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Vayishlach 5761

Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Hanukah is coming soon -- the first night is Thursday, December 21. It's my favorite 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!


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!

Portion of the Week


On the trip back to Canaan, Jacob meets his brother Esau; Jacob wrestles with the angel; 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 sons are listed; Isaac dies; Esau's lineage is recorded as is that of Seir the Horite; lastly, the succession of the Kings of Edom is chronicled.


Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

In the laws of Kashruth, there is a prohibition to eat a particular vein in the hind quarter of an animal. The source is in this week's Torah portion, "Therefore, the children of Israel are not to eat the sinew of the thigh-vein until this day, because he (the one who fought with Jacob) touched the hollow of the thigh of Jacob in the sinew of the thigh-vein" (Genesis 32:33). What lesson for life can we learn from this law?

The commentator Daas Zkainim explains that the night before Jacob's confrontation with Esau, Jacob was left by himself. He was attacked and in the ensuing struggle Jacob was wounded in the thigh. Jacob's children behaved inconsiderately in leaving their father by himself; they should have remained with him. Therefore, the Almighty imposed upon Jacob's descendants a prohibition against eating the thigh vein in order to insure that they would remember to accompany others.

When someone leaves your home, you are obligated to accompany him approximately 8 feet outside your door. We must show the visitor the way and warn him of any pitfalls on the road or in the area.


FLORIDA: Relax, Retire, ReVote.
FLORIDA: We count more than you do.
FLORIDA: We're number One!....Wait! Recount!
FLORIDA: Where your vote just keeps on counting.
FLORIDA: If you think we can't vote, wait till you see us drive!
FLORIDA: We've been Gored by the bull of politics and we're Bushed.
FLORIDA: If you don't like the way we count then take I-95 and visit one of the other 56 states.

CANDLE LIGHTING - December 15:

Jerusalem  4:00
Guatemala 5:17  Hong Kong 5:26  Honolulu 5:34
J'Burg 6:37  London 3:33  Los Angeles 4:28
Melbourne 8:20  Miami 5:15  Moscow 3:38

New York 4:12  Singapore 6:44


Effort and courage are not enough
without purpose and direction.

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