GOOD MORNING! Hanukah is coming soon - the first night is Sunday, December 21st. 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!
Q & A: WHAT IS HANUKAH AND
HOW DO WE CELEBRATE IT?
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 "Poh", "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: aish.com/hanukah.
For more on "Hanukah" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
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 discretion 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).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
After the brothers threw Joseph into a pit and were deciding what to do with him, the Torah states:
"And they sat down to eat bread, and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and behold, a company of Yishme'alim came from Gilad with their camels carrying aromatic gum, balm, and ladanum, going to carry it down to Egypt" (Genesis 37:25).
Why did the Torah deem it necessary for us to know what the camels were carrying?
Rashi teaches us that the Torah is extolling the reward for the righteous. This was the caravan to which they would sell Joseph and which would transport him to Egypt. Usually caravans to Egypt carried kerosene and resin used for fuel - which had unpleasant odors. However, this caravan which carried Joseph to Egypt had pleasant smelling spices; because of his righteousness, he was not subjected to the unpleasant odors on his journey to Egypt (which was part of the divine plan to save the Jewish people from the upcoming famine).
This seems to be little consolation for Joseph. He was being sold as a slave by his brothers. How would something as minor as pleasant smelling merchandise on the caravan taking him to Egypt make a difference? The answer is that this was a subtle hint from the Almighty to Joseph. It was a message to Joseph that all was not lost - that he should appreciate the hand of the Almighty that is guiding his life and supplies him with minor pleasures to enhance his life. This is a sign that all the Almighty does is for his - and your - ultimate benefit.
This is an important lesson for anyone undergoing a difficult life situation. Upon facing painful experiences one is apt to become lost in self-pity and despair. It is easy to focus solely on what is going wrong with one's life. However, one needs to keep his eyes open! Be aware of any positive aspects. Don't ignore anything that you can possibly appreciate. These minor pleasures are messengers from the Almighty. Appreciate them for themselves; and what is more important, allow them to change your evaluation of your entire situation. Learn to see every situation as a means to help you reach your ultimate potential in this world!
CANDLE LIGHTING - December 19
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.
Dedicated to Those Who Pray
for a Speedy Recovery of
Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Yisroel Noah ben Hinda
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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