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Vayeshev 5772

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Hanukah is coming soon -- the first night is Tuesday, December 20th.  It's a wonderful family holiday.  After we light the candles, we sing Maoz Tzur, eat jelly donuts, tell stories, have quizzes about Hanukah -- all in the light of the Hanukah candles.  Memories are made up of a collection of precious moments. Hanukah can provide you with many wonderful memories!  To enjoy the Hanukah story via a medley of 8 rock song parodies, view's new "Hanukah Rock of Ages" video --


There are two ways which our enemies have historically sought to destroy us.  The first is by physical annihilation; the most recent attempt being the Holocaust.  The second is through cultural assimilation.  Purim is the annual celebration of our physical survival.  Hanukah is the annual celebration of our spiritual survival over the many who would have liked to destroy us through cultural assimilation.

In 167 BCE the Syrian-Greek emperor, Antiochus, set out to destroy Judaism by imposing a ban on three mitzvot: The Shabbat, The Sanctifying of the New Month (establishing the first day of the month by testimony of witnesses who saw the new moon) and Brit Mila (entering the Covenant of Abraham through Torah-ordained circumcision).  The Shabbat signifies that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and that His Torah is the blueprint of creation, meaning and values.  Sanctifying the New Month determines the day of the Jewish holidays.  Without it there would be chaos.  For example, if Succot is the 15th of Tishrei, the day it occurs depends upon which day is declared the first of Tishrei.  Brit Mila is a sign of our special covenant with the Almighty.  All three maintain our cultural integrity and were thus threats to the Greek culture.

Matityahu and his 5 sons, known as the Maccabees, started a revolt and three years later succeeded in evicting the oppressors.  The victory was a miracle -- on the scale of Israel defeating the combined super-powers of today.  Having regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, they wanted to immediately rededicate it.  They desired ritually pure olive oil to re-light the Menorah in the Temple.  Only a single cruse of oil was found; enough to burn for just one day. However, they needed oil for eight days until new ritually pure olive oil could be produced.  A miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days.

Therefore, we light Hanukah candles (or better yet, lamps with olive oil) for eight days.  One the first day, two the second and so forth. The first candle is placed to the far right of the menorah with each additional night's candle being placed to the immediate left.  One says three blessings the first night (two blessings each subsequent night) and then lights the candles, starting with the furthermost candle to the left.  The menorah should have all candles in a straight line and at the same height.  Ashkenazi tradition has each person of the household lighting his own menorah.  Sefardi tradition has just one menorah lit per family.  The blessings can be found on the back of the Hanukah candle box or in a Siddur, prayer book.  The candles may be lit inside the home.  It is preferable to light where passersby in the street can see them -- to publicize the miracle of Hanukah.  In Israel, people light outside in special glass boxes built for a menorah or little glasses with olive oil and wicks.

The tradition to eat latkes, potato pancakes, is in memory of the miracle of the oil (latkes are fried in oil).  In Israel, the tradition is to eat sufganiot, deep-fried jelly donuts.  The traditional game of Hanukah uses a dreidel, a four-sided top with the Hebrew letters Nun, Gimmel, Hey, Shin (the first letters of "Nes Gadol Haya Sham -- A Great Miracle Happened There."  In Israel, the last letter is a Pay -- for "here.")  In times of persecution when learning Torah was forbidden, Jews would learn anyway.  When the soldiers would investigate, they would pull out the dreidel and pretend that they were gambling.  The rules for playing dreidel: Nun -- no one wins; Gimmel -- spinner takes the pot; Hey -- spinner get half the pot; Shin/Pay -- spinner matches the pot!

Here's a question to think about: If enough oil was found to burn in the Temple menorah for one day and the oil lasted for eight days, then the miracle was really only for the seven additional days of lighting.  Why then do we celebrate Hanukah for eight days and not seven?

For more on Hanukah, including animated instructions on how to light the candles, go to: .


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week's portion includes four stories: 1) The selling of Yosef (Joseph) as a slave by his brothers -- which eventually positioned Yosef to be second in command in Egypt and enabled him to save the known world from famine 2) The indiscretion of Yehuda (Judah) with Tamar (Tamar) ... 3) The attempted seduction of Yosef by Potifar's wife, which ends with her framing Yosef and having him imprisoned 4) Yosef interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the wine steward (who was reinstated and forgot to put in a good word for Yosef) and the baker (who was hanged).

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

"He (Pharaoh) restored the Chamberlain of the Cupbearers (the wine steward) to his cupbearing.  But the Chamberlain of the Bakers he hanged, just as Joseph had interpreted to them" (Gen. 40:21-22).

At first glance, the two dreams seem to be very similar, yet Joseph gave them radically different interpretations.  And if Joseph's interpretations were totally by Divine inspiration and were not dependent on the content of the dream, why does the Torah bother to tell us the dreams in such detail?

Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman said that a closer scrutiny of the text reveals a major difference between the two dreams.  The Chamberlain of the Cupbearers related, "I held Pharaoh's cup in my hand, and I took the grapes, I pressed them in to Pharaoh's cup and I placed the cup on Pharaoh's palm" (Gen. 40:11).  He was active in the dream.

The Chamberlain of the Bakers, on the other hand, said, "Three wicker baskets were on my head, and in the uppermost basket were all kinds of Pharaoh's food.  And the birds were eating them from the basket on my head" (Gen. 40:16-17).  In contrast to the Chamberlain of the Cupbearers, he is inactive, doing nothing whatsoever.  "This," says Reb Elchanan, "indicated to Joseph the two different interpretations. Action represents life, inaction represents death."

According to Reb Elchanan, we are as alive as our actions.  Furthermore, they were not just any actions, but productive actions.  In the dream, the Chamberlain of the Cupbearers was fulfilling his assignment, and that is life.  The Chamberlain of the Bakers did nothing.  For all we know, all the baked goods were baked by others. He evidenced no signs of productive activity.  That is being lifeless.

In addition to the activities that we do in daily living, we should realize that every person has a mission. Moses tells us, "For if you will observe the entire commandment that I instruct you, to perform it, to love God, to walk in His ways and to cleave unto Him" (Deut. 11:22).  That is our mission, and if we act to achieve our mission to cleave unto God, then "You, who cling unto God, are all alive this day" (Deut. 4:4).


(or go to

Jerusalem 3:57
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Enthusiasm is that ingredient of vitality
mixed with a firm belief in what you are doing that
helps ensure the success of any project you undertake
--  Dale Carnegie


Refuah Shelaimah for

Shulamis Ita bas
Rachel Leah


With Deep Appreciation to

Mr. Amory B. Propp

New York, NY




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