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Haftarah: Amos 2:6-3:8

DECEMBER 23-24, 2016 24 KISLEV 5777

Rosh Hodesh Tebet will be celebrated on Friday, December 30.


"And they stretched out their hands to our money." (Rambam - Hilchot Hanukah 3:1)

The Rambam in his laws of Hanukah describes the diabolical decrees intended to eradicate our religion. The Rambam says they stretched out their hands to our money. Seemingly the Rambam is telling us that the Greeks took away our money. But this is not a decree of spiritual harm, it is a decree of material loss. If so, why did the Rambam use the unusual word "upashtu"? He should have said "ganvu" or "gazlu" indicating that they stole or robbed!

Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro explains that the choice of the word indicates an entirely new concept. The Yevanim did not take our money or our property. They were perfectly comfortable in letting us keep our material wealth. However, the Greeks were determined to influence the way we spent our money, to infiltrate our perspective on possessions. The Yevanim did not want us to use our wealth to enhance our service of Hashem. They wanted us to view money not as a means to an end, but as an end in and of itself.

As we approach Hanukah, we must ask ourselves: Are we properly utilizing the possessions that Hashem has given us, or is the way we use our money validating the intentions of the Greeks?

Once there was an elderly woman in Meah Shearim. An American couple were returning from the Kotel on a Shabbat afternoon when it started to rain. They noticed an elderly woman on Rechov Chevra Shas motioning to them to come into her apartment to keep dry. Upon entering, the couple was appalled at her living conditions. Rain dripped through a crack in the ceiling and onto the dining room table. When they mentioned how badly they felt about her situation, she responded, "this is the rain of blessing."

They returned on Saturday night and attempted to give her some money that people had given them to give to charity before travelling. The woman kept refusing, insisting that she did not need any money. As the couple was about to leave, she reconsidered and told them, "I decided that I would like to take the money. For many years, I have been praying at sunrise each morning at the Kotel. When I am approached by many unfortunate women collecting sedakah, I have never had the opportunity to give them any money. I will, for the first time, be able to fulfill the misvah of giving charity.

This woman understood that the wealth with which a person is blessed should be utilized to bring him closer to Hashem. Have a bright Hanukah! Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Yosef came to them in the morning and saw that they were distressed." (Beresheet 40:6)

When Yosef heard the dreams of Pharaoh's ministers and interpreted them correctly, he gained a name for himself as someone who had prophetic powers to understand dreams, and this led him to stand in front of Pharaoh to explain the monarch's dream. This ultimately got him elevated to power and he was able to save his father's family and Egypt from starvation.

The Torah points out that all this began because Yosef saw that the ministers were upset. It's a remarkable trait in a person to be able to see someone else's problem even though he himself is suffering. Yosef was imprisoned for many years thus far, and had much cause to become withdrawn into himself and stop worrying about others. We see from here that Yosef was someone who noticed if others were suffering and was willing to get involved in order to help. This is the making of a leader and this is something we can learn from. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


Do you ever think about exercise and sports? If you do not, you might be accused of being un-American.

It's important to note that exercise and sports are not the same. The dictionary's definitions point out the differences.

Exercise (noun)

Regular or repeated use of a faculty or bodily organ.

Bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness.

Sport (noun)

Physical activity engaged in for pleasure.

Mean, spirited jesting, mockery, derision.

As moral, ethical people, we have an obligation to take care of the precious gift Hashem has given each of us on loan - our bodies. A regular exercise program If you are out to "beat" the competition rather than build yourself up, you will be the loser of the game. (One Minute with Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)

All in a Day's Work

"The commandment of Hanukah lights extends until the passersby have vanished from the market" (Shabbat 21b). Why did the Gemara use an obscure way of measuring the time? Why not simply say "until a half hour after nightfall"?

The terminology concerning the halachah can be explained as a metaphor conveying an important insight:

It is common for people to work during the day to earn a livelihood. However, some unfortunately, are so engaged in materialism that they "moonlight" on another job and work nights to reach their financial goals. Often this pseudo-success is at the cost of their Torah learning, praying with a minyan, etc. It was the goal of the Syrian-Greeks to cause the Jews to forget Torah and to cease the observance of Hashem's statutes.

The miracle with the flask of oil and the kindling of the Menorah emphasizes the importance of Torah study and misvah performance. The candles of the Menorah and the light it emanates represent Torah and misvot, as King Shelomo says "For the candle is a misvah and Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23). The Gemara (Megillah 16b) says that "orah" - "light" - means Torah. The pure oil miraculously found is also a hint to Torah, as the Gemara (Berachot 57a) says, "One who sees olive oil in a dream can anticipate receiving the light of Torah."

The halachah conveys the message that one can be said to have properly fulfilled the essence of Hanukah only when he comes to the realization that "tichleh regel min hashuk" - his "foot" should not be roaming around in the evening in the marketplace seeking opportunities for material gain; rather, after a day's work his feet should be leading him in the direction of the shul and bet midrash to study Torah and pray with a minyan.

One should always remember that excessive involvement in business does not make one successful. Rather, Hashem is the One Who provides each of us with our "flask of oil," and success can come miraculously without working tirelessly day and night. (Vedibarta Bam)

Public Display

The Gemara (Shabbat 21b) says, "The requirement is to place the Hanukah light by the doorway of one's house, from the outside." Rashi writes that this is because of pirsumei nisa - to publicize the miracle. Why on Hanukah is pirsumei nisa emphasized as a prerequisite for proper fulfillment of the misvah? The Syrian-Greeks endeavored to detach the Jews from Torah study. However, they did not suffice with this evil plan, but also demanded that the Jews write on the horn of an ox that they were denouncing their share in the G-d of Israel.

They made the strange request that the Jewish people use the horn of the ox because in those days it was customary to travel on wagons and chariots which were driven by oxen. The oxen would span the roads and go from place to place, and the horn is the most prominent and visible part of the ox. Therefore, they demanded that their denial of Hashem be written on the ox's horn so that it would receive the widest publicity possible.

To counteract this, our Sages required that when we fulfill the misvah of lighting the Menorah, which commemorates the miracle Hashem did because of our allegiance to Him, it is to be done so as to attract the most public attention possible. (Vedibarta Bam)

* * * * *

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.

Call to 646-279-8712 or email (Privacy of email limited by the email address)

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