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Vayeshev 5765

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   Hanukah is coming soon - the first night is Tuesday, December 7th. 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!


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, ShinNes 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!

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 incident 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
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah tells us:

"And (Joseph's brothers) continued even more to hate (Joseph) because of his dreams and his words." (Genesis 37:8)

Why does the Torah tell add the seemingly superfluous "and his words" since this expression is already included in "his dreams"?

Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen explains this with a statement in the Sifri (Korach 117) that the word hinei denotes joy. Here in Joseph's report of the dream the term vehinei is repeated three times (in verse seven). When Joseph reported his dream, he experienced joy in relating each detail. This joy which Joseph felt because he would rule over them increased their hatred towards him.

Rabbi Shmuel Walkin comments on this: There are people who feel pleasure when they speak against others. Even if what they say is accurate, it is still very wrong to feel any joy in relating another person's wrong doings.
How is it possible to feel happy about the downfall of others?

When you are truly compassionate, you will feel the suffering of others. This attribute will prevent your feeling any pleasure at the expense of someone else. Work on increasing your level of compassion and you will find it impossible to speak loshon hora, gossip or slander, against others.


"Envy, Lust and Glory
remove a person from this world,"
    --  Rabbi Elazar Hakappar

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A plateau is a high form of flattery

In Memory of
Eli Sztulwark
from his wife & children
Sara, Jessica, Daniela & Donny
"What we keep in our hearts
is ours forever"

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