DECEMBER 4-5, 2015 23 KISLEV 5776
Hanukah will be celebrated from Sunday night, December 6 until Monday, December 14.
“[We thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, etc.” (Al Hanisim for Hanukah)
If one studies the beautiful words of Al Hanisim for Hanukah, it is obvious that there is a great emphasis on the wars fought by the Maccabees and little mention of the miracle of the oil. Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman explains that there is no doubt that the military victory was a miracle from Hashem. But, the Al Hanisim also wants to teach us about the Maccabees. They faced that struggle heroically and found the strength to continue. We can learn from this that the most important factor in the life of a Jew is the struggles he must face and overcome. It is a fact that when a person is facing an emergency situation, he can reach deep inside himself and find strength he didn’t know he had. The Maccabees discovered amazing powers they didn’t know they had. This is hinted to us when Jacob battled the angel all night and as a result his name was changed to Yisrael.
A few years ago there was the famous storm known as Hurricane Sandy. In Lakewood a builder built a row of townhouses and planted a tree in front of each house. Ten townhouses, ten trees. After the storm, five trees fell down and five remained standing. The workers were intrigued as to the reason for this and decided to try to find out why this happened. It turned out that for the five that fell, a sprinkler system was installed, and for the five that remained standing there was no sprinkler system. The trees that had sprinklers had their daily water delivered to them and their roots were shallow. The trees that had no sprinklers were forced to send their roots deep down in order to get enough water, thereby providing the anchor needed to survive the storm. So too the Maccabees had to dig deep to face the challenge of the enemy.
Once a young man who grew up in Russia came to apply to be accepted into the Mirrer Yeshivah in Jerusalem. The famous Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l, was about to begin the entrance exam. But, before he started, the boy’s father apologized that his son knows very little because they didn’t have any books to study from. He “only” knows the tractates of Nashim and Nezikim, and “only” the tractates dealing with the holidays, and the entire Mishnah Berurah, and he only knows them by heart because they had no books. Rav Chaim began the test and discovered that this young man really knew all his father said he knew by heart. The Rosh Yeshivah was so overwhelmed that he began to weep. The father thought the Rabbi was crying because he won’t accept his son into the Yeshivah because he didn’t know enough, so he also began to cry and plead to accept his son, because they had no books. We see how much can be accomplished through struggles and wars. In truth, history has not yet recorded the saga of the Soviet Jew and how much they suffered and how much they succeeded. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah. Rabbi Reuven Semah
Though we Jews are only a small minority of the world's population, we have been assigned the formidable, seemingly impossible task of enlightening the entire world. The sages have given us a hint as to how this is possible. The halachah states that if a person lit the hanukah lights and the lights subsequently went out, he is not obligated to relight it (although it is preferable if possible). The reason is that vumn vaug veksv - the kindling is the essence of the misvah. This symbolizes that we are charged with the responsibility to start the task of enlightening the world; G-d will see to its successful conclusion.
The lesson is that although we must do our share to promote and preserve Torah observance, and to be an example to the world, we need not be concerned if it seems that the task is not being accomplished. If we do our part, Hashem will intervene and He will see to it that the job is completed. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
“He fled and went outside.” (Beresheet 39:12)
One opinion in the Gemara suggests that Yosef was facing such an incredible test with Potifar’s wife that he was about to succumb to her enticement. However, at the last moment he saw an image of his father Ya’akob in the window which gave him the strength to resist temptation and flee from the scene, as depicted by the verse above. From here, says another Gemara, we are unable to excuse our own failings and shortcomings in this particular area, claiming that the challenge was just too great, because we see that Yosef faced a much greater test than we could ever imagine, yet still managed to resist temptation.
This second Gemara is very difficult to understand; surely the opposite should be true: Anyone who faces such a test could always claim that the reason why Yosef succeeded and they did not was because Yosef saw a vision of his father which helped him prevail – if they also would have received such a vision, then they too would have been able to overcome temptation! If so, why should Yosef’s success make everyone else’s failures inexcusable?
The Gemara explains that when someone decides on a path that he wants to follow, he receives Divine help to get there. Yosef faced a test beyond imagination, yet every day his will to avoid sinning was so strong that Hashem gave him what he needed to ultimately pass his test. We find in many places that Yosef and Ya’akob looked identical. Therefore, we could suggest that in reality, all Yosef saw was his own reflection (which is why the Gemara specifically tells us that he saw his father’s face ‘in the window’ – a reflective surface, as opposed to a wall, for example). Every day Potifar’s wife tried new methods to seduce Yosef, and at the moment when he was on the brink of giving in, his strong desire to resist her allowed him to grasp onto the smallest thing – his own reflection. In that moment, he was able to see the image of his father and the future that he would lose as a result of sinning with her. But if Yosef would not have had such an initial desire to avoid sinning, then he would not have received the Divine assistance to help him when he needed it most of all.
With this approach, we can now answer our initial question. The reason why Yosef’s act of willpower is able to condemn all those who face such challenges, can be understood as follows: Yosef faced a challenge greater than anyone, yet he remained consistent in his will to avoid sin. Therefore, it follows that anyone else, whose tests are not as difficult, should have had an even stronger will not to sin – they only failed their test because they lacked the desire needed to pass it. A basic tenet of Judaism is that we are only given tests that we are able to pass, as the Gemara says, “Hashem does not deal unfairly with His creations”; therefore, as long as we have the strongest possible desire to overcome our challenges, we will succeed. (Short Vort)
The world today is impressed with speed. A car is advertised for its ability to instantly go from zero to sixty; a computer is praised for its capacity to perform tasks at Pentium speed; and athletes are paid millions of dollars’ compensation for their ability to run, skate, or throw at high velocity. In many areas of life, speed does truly have positive results; but the old expression “haste makes waste” still applies, even in a wireless world.
The result of rushing is very often regret. “If only I had waited before making that career move.”…”If only I had investigated more before buying that stock.”…”If only I had asked my friends before…” When you rush to speak or act without proper thought, you are apt to make a mistake. Yes, there are times when a quick move will work out positively, but there will also be many incidents that don’t work out because the necessary evaluation of the situation wasn’t completed before action was taken.
When you are tempted to decide and to act even though you have not completed your analysis of the subject, stop and check your speedometer. You might be moving fast, but running in the wrong direction doesn’t get you where you want to go. Quite the opposite, in fact. It takes you further from your goal more quickly.
It only takes a moment to consider your direction. If it is correct, by all means proceed at high velocity. However, if you see that continuing to speed along will not get you where you want to go, turn around! The fruit of rushing mindlessly is regret. (One Minute With Yourself – Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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