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GOOD MORNING!   Hanukah is coming soon -- the first night is Friday, December 15th. 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 G-d 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!

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 further information on Hanukah, including animated instructions on how to light the candles, go to: http://www.aish.com/holidays/Chanukah/default.asp

For more on "Hanukah" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!


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Torah 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 ischronicled.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

When Jacob was wrestling with Esau's angel, the Torah tells us: "And Jacob asked ... 'Please tell me your name." And he (the angel) replied, 'Why do you ask me my name? And he blessed him (the angel blessed Jacob) there."

Jacob fought with the spiritual being which saw the personification of Esau, which was also the personification of the evil inclination (the yetzer hara -- the desire to follow after your desires rather than to do what is right). When Jacob was victorious, he asked the being for its name, but was told, "Why do you ask me my name?" This reply might appear to be a refusal to give a truthful answer. However, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman explained that this was actually the name of the evil inclination: "Don't ask!"

The desires of this world draw a person like a magnet. The best way to overcome one's negative impulses is to be aware of how illusory these pleasures actually are. As soon as you take a close look with your intellect at worldly desires you will see how empty and meaningless they are. "Don't ask!" As soon as you start asking questions to clarify the reality of the yetzer hara, you will find that there is nothing there. This is analogous to seeing a shadow and thinking that something is actually there. As soon as you light a candle, you realize that what you saw was only an illusion. Use your intellect to see the emptiness of negative desires and you will be free from their pull. (Ohr Yohail, vol. 2, p. 35)

CANDLE LIGHTING - December 16:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)

Jerusalem 3:55
Guatemala 5:36  Hong Kong 5:21  Honolulu 5:30
J'Burg 6:33  London 3:33  Los Angeles 4:26
Melbourne 8:14  Mexico City 5:40  Miami 5:13
New York 4:11  Singapore 6:40  Toronto 4:23


Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack
-- George S. Patton

In Loving Memory of
our brothers
Earl B. Slavitt
David S. Sher
by Nancy & Richard Sher