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Vayeshev 5770

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! A friend of mine told me that as he grows older he experiences a personal miracle on Chanukah. He eats one potato latka - and it burns for eight days.

I share with you this week two stories about Hanukah - my Hanukah gift to you!

I heard the following story years ago when I lived in Israel and to the best of my knowledge it is true. Before the USSR let the Jews leave for Israel, Jews used to hire a guide to smuggle them out of Russia. One Hanukah a group of Jews were playing "cat and mouse" with a Soviet army patrol as they approached the border. When the guide thought they had lost the patrol, he announced an half-hour break before continuing the trek. One of the escapees, hearing the "magic" number of "one-half hour" - the minimum time a Hanukah candle must be lit to fulfill the mitzvah - pulls out his menorah, sets up the candles, says the blessing and starts to light the candles. The other escapees immediately pounce upon him and the menorah to put out the candles - just as the Soviet patrol moves in and completely encircles them!

The head of the army patrol speaks: "We were just about to open fire and wipe you out when I saw that man lighting the Hanukah candles. I was overcome with emotion; I remember my zaideh (grandfather) lighting Hanukah candles .... I have decided to let you go in peace."

The second story was sent to me years ago. I was never able to verify it, but I love the story. I offer a prize of $100 to the first person who can prove it true! The story: Young private Winneger was with the U.S. Army as it marched through Europe at the end of World War II. His unit was assigned to a European village with the orders to secure the town, search for any hiding Nazis and to help the villagers any way they could.

Winneger was on patrol one night when he came across a young boy with an ornate menorah. The menorah was his only possession and his only remnant from his family. The boy had survived a concentration camp and was mistrustful of all men in uniforms. He had been forced to watch the shooting of his father. He had no idea what had become of his mother. Winneger calmed the boy, assured him that he himself was Jewish and brought him back to the village.

In the weeks that followed, Winneger took the young boy, David, under his wing. As they became closer and closer, Winneger's heart went out to the boy. He offered to adopt David and bring him back to New York. David accepted.

Winneger was active in the New York Jewish community. An acquaintance of his, a curator of the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, saw the menorah. He told David it was a very valuable historic, European menorah and should be shared with the entire Jewish Community. He offered David $50,000 for the menorah.

But David refused the generous offer, saying the menorah had been in his family for over 200 years and that no amount of money could ever make him sell it.

When Hanukah came, David and Winneger lit the menorah in the window of their home in New York City. David went upstairs to his room to study while Winneger stayed downstairs in the room with the menorah.

There was a knock on the door and Winneger went to answer. He found a woman with a strong German accent who said that she was walking down the street when she saw the menorah in the window. She said that she had once had one just like it in her family and had never seen any other like it. Could she come and take a closer look?

Winneger invited her in and said that the menorah belonged to his son who could perhaps tell her more about it. Winneger went upstairs and called David down to talk to the woman ... and that is how David was reunited with his mother.

If truth is stranger than fiction, it is because it has a better Author...

For more on "Hanukkah" 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 ... (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

When Jacob sent his son Yosef to check on the welfare of his brothers who were grazing the flock, the Torah relates:

"And he said to him, go see about the welfare of your brothers and about the welfare of the sheep."

What lesson do we learn from Jacob's additional request to check on the sheep?

Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Hayeshiva of the famed Slobodka yeshiva, comments that we learn from here that a righteous person emulates the Almighty who is compassionate and merciful. A person who is truly compassionate will be concerned about the welfare of animals since all of the Almighty's creation is important.

* * *


You may use this to stimulate discussion (as well as showing how much you know about Hanukah!): 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?

Here are a few answers mentioned in the Book of Our Heritage - a staple for every Jewish household. It is available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

1. One day of celebration is for commemorating the military victory.

2. The discovery of the one remaining jar of oil marked with the Cohen Gadol's seal was a miracle. One day is celebrated for this.

3. The discovered oil was divided into eight portions to last the eight days required for the production of new oil. Until new oil could be produced, the Menorah would be lit only briefly each night. Miraculously, the small portion of oil burned the entire day. Thus, each of the eight days was a miracle.

4. All the oil was emptied into the Menorah, but after the lamps had burned all night, they were found the next morning still filled with oil. Therefore, each day was a miracle.

5. The very fact that our ancestors did not despair from lighting the lamps the first day, though they knew that they would not be able to light again until new pure oil could be produced in eight days' time, was a great miracle. It is this optimism which enables the Jewish people to endure through all generations and every exile!



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Happy 99th Birthday!

Maks Rothstein



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2009


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