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Vayishlach 5762

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  A few weeks ago I asked why, in the Torah, we never heard again of Mamre (the friend of our forefather Abraham) who advised Abraham to enter into the covenant of Bris Mila with the Almighty. My friend, Rabbi Shimon Levine, called to tell me that the Midrash Beraishis Rabba asks why the town of Hebron is called Kiryat Arba ("Town of the Four")? Answers the Midrash, "because 4 tzadikim were circumcised there -- Avraham, Aner, Eshkol and ... Mamre." So, it seems that Mamre, and Abraham's other two friends (who advised him not to enter the convenant) did enter into the covenant and were disciples of Abraham!

Hanukah is coming soon -- the first night is Sunday, December 9th. 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 has provided me with many!


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 needed 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!

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Portion of the Week


On the trip back to Canaan, Jacob meets his brother Esau; Jacob wrestles with the angel. Then they arrive in Shechem; Shechem, the son of Chamor the Hivite, (heir to the town of Shechem) rapes Jacob's daughter, Dina; Dina's brothers, Shimon and Levy, massacre the men of Shechem; Rebecca (Rivka) dies; God gives Jacob an additional name, "Israel," and reaffirms the blessing to Avraham that the land of Canaan (Israel) will be given to his descendants; Rachel dies after giving birth to Benjamin (Binyomin); Jacob's 12 sons are listed; Isaac dies; Esau's lineage is recorded as is that of Seir the Horite; and lastly ... the succession of the Kings of Edom is chronicled.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

When Yakov (Jacob) heard that his brother Esau -- who had once promised to kill him -- was coming to meet him with 400 warriors, he sent gifts. The Torah relates the following message which Yakov sent to his brother, "I have acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks, servants, and maidservants and I am sending to tell my lord that I might find favor in your eyes" (Genesis 32:6). Why isn't Yakov afraid of exacerbating his brother's hatred by arousing envy for Yakov's wealth?

The commentary Ha'emek Dovor by the great Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin clarifies that for Esau the only thing that mattered was having power over other people as we see by the fact that he had 400 men with him. Yakov's wealth didn't cause envy because there was no power with it. This can give us an insight into overcoming envy.

When one has power, one will not envy another person who lacks it. Since the greatest power is having control over one's own impulses and desires (see Pirkei Avos, Ethics of the Fathers 4:1), if one masters self-discipline he will have no need to envy anyone else. The feeling of strength will be so fulfilling that you will be free from feeling envious of others!

CANDLE LIGHTING - November 30:
(or go to

Jerusalem  3:59
Guatemala 5:13  Hong Kong 5:20  Honolulu 5:30
J'Burg 6:27  London 3:38  Los Angeles 4:26
Melbourne 8:07  Miami 5:11  Moscow 3:45

New York 4:12  Singapore  6:37


A smart person knows
how to win an arguement;
a wise person knows
how to avoid one.

With Special Thanks to
James G. Asher

for dedicating this edition

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