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A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Halachot of Pesukei De'zimrah

One may not speak in the middle of Pesukei De'zimra, from Baruch She'amar until the end of Yishtabah. Nevertheless, one does answer "amen" if he hears a berachah in the middle of Pesukei De'zimrah, even in the middle of a pasuk, not to mention that one answers kedushah in the middle of Pesukei De'zimrah. However, in such a situation one answers only the two pesukim of "Kadosh kadosh" and "Baruch Shem," but not the other sections of kedushah. One who hears kaddish in the middle of Pesukei De'zimrah may answer the first five responses of "amen," including "Yehei Shemeih" until the word "yitbarach," though those who continue until "da'amiran b'alma" have authorities on whom to rely. One may not answer "Baruch Hu u'baruch Shemo" in the middle of Pesukei D'zimrah, even in between paragraphs, since the recitation of "Baruch Hu u'baruch Shemo" does not appear in the Talmud. It is mentioned for the first time by the Tur (124) who records that his father would utter this response. The Gaon of Vilna maintained that one should not recite "Baruch Hu…" to the berachot during the repetition of the Amidah; our practice does not follow this view, but the hazzan must ensure to wait until everyone has finished saying "Baruch Hu… " before continuing with the berachah.

One may not speak in between Yishtabah and the berachah of yosser or, but for the recitation of "Baruch Hu… " or some other matter involving a misvah, one may.

Whenever one fulfills his obligation with respect to a given berachah by listening to its recitation from another, he may not respond "Baruch Hu u'baruch Shemo" during that berachah, as this constitutes an interruption in the middle of the berachah.

If one did not have sisit or tefillin when he began tefilah and received them during Pesukei De'zimrah, he may put them on with the appropriate berachot in between the paragraphs of Pesukei De'ziimrah. If one needs to go to the restroom during Pesukei De'zimrah and thus needs to recite the berachah of asher yassar, or if one had gone to the restroom beforehand but for whatever reason did not recite the berachah, he may not interrupt Pesukei De'zimrah to recite asher yassar. He should rather wait until after Yishtabah.

If one is in the middle of Pesukei De'zimrah when the hazzan reaches "modim" in his repetition of the Amidah, he should bow his head and recite only the three words of "modim anahnu lach," since the rest of the paragraph is not a mandatory recitation. In between Yishtabah and yosser or, however, one may recite the entire paragraph.

A deaf person who has the ability to speak is considered by halachah as equal to everyone else with respect to misvah obligation, and he may therefore count towards a minyan. The same applies to one who hears but cannot speak. However, one who can neither hear nor speak cannot count towards a minyan.

Nowadays, however, where educational institutions exist to teach deaf-mutes, schools run by professional teachers that produce intelligent students who can even communicate only without proper articulation, many Aharonim maintain that such students can count towards a minyan. Others disagree. As for the final halachah, since the requirement for ten men for "devarim she'bikdushah" (such as kaddish and kedushah) is rabbinic in origin, we may follow the lenient view and count them towards a minyan. However, since this issue is subject to dispute, when such a deaf-mute is needed for the minyan the hazzan should not repeat the Amidah; instead, he should recite it once aloud together with the nine men with kedushah. This way he avoids the possible recitation of berachot levatalah. Similarly, the Torah should not read with the berachot in such a situation.

Only a truly G-d-fearing man should be chosen as sheli'ah sibur, and he should preferably have a pleasant voice, as this inspires the congregation, particularly if he prays with an emotional, heartbroken voice. One who has a pleasant voice but is not G-d-fearing should not serve as a sheli'ah sibur. Therefore, one who sends his children to secular schools may not serve as a sheliah sibur, and certainly if he violates misvot, such as if he shaves with a razor.


Dear Brothers,

I heard a question cited in the name of the Hiddushei Ha'Rim of Ger zs"l. Regarding every misvah, be it de'orayta (mandated by the Torah) or de'rabanan (mandated by Hazal), the Torah or Sages established a single method by which the given misvah is fulfilled. Disagreements sometimes arose as to what precisely that path is. In situations of doubt and uncertainty, we follow certain rules: with regard to issues concerning Torah laws we act stringently, whereas in matters of rabbinic laws we follow the lenient position. Sometimes the halachah follows the lenient view but one who acts stringently is worthy of blessing. For example, Rashi and Rabbenu Tam disagree about the proper sequence of the writing of the parshiyot in tefillin. The halachah follows the view of Rashi, but nevertheless a G-d-fearing man should satisfy both opinions by wearing tefillin Rabbenu Tam, as well. This practice even has a source in Kabbalah. In other situations, we adopt a compromise of sorts. Rashi rules that a mezuzah should be placed vertically, whereas according Rabbenu Tam it should lie horizontal. Therefore, many people place it on a diagonal in order to satisfy both positions. In other areas, there is a minimum amount required but whoever performs more is praiseworthy. For example, halachah states the minimum amount a person must tell at the seder in order to fulfill the missvah of sippur yessi'at Missrayim: "Whoever did not speak of these three things has not fulfilled his obligation… " Yet, the more one speaks about yessi'at Missrayim, the greater his reward. The same applies to the missvot of mishlo'ah manot and matanot la'evyonim on Purim.

Unique among all missvot is the missvah of candle lighting on Hanukah. From the outset, Hazal established different gradations of fulfillment. The basic obligation requires the lighting of but a single candle in every household each night; the next level involves one candle every night for every family member, whereas at the highest level we add one candle every night. The Gemara refers to these three as the basic missvah, the "mehadrin" and the "mehadrin min ha'mehadrin." Why is this? Why did Hazal institute this system, which we do not find regarding any other missvah?

As mentioned, this is the question posed by the Hiddushei Ha'Rim. Upon further reflection, we may add further onto this question. I believe I am not mistaken in my impression that most Jews who wear tefillin do not wear tefillin Rabbenu Tam. Why? Because the Shulhan Aruch writes that a G-d-fearing person wears them. For most people it suffices to be a simple Jew.

I likewise believe that I am not mistaken in my impression, and this time very painfully, that most Jews who eat only kosher food do not make a point of eating only "kosher le'mehadrin." This is truly unfortunate, for this standard of kashrut involves not merely an extra stringency and "hiddur missvah" (extra standard of missvah performance), but rather touches upon Torah prohibitions, which this is not the context to delineate. Nevertheless, many people feel that it suffices for them to live according to the basic level and no more.

The same applies to Rabbenu Tam's position concerning the end of the day, which the Shulhan Aruch accepts as halachah and Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a vehemently upholds. The Mishnah Berurah, too, writes that one should follow this opinion at least with regard to issues of Torah law, such as ending Shabbat. Here, too, I have the impression that few people follow this position. For them, the "regular" time is enough. Yet, specifically with regard to this missvah of Hanukah candles, which constitutes but a rabbinic requirement, I know not a single Jew who lights one candle all eight days. All Jews take upon themselves the highest standard, of "mehadrin min ha'mehadrin"!

It appears that there is a single answer to both these questions. On Hanukah we commemorate the victory of Judaism over Hellenization, the victory of heritage over foreign culture. Hazal wished to emphasize that there exist different levels of identification with Judaism and refusal to accept foreign culture. Some declare simply that they will fulfill their minimal obligation, a generic, familial declaration. Others go further, lighting a candle for every family member. Some go to the highest level, continuing to add further and further. In effect, every believing Jew, every Shabbat-observant Jew, every Jew who prays three times a day, avows his membership in the eternal nation and the eternal Torah. But if he adds Torah classes, if he establishes a Torah atmosphere in his home, he performs a "hiddur" - he rises to a higher standard. If the children study in Torah schools, this represents a "candle for every family member," and if he detaches himself from the ugliness of the mass media, transforming his home into a "Mikdash me'at" ("minor Temple"), then he has reached the level of "mehadrin min ha'mehadrin"!

Shabbat Shalom
Aryeh Deri


Sports in the Animal World

By a rather wide margin, birds earn the title of speed champions among animals. In fact, the bird's body is essentially a remarkably sophisticated flying machine - lightweight and efficiently built. The bird's bones are lightweight, too, hollow and filled with nothing but air. What more, its wings are equipped with powerful muscles. The heart serves as the engine. Though rarely larger than the size of a bean, it is nevertheless strong enough to drag with it the entire machine and last a very long time. The fastest among all the birds is the falcon, which can reach a speed of 250 kph. Upon seeing food, it will fly down from the sky or, more precisely, take a dive towards earth like a stone, and then walk on all fours like a rabbit. In these instances it can reach a speed of 200 kph. The slowest travelers in the animal kingdom are fish. Since the resistance of water is greater than that of air, it is difficult for any creature to travel at any great speed in the water. Nevertheless, there are some fish with nothing of which to be ashamed with regard to swimming speed. The sawfish, for example, swims at a speed of 80 kph. The flying fish can reach a speed of 50 kph. When it comes to running, the cheetah takes the crown, with a speed of 90 kph. In the area of jumping in proportion to size, the award goes to several reptiles and insects. The flea, for example, can span in a jump an area 200 times its body size. An average human being, by contrast, can jump a territory no larger than five times his body's length.

It's worth noting that these athletic achievements of various creatures are, in reality, no matter of sports whatsoever. For these creatures, speed and jumping are life itself. These capabilities constitute indispensable means by which a given creature seizes the food it needs to survive as well as escape danger by running, flying or jumping. In His infinite mercy, the Creator graced every creature with the talents and strengths necessary for its survival. All these talents have been granted in precise quantities corresponding to the specific needs of each creature and the circumstances under which it lives. Although the human being cannot be considered a "champion" among the animals in the sense of running or jumping, in a certain sense he stands on an infinitely higher plane. A Jew can perform even the slightest act of teshuvah and thereby jump a distance of eternal value. Indeed, our Sages have taught, "There are those who acquire their portion in the world [to come] in a single moment."


The Deal of a Lifetime (2)

Flashback: Yaakov, a struggling business agent, suggested to Nahum, a wealthy forest owner, a deal that he couldn't refuse. An estate owner had come upon hard times and needed money. He therefore put his forests up for sale at half their value. The two went to survey the forests.

Nahum had already decided that he would spend this day as a mini-vacation. He would just relax, and what better way was there to relax than by taking a tour through a thick forest, walking over the worn-out ferns along the paved path, gazing at the canopy of thick branches overhead and the sun's rays beaming down and penetrating through the thicket like needles, capturing a dizzying, golden array of dust particles. Nahum walked slowly and calmly, surveying the trees to his right and left. The trees were high, straight, thick - the dream of anyone who invested in forests. He walked silently with Yaakov the agent and the guard behind him. Here and there a rabbit crossed their paths, the eyes of a curious, frightened deer gazed at them. The deeper into the woods they went, the trees grew higher and higher, they seemed wider and wider, stronger and stronger, and it appeared that the path continued endlessly.

Nahum took out his gold watch from his vest pocket and opened it with a click. It was already afternoon.

"Is there much more left?" he asked the guard.

"We have not even reached the halfway mark," the guard chuckled.

"Is the river deep?" Nahum asked,

"Deep and wide," the guard replied. "Rafts can sail in it without any problem."

Yaakov the agent then intervened: "I instructed the driver to come after us if we take too long."

Nahum was impressed. "That was a good thing to do," he remarked. They waited for the chariot and, when it arrived, they stepped aboard. The driver hurled his whip, and the horses took off. A good while later they arrived at the river. As the guard had promised, it was very wide, and they could see across the river more rows of trees. From their viewpoint, the trees seemed like a never-ending wall of green.

"Who does that forest belong to?" Nahum inquired.

"My master," the guard answered.

"It is all part of the deal," the agent added.

Nahum felt excitement growing in his throat. "Are you sure about the price?" he asked.

The agent smiled. "The deal of a lifetime, as I told you!"

Nahum was amazed. "Come," he said to the agent, "let's recite minhah here." He wanted to thank Hashem for this deal, right there in the beautiful forest. The guard stepped aside reverently. The two stood near the trees, each one thanking the Al-mighty for his good fortune.

"Let's go," Nahum said. "I would like to walk around the forest to see its perimeter." There were no precise maps in those days, and everything was based on estimates. Nahum took a final look around and reached the decision in his heart. They stepped onto the carriage and made their way back. When they reached the edge of the forest, he took another look at his watch and the driver drove around the forest. He rode and rode and rode; the forest just didn't end.

"Come, let's go to the estate owner and close the deal," the agent suggested.

"Agreed," Nahum replied. The guard stepped off the carriage, as they headed towards the estate to speak to the owner.

To be continued


"Yossef brought bad reports about them to their father"

In the introduction to the second volume of the work, "Afikei Yam," there appears a section entitled, "Binah Lemikra." It states as follows: "In the second pasuk of Parashat Vayeshev it says, 'Yosef was seventeen years old… and he was a helper for the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and Yossef brought bad reports about them to their father.' The pasuk is difficult. First, what is the meaning of the term, 've'hu na'ar' [literally, 'he was a lad,' translated in our citation as, 'he was a helper']? What does this connote? Secondly, what is meant by 'brought'? It should have said, 'he told,' as it says later [regarding Yossef's dreams], 'and he told his father.' Thirdly, what is meant by, 'to their father'? It should have said, 'to his father,' just as it said [in the previous clause in this pasuk], 'he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah the wives of his father,' and as it says later, 'he told his father.' Why does it say here 'their father,' as if he was their father and not his father?!

"The answer appears to be that the pasuk comes to teach the extent of Yossef's piety, that he did not come, Heaven forbid, to speak slanderously against his brothers; rather, his motives were genuine and he did what is permissible according to halachah. The halachah is that if someone sees another doing something improperly, and he wishes to inform his father or rabbi so that they administer rebuke and help him improve, there are several basic conditions. First, he must rebuke the individual himself. If this is ineffective, then he may disclose the information to his father or rabbi for them to rebuke him. Similarly, if he figured that his rebuke will be to no avail, then he may report [the information]. Secondly, he may not exaggerate the sin committed, he may not add anything that could inflate the gravity of the action and the like.

Thirdly, he must intend only for the desired result, and not to benefit, G-d forbid, from the humiliation of the other. "Now we can understand the pasuk. It first mentioned 've'hu na'ar,' to explain why Yossef did not himself rebuke his brothers before disclosing the information to his father, as required. In his assessment, his rebuke would certainly not have been effective. Since they denigrated the children of the maidservants, and he served them (as the Malbim explained), they would undoubtedly not listen to his rebuke. It then says, 'Yossef brought bad reports,' rather than 'told,' to indicate that he did not add anything, as people normally embellish stories, but he rather 'brought,' actually as a person brings something from place to place, without adding to it or detracting from it.

"Then it alludes to the fact that he intended only for the right purposes, that their father would rebuke them. This is hinted at by the term employed by the pasuk, 'to their father,' rather than 'to his father,' which would have indicated that he intended to receive honor out of their shame, that his father would love him more. It therefore says that his intentions were genuine, geared only towards the useful purpose, as if the matter did not affect him at all and he was not even his father. And thus from all his we see Yossef's piety."

"Yossef brought bad reports about them to their father"

Rabbenu Azaryah Figo zs"l, in his work "Binah L'ittim" (derush 65), writes that Yossef did, in fact, first rebuke his brothers in private; only after they refused to listen did he turn to his father. This is what is meant when it says that Yossef "was a shepherd," guiding "his brothers." He rebuked them privately, as in public they would become embarrassed and remain steadfast to their position. The pasuk therefore emphasizes, "with the sheep" - there was no one around other than the sheep, just as Yaakov Avinu summoned his wives "to the field, to his sheep," when he consulted with them about his escape from Lavan's home. But when the brothers looked scornfully upon Yossef, considering him a "na'ar," a mere seventeen-year-old, he had no choice but to bring the information to "their father," so that he would rebuke them.

"Yossef brought bad reports about them to their father"

All we have seen notwithstanding, the Ralbag zs"l maintains that the Torah tells us this in order for us to learn from the end of the story and understand that even if one's intentions are sincere, "it is not proper for a person to tell his father everything he hears of the inappropriate conduct of the other family members. This will give rise to domestic strife and contention and cause oneself harm. Indeed, as a result of his having brought bad reports about his brothers to his father, his brothers despised him to the point where they would have killed him, if not for Hashem's assistance."


Shushan Ben Mamu zs"l

We read in last week’s parashah of Yaakov's confrontation with Esav's angel. Actually, every single Jew struggles with Esav's angel, with the yesser hara, and strives for victory. The first condition is that one does not give up, that he struggles with all his might and refuses to surrender. Relevant to this critical lesson we tell here a story about a frightening highway bandit who had brought fear and panic on the community of Djerba. He would wait in ambush outside the city, in a narrow passageway in between two mountains, and would kill those traveling in caravans, taking their property. If soldiers were sent after him, he would stay in his secret lookout spot, waiting for defenseless caravans and innocent wayfarers. The authorities simply could not provide armed guards for every carriage. The people of Djerba did not know what to do.

There was a strong, mighty Jew named Shushan Ben Mamu. He said, "Give me a donkey, a bag of apricots, and a long rope. They brought him what he asked and he set out, accompanied by the blessings of the community. He reached the dangerous passageway, and the bandit saw from his lookout that an easy victim was making his way towards him.

"Stop!" he shouted, as he went down to greet the traveler. Shushan looked up, saw the armed bandit, and began trembling with fear. He went down from the donkey in order to plead for his life, but in his great fear he slipped and knocked down the bag of apricots. The orange apricots scattered all over the ground.

"Woe!" Shushan cried. "Let me gather them, for they belong to you!" He kneeled and began collecting the apricots. The bandit was happy that his victim did his work for him. "Come, why don't you help me?" Shushan asked. The bandit joined him on the ground and began collecting apricots. This was precisely what Shushan had been waiting for. He jumped on the bandit and knocked him to the ground. He managed to grab the weapon and then took the rope and tied the bandit. He gleefully brought him to the city, much to the joy and delight of the residents.

The lesson that emerges from this story is that the one who surrenders loses. This is true when dealing with bandits and terrorists, and this is true all the more so with regard to the constant struggle against the yesser hara. In other words, this applies both to the angel of Esav and to the angel of Yishmael…

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
by Rav David Yossef shlit"a

The Misvah of Lighting Hanukah Candles

Making Up the Lighting of Hanukah Candles

One who, as a result of extenuating circumstances, failed to light Hannukah candles one night, does not have the opportunity to make it up; he cannot add more candles the next night. He rather lights the same number of candles as everyone else lights that night.

One Who Cannot Afford to Light All Eight Days

One who cannot afford oil for all eight days of Hannukah, but only for one night, should light a candle on the first night. He should not divide the oil into smaller portions in order to light every night, for one does not fulfill his obligation if he lights with an amount of oil that cannot burn for a half-hour. If he does so, his berachah may very well constitute a "berachah levatalah" (a wasted berachah).

One who has enough oil to light eight candles throughout Hanukah should light one candle only every night, as this fulfills the minimum requirement, and should not light two candles on the second night or three candles on the third night.

Those Included in the Obligation; the Laws of a Guest

Women's Obligation in Hanukah Candles

Women are obligated in the lighting of Hannukah candles, for they, too, were included in the miracle. Therefore, if one cannot light the candles in his home, such as one who had to travel, he should preferably have his wife light the candles in his stead. He thereby fulfills his obligation even if he is not present at the time of the lighting. Even if he knows that he will return home late that night, he should preferably have his wife light candles at the proper time, right at "set hakochavim" (nightfall), rather than waiting until he can light himself later at night. In such a situation, when the woman lights in her husband's stead, the husband does not light in his location. However, according to the custom of the Ashkenazim that each member of the household lights, if the husband is in a place where he has the ability to light, he should do so without a berachah and try to hear the berachot from someone else lighting. He may not, however, recite the berachah over lighting when his wife lights at home.

Even when a woman lights Hanukah candles in her husband's stead, such as when he is not at home (as mentioned in the previous paragraph), she recites the berachah "lehadlik ner Hanukah," rather than "al hadlakat ner Hanukah." Although women are included in the obligation of Hanukah candles, nevertheless when the husband lights Hanukah candles in the home, his wife and daughters do not light for themselves, as they fulfill their obligation through his lighting. Even according to the practice of the Ashkenazim, that every member of the household lights, nevertheless one's wife and daughters do not light. Only when a woman is alone in her house, such as if she does not have a husband or her husband is not home for lighting, does she light Hanukah candles.


Who hasn't spoken about the juxtaposition between two passages in the Talmud, in Masechet Shabbat (22a), one dealing with our parashah, the other involving Hanukah: "What does it mean when it says, 'and the pit [into which Yosef's brothers cast him] was empty, it had no water'? It had no water, but it did have snakes and scorpions. Hanukah candles that were placed higher than twenty cubits - are invalid, and the misvah is to place them within the tefah [handbreadth] near the doorway." We, too, will offer a suggestion as to the relationship between these two comments. Yosef's brothers cast him into a pit because they had decided not to kill him. If so, then how could they throw him into a pit filled with snakes and scorpions; certainly he would be bitten and killed! In fact, in halachah (see Yevamot 121a) we may assume someone to be dead if he fell into a pit with snakes. The answer is that they thought the pit was empty. They should have realized, however, that when there is no water, snakes find a place to nest and settle.

Water is often used as a symbol for Torah. Those who established an educational system without any Torah never imagined that it would become a nest of violence and drug abuse. But this is how it works - when there is no Torah, there are snakes.

Our great leader, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, looked with horror upon the results of education detached from Torah and our heritage, and he therefore established the El Hama'ayan movement and all its subsidiaries, in an effort to restore the Torah's glory to its rightful place. The light of the Torah shining from Torah youth groups and classes will drive away the darkness. There is, however, one condition: the eye cannot see more than twenty cubits high. The light must be brought down, it must be placed right near the door and invited inside. This is the approach of the El Hama'ayan movement, led by our great rabbi, and with his direction and blessing, we shall succeed.


The Gemara (Sanhedrin 107a) brings the following statement from Rav Yehudah, in the name of Rav: "A person should never bring himself into a situation of trial. For David, the king of Israel, brought himself into a situation of trial and failed. He said before Him: Master of the world, why do we say in tefilah, 'the G-d Avraham, the G-d of Yis’hak and the G-d of Yaakov,' but not 'the G-d of David'? He replied: 'Because them I tested, and they withstood the test; you, I have yet to test.' He said before Him: Master of the world, test me and try me, cleanse my heart and mind (Tehillim 26:2)." We all know the end of the story, and David Hamelech himself bitterly regretted having requested Hashem's test.

Just a few words about his request. It did not stem from arrogance, Heaven forbid, for, after all, David was "small" (see Shemuel I 17:14), a humble person who lowered himself before every wise man (Megilah 11). Rather, there is great depth behind his request. The patriarchs constitute the base, the foundation point of the nation. The kingship of David, the Messianic king, marks the pinnacle, the culmination point - were we to have earned it. But the generation's leader relies on the merits of the generation (Arachin 17a), and we did not earn the privilege of David's successful withstanding of the trial. We were not quite perfect, and the redemption therefore remained distant.

One thing, however, remains to be understood. If David Hamelech requested a trial, then he undoubtedly assessed his capabilities and decided that he could, indeed, succeed. What happened? Did he not assess himself accurately? The answer is no. David Hamelech knew himself perfectly well and indeed concluded that he could withstand the trial. He made no mistake. But he overlooked one point of which he was not aware: that our ability to withstand tests does not come from our own strength; we receive it from our forefathers. Rabbenu Hayyim of Volozhin zs"l writes (Ru'ah Hayyim, Avot 5:3) that Avraham Avinu passed ten trials, thereby paving the road for us to withstand tests with relatively little effort. This does not only apply to the three patriarchs. All Am Yisrael is a single organism. A great Jew who withstands a test entrenches this quality within the entire nation. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5) makes such a comment regarding an incident told in our parashah: "Yossef descended to Egypt and restrained himself from sin [resisting the advances of Potifar's wife], and all of Israel were restrained in his merit" - all Am Yisrael, including the offspring of other tribes. "For all of Israel is a single entity, and with the completion of one the entire entity becomes complete" ("Divrei Sofrim" by Rav Sadok Hakohen zs"l, 23). David Hamelech therefore felt that he could withstand the trial. And he was right. But he tried to resemble the patriarchs, who withstood their trials entirely with their own might. Therefore, the quality implanted within us through the strength of our forefathers was taken from him, and he lacked the independent power - even David Hamelech! - to withstand the trial.

Why do we mention all this here? Because this relates to the festival of Hanukah. In a well known passage, the Or Hahayyim Hakadosh zs"l (Shemot 3:8) writes that when Benei Yisrael were at the brink of the fiftieth "gate of impurity" in Egypt, the gate of heresy and apostasy, the Al-mighty did not allow them deteriorate to that level; He therefore hastened the redemption. Why? "Because they weren't benei Torah, as opposed to later generations, through their Torah." Even if the world is poisoned by heresy, we can survive. We see with our own eyes just how correct the Or Hahayyim is. The world is poisoned in every way, entrenched in depravity and lack of restraint. All this runs in direct opposition to authentic Judaism, to those who remain loyal to its content and values, its tradition and heritage. The Torah defends and protects, granting those who study it the strength and fortitude to withstand the spirits of the time, to stand proudly and restore the pride of our faith to its previous glory.

All this is true. But "This is my G-d and I will glorify Him; the G-d of my father and I will exalt Him" (Shemot 15:2). Rashi explains on this pasuk: "I am not the beginning of sanctity; the sanctity and His divinity have been there for me since the days of my forefathers." We ourselves are so weak, so small. What strength or power do we possess? Our predecessors fought heresy, the Hellenization that took pride in its sophistication. It was the Hashmonaim who risked their lives in opposing the arrogant rule of the heretics. They were few who waged a battle against the many, the weak who fought the mighty, knowing that Hashem was on their side. And they won. They reinstated the avodah in the Mikdash and lit up the darkness. Their might provides us with strength, with immunity against the poison, against false ideologies and beliefs, and prepares us to uphold our faith with force and confidence, to light up the darkness, to succeed in our mission.

Luna Bat Miriam and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah

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