewed!" Then in smaller print the headline would read, "The jug contains enough oil for but one day - what will happen tomorrow?"
Then, on Tuesday, a giant, banner headline exclaims, "A Miracle! The Oil Still Burns! A Display of Kindness by the Creator; a Gift From the Heavens in Honor of the Rededication."
Over the next two days the headline moves lower down on the front page, and on the sixth day it has already been transferred to the paper's last page. On the seventh day the story is buried on in the inside, while on the eighth day a small headline reads on the paper's second-to-last page: "The Menorah Still Burns."
How exuberantly do we thank Hashem for finding a spouse during the wedding and sheva berachot! And yet, the feeling fades as the years pass by, despite the fact that the debt of gratitude intensifies with time - as bringing single people together in marriage to build their home is among the most frequent and remarkable miracles in the world!
How strong are our feelings of gratitude when a child is born, and how much do they dwindle with time, despite the fact that our debt of gratitude intensifies with the passage of time! Raising a child requires so much divine assistance, particularly in our times. The same can be said about health, livelihood, and every blessing we are granted on a regular basis.
But we rule in accordance with Bet Hillel's position, and we add one candle every day to add more gratitude and thanksgiving for the ongoing miracle. This requires us to contemplate and thank constantly even for all the other miracles performed for us - family, children, health and livelihood.
Who doesn't long for the day when a magic drug will be produced that can help one maintain a constant, pleasant mood? It was once thought that one's mood is a reaction only to his psychological state and connected to external events, such as an argument with a friend, a bad grade on a test, etc. Indeed, generally when one is asked as to why he is in bad mood he will attribute his mood to something that happened to him that day. Few will point to the lack of sleep the previous night or the diet they had recently begun as contributing factors. In truth, several different factors are responsible for one's mood, including nutrition, the functioning of the immune system, and others. In any event, what helps boost one's mood? Physical activity is considered the quickest and most effective way of improving a person's mood. As opposed to the consumption of sweets, which causes one's mood to change rapidly, through physical activity one preserves his energy for a long time afterwards. Music has a very profound effect on one's mood, as it has the ability to cause positive associations and bring to mind pleasant experiences. It also lowers muscle tension and loosens the body. Social activity ranks third on the list of ways of improving moods, and many people prefer reducing stress by talking to friends.
However interesting these factors are, and despite the fact that, when needed, they are helpful and one should therefore be aware of them, it is important to realize that we Jews do not rely on these factors. The misvot of the Torah and Hazal's directives protect the Jew from deterioration to situations of sin, regardless of whether or not one slept well at night or if he ate breakfast. As in other cases, Judaism preceded the researchers who found that the interpretations people give for various situations, rather than the events themselves, play a major role in a person's response and mood. A Jew is called upon to maintain a state of joy regardless of external factors. This demand flows from Judaism's awareness of the emotional powers implanted within the human being by the Creator. A person thus possesses the ability to actualize this latent potential and not allow himself to be dragged along by any external factors. One who struggles as required fulfills the dictum of, "It is a great misvah to always be happy."
A Match Made in Heaven (3)
Flashback: Havah Devorah's parents died when she was a young child. Rabbi Mordechai brought her in as an adopted daughter and raised her in his home. When she reached twelve years of age, he gave her over to a family that would take care of her until she reached marriageable age. Havah Devorah tended to the children and carried out her household tasks with skill and acumen. The years went by, and she turned eighteen years old.
The man in whose home Havah Devorah worked had a brother who owned a tavern in the town of Kobrin, which lay at the outskirts of Pinsk. It was situated across the river, not far from the beehives of Tuvia, about whom we have already told.
When the brother saw the devoted work of Havah Devorah, he said to his brother, "I need this kind of work - there is so much work needed in the tavern. The gentiles drink and run around frivolously, leaving a lot of dirt and filth. I need someone to clean and serve. I need some help, and a helper like this girl will be a blessing!
The brother happily agreed. If he could assist his brother, he would certainly not hesitate to do so. He called Havah Devorah and told her, "Go pack your things - you are moving to my brother's home!"
The girl's face turned white. Was she some sort of object that can be transferred from one hand to another and given over as a gift? Does she not have a mind of her own? Would it not have been appropriate to ask what she wished to do?
But she had no choice. After all, she was an orphan girl without any relative or acquaintance who could intervene on her behalf. She thus bid a tearful farewell to the dear children with whom she had grown so close, packed her small collection of personal belongings, and asked for a little bit of more time. She wanted to quickly run to the cemetery and visit her parents' graves before she left.
"We have no time," her new boss said. "Do not worry - if you do not take leave of them, they will come to you in a dream."
Havah Devorah bit her lip and swallowed her pride. She made one more request of the man in his home she had worked devotedly and faithfully for six years without receiving a penny: "May I take with me a Tanach?"
In Rabbi Mordechai's home, where she was raised as a child, she learned to read and pray. In this home, she found a Tanach and read it at every free moment she had. Each Shabbat she reviewed that week's parashah, at every available moment she poured out her soul through the recitation of Tehillim, and when she could she read the stories in Yehoshua, Shoftim, Melachim and Divrei Hayamim. She would envision before her all the stormy events, the kings' battles and prophets' admonitions. Her imagination would take her back to ancient times, allowing her to forget her life's troubles.
The man granted her request, and she received the Tanach, which became for her a treasure that changed her life.
To be continued
"Behold, we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field"
Rabbenu Bahya zs"l writes that when the brothers heard that Yosef dreamt of his sheaf rising and his brothers' sheaves bowing to it, they took it to mean that he dreamt that he would reign as king over them. However, they mocked the dream, as it likened them to sheaves of grain. They did not realize that he will rise to power as a result of Pharaoh's dream of the years of plenty and famine, and they would bow to him when they come to purchase grain.
The word "vehineh" (behold) appears here three times: "Behold, we were binding sheaves. and behold, my sheaf rose. and behold, your sheaves turned. " This corresponded to the three times the brothers descended to Egypt and prostrated themselves before Yosef. The first time was when they initially came to by grain, the second instance occurred when they returned with Binyamin, and they came a third time when they brought Yaakov.
"Behold, we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field"
The Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l also noted the repetition of the word "vehineh." He writes that a dream shown to a person as prophecy is clear and real, as if he sees the vision when he is awake. Yosef therefore emphasized the word "vehineh," implying that he saw everything as if it were real.
The sheaves of wheat, he explained, represent the large "bundles" of misvot accumulated by each of the tribes, which are "food" for the soul. Yosef's sheaf, which arose and stood above theirs, symbolized the increase of his merits as a result of his having withstood the test posed by Potifar's wife.
"Behold, we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field"
Rabbenu Haim Vital zs"l also addresses the significance of the word, "vehineh," which connotes marvel at something new and unusual. Yosef here tells his brothers, "I know that you do not consider this dream a prophecy, but rather the result of my thoughts, that I wish to rule. But if this were just a dream resulting from my thoughts, it would have to involve that with which I am occupied during the day. However, we work as shepherds; I should therefore dream that my sheep stands and your sheep bow to mine. If I dreamt about sheaves of grain, which does not involve our line of work, then it must be a sign of its prophetic quality!"
"Behold, we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field"
Rabbenu Yis'hak Aramah zs"l demonstrates the eternal nature of Yosef's dreams. In several places in Tanach, all of Am Yisrael is called "Yosef" (see Tehillim 80&81; Amos 5). Indeed, Hazal say, "Everything that happened to Yosef happened to Siyon" (Tanhuma, end of Vayigash).
Now the history of Am Yisrael consists of two periods: before and after the final redemption. The two dreams correspond to these two periods. The first dream, of the sheaves of grain, foresees the rise of the "sheaf" of Benei Yisrael, when the other nations will bow down before them. They all recognize the unique quality of Am Yisrael, and thus the culture and religions of other nations are drawn from Am Yisrael and its belief, as well as from the teachings of the prophets and its culture. Very soon we will see the unfolding of the redemption, regarding which the prophet Sefania (chapter 3) declared, "For then I will bring upon the nations a clear language that they all call in the Name of Hashem." The second dream involves the sun and the moon, which represent Edom (the Christians, who base their calendar on the solar cycle) and the Moslems (who count their months strictly according to the lunar cycle). The eleven stars (corresponding to the eleven constellations) symbolize the other nations. They will all be subjugated to Am Yisrael, as it says, "Kings shall tend your children, their queens shall serve you as nurses. They shall bow to you, face to the ground, and lick the dust of your feet" (Yeshayahu 49). It is also said regarding this period, "Then the moon shall be ashamed, and the sun shall be abashed. For Hashem Seva'ot will reign in Har Siyon and Yerushalayim" (Yeshayahu 24) - speedily and in our days, Amen!
Rav Nissim Haim Moshe Mizrahi zs"l
Rav Nissim Haim Moshe Mizrahi zs"l, rabbi of Yerushalayim around three hundred years ago and author of the work, "Admat Kodesh," "would privately conduct himself with piety and was very humble - and was peaceful and truthful throughout his life" (the Hid"a, in his testimony about him).
We will tell a little of his piety and humility:
As for his piety, he testifies about himself (in Admat Kodesh, Hoshen Mishpat 58), "This is the path of Torah: The individual arises when [there is enough light to] distinguish between blue and white. Until the end of the first 'ashmorah' [period of night] he does not let his mouth stop learning. He then tastes something and naps until midnight. At midnight he runs like a deer with the strength of a lion, walking and crying over the destruction of Siyon for about an hour and a half. Afterwards he begins learning Torah with a loud voice, with the joy of Torah, until daybreak. He then stands with dread before the Al-mighty G-d and concentrates his mind on his Father in heaven. He prays a straight prayer, a prayer that entirely rises and penetrates the heavens, and he then proceeds to the yeshivah to deliberate in the war of Torah. A heavenly voice then declares, 'Both views are the words of the living G-d!'"
As for his humility: He once met a widow who did not know him, and she asked that he go to the bakery and ask the baker to send his young assistant to her home. She had prepared dough and wished to bake it in the bakery's oven, as was the practice in those days.
The sage saw that the dough had already risen and feared that by the time the baker sends his assistant and the latter brings the batter to the bakery, it would spoil. He took the tray from the woman and brought it to the bakery.
The baker trembled upon seeing the great rabbi, thinking that he carried his own batter. "Why did the rabbi not request that I send one of my helpers to his house?" he asked. The sage replied, "This dough belongs to a widow, and one must be very careful not to cause her distress."
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
The Halachot of Torah Reading on Shabbat
During Benei Yisrael's bondage in Egypt, Moshe asked Pharaoh for one day a week when the slaves can rest. The Egyptian king agreed, and Benei Yisrael selected Shabbat as their day of rest. They would spend Shabbat studying Torah from the scholars of the tribe of Levi. Furthermore, the Gemara (Baba Kama 82a) writes that after the splitting of the Yam Suf, Benei Yisrael suffered spiritually after going three days without any Torah study. Moshe and the other prophets of the generation instituted that the Torah should be read every Shabbat, Monday and Thursday, so as to ensure that no three days go by without public Torah learning. On Mondays and Thursdays and during minhah on Shabbat, three people are called to the Torah, no more and no less, and no haftarah is recited. Four people are called on Rosh Hodesh and Hol Hamo'ed, and no haftarah is read on these days. On Yom Tov five people are called, on Yom Kippur six, and on Shabbat seven. Even on Monday and Thursday and Shabbat minhah, no fewer than ten pesukim may be read. As indicated, no more than three people may be called to the Torah on Mondays or Thursdays or at Shabbat minhah. Therefore, when a simhah is celebrated and more than one Yisrael wishes to receive an aliyah, the kohanim should be asked to leave the Bet Kenesset, so that all three aliyot can be given to Yisraelim.
On Shabbat, however, a congregation may add onto the minimum required seven aliyot. In fact, it is preferable, depending on time constraints, to add aliyot so that more people can receive aliyot, as the Mahar"i Algazi and the Hid"a write that one should preferably receive an aliyah at least once a month.
As a show of honor for the Torah, the custom has developed for everyone in the Bet Kenesset to receive an aliyah on Simhat Torah. If there are many worshippers, the Bet Kenesset may have several concurrent readings at different locations. They then come together in the main sanctuary for the readings of hatan Torah and hatan Beresheet.
The one who receives an aliyah must quietly whisper along with the one reading the Torah. If he does not, then according to the view of the Shulhan Aruch the berachot he recites before and after the reading are "berachot levatalah" (wasted berachot). Therefore, someone who does not know how to read along with the reader may not receive an aliyah.
Every aliyah must start and end on a positive note. For example, in Parashat Vayesse an aliyah should not end with the words, "Vata'amod miledet" (which relates that Leah stopped having children). When adding aliyot, therefore, the ba'al korei must pay attention to ensure to stop at an appropriate place.
Someone who is suspected of a given violation should not be called to the Torah when that violation is mentioned. For example, one who is suspected of prohibited relations (arayot) should not be called for the reading of the end of Parashat Aharei-Mot, which lists the various prohibited relations. Likewise, someone blind in one eye should not receive the aliyah in Parashat Emor describing the various defects that invalidate an animal for use as a sacrifice. As these defects include visual disorders, the individual may be embarrassed by receiving this aliyah. The same applies to any similar situation.
Maftir is a more significant aliyah than the preceding aliyah, even though the latter recites kaddish. Therefore, a mourner within twelve months of his parent's passing should try to receive the maftir aliyah, in order to bring merit to the parent's soul.
Luna Bat Miriam and Eliyahu Ben Masudah
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