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Parshas Mikeitz and Chanukah

Rav Sholom's Treasures

אוצר רב שלום

Parshas Mikeitz

In last week's parsha Yosef was sold by his brothers, served as a slave in Mitzrayim and finally ended up being in prison for 12 years [one year for each of the twelve brothers- including himself]. This week B"H, Yosef is getting out of jail and rises to power. He is appointed to be the Viceroy over all of Egypt. By devising a wise strategy, he saves all of Egypt from the certain death that would have resulted from the seven years of 'great famine'. The famine also reached the Land of Canaan where Yaakov Avinu dwelt with his family. Word had spread that there was food for sale in Mitzrayim. Yaakov Avinu sends his ten eldest sons to purchase food in Mitzrayim and finally the brothers meet again. Only Yosef recognizes his brothers but they do not recognize him – not yet. There is still a lot of work to be done before Yaakov Avinu's 'ruach' – spirit will be restored, to be 'alive' again.

Yosef's Last Night In Prison

The Ishbitzer Rebbe draws our attention to Yosef's last night in prison. Surely Yosef constantly prayed for Hashem's salvation, but the prayers of that last night are the ones that opened the Gates of Salvation. The Torah tells us that Hashem was with Yosef and therefore he was successful in all that he did. And Yosef, was constantly conscious of Hashem's presence. Thus Hashem was always with him even in prison.

Though Yosef did never stopped trusting in Hashem throughout his imprisonment, the last night was different. This time Hashem answered his prayers. On this last night, says the Ishbitzer, Yosef was on the verge of giving up, 'chas v'shalom', and he had to gather all his strength and faith not to give up. That night he found, in the deepest depths of his heart, the pure oil for his lamp – to give light and to bring Hashem's light into the darkest land, the land of Mitzrayim.

B"H we are in the midst of Channukah and we are lighting candles. The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l often emphasized, that on this holiday as we celebrate the rededication of our Holy Temple in Yerushalayim, we should remember to rededicate our personal temples, the temples in our hearts. Like Yosef Hatzaddik we must never give up. We must continuously bring much more of Hashem's light into this world, for it is still so dark.

"My G-D, My G-D Why Have You Forsaken Me?"

Consider, besides receiving the holy gifts and blessings of Chanukah, besides making the blessings and lighting the candles with ‘kavanah’ focused attention, you may try, as you are looking at your Chanukah meditating on bringing the light into yourself. Observe yourself within; in this light find and ‘see’ your innermost essence, your neshamah. Let it speak to you and listen to it with an open heart. Allow your heart to receive its holy illuminated and healing words and breaths. Welcome the holy light and allow it to heal your heart. Listen to hear your deepest and truest רצון desire. Let us be blessed to believe with perfect faith that all our light, strength, courage and healing are coming from Hashem alone. Let us be blessed to be true and joyous servants of Hashem. Let us be ever grateful for Hashem’s kindness and for the gift of opportunity to bring Hashem’s light into this darkest of worlds. And may we be blessed to see this manifest very quickly and pray for Moshiach Now!

And what about all the times that we have been so deeply inspired to give ourselves over completely with all our hearts, beings and love to Hashem, to His Torah, to our families and friends and to all of Israel, only to find ourselves once again losing our inspiration and even forgetting that we ever wanted to do that? Rebbe Nachman explains that the seven years of plenty in Pharoah’s dream relate with the supernal pleasantness of Eretz Yisrael, whereas the seven years of famine relate to the spiritual terrorists from ‘chutz la’aretz’ who come to attack. And again and again they try to extinguish the supernal pleasantness נועם עליון of Eretz Yisrael.

In Pharoah’s dream he saw the seven years of famine swallow up the seven years of plenty. This alludes to our forgetting the moments of deep arousal and commitment to Hashem. Yosef Hatzaddik teaches us how to deal with this. During the years of plenty be aware that we must also prepare for the years of the famine. We must devise plans to not perish in the years of famine. We must learn to remember all our moments of being so very close with Hashem, in His nourishing holy light- but not only in our minds, but also in our hearts, in our bodies, in all our senses, and especially with the sense of fragrance.

The spiritual terrorists are attracted when we are spiritually aroused. On a deep level they are coming to us because they want to be fixed, and somehow they sense that we can do it and that it is our obligation to the world.

Though we must be aware of what's happening and we must take all the necessary steps to secure our safety and well-being, nevertheless, I believe that the most important thing that we can do is to discover our own innermost holy lights and shine them into the world.

We bless you and please bless us too, that every word, every letter of the holy Torah, will illuminate in the deepest depths of our hearts.

We wish every one of you a wonderful Rosh Chodesh Teves, and a wonderful Shabbos Chanukah. May the miracles of Chanukah be alive within every one of you and in עם ישראל the People of Yisrael; discover your light and illuminate the world. We hope to see you all here in Eretz Yisrael, very soon together with Moshiach, joyously celebrating the final and ultimate redemption.

Have a wonderful Shabbos

Bahavah ubivracha


The Rebbe on Chaukah

In The Rebbe's Chambers - Saving a Jewish Life

We share a wondrous account sent in by Rabi Moses Hayyim Greenvald, translated from the Yiddish.


My father, Rabbi Abraham Zvi Greenvald, was born in Lodz, Poland, and was orphaned from his father at the age of 8. His mother was left with seven little orphans, and she worried much about the education of her eldest boy, whom she sent to live with a cousin, the exalted scholar Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may G-d avenge his blood.

It was he who raised my father with great self-sacrifice. Understandably, he was concerned about my father's studies and even tutored him personally.

My father was almost 17 years old when there took place in Warsaw "The Great Wedding" -- the nuptials of the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. My father used to tell about this wedding almost as a spiritual exercise -- both regarding the wedding itself, in which participated the cream of Polish Hasidic leaders, and also that my father was able to meet personally with the young bridegroom. This meeting, my father would later realize, would portend much in the future.

A youth of about 17, my father arrived at the wedding together with his relative and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Zemba. On the morning after, Rabbi Zemba told him he was going to visit the bridegroom in the hotel, and if my father wished, he could accompany him. Understandably, my father agreed.

My father could not remember and repeat all that the two spoke about, but he did remember well the end of the conversation, before these two personalities parted ways. The Rebbe turned to my father and said,"In another few days, it will be Hanukkah.

Do you know why many small synagogues hold festivals on the fifth day of Chanukah?" My father did not know what to answer, and he recalled that Rabbi Zemba just looked at the Rebbe waiting for an answer. Then the Rebbe, turned to my father and said,"The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies great darkness because this day cannot fall on the Holy Sabbath. And through the Hanukkah candles, the greatest (spiritual) darkness of the world is illuminated. And for this reason, the potential of Hanukkah comes to fruition specifically through the fifth candle, which signifies the darkness. And this is the function of every Jew, in every place -- in Warsaw or London -- to illuminate the darkest place."

As mentioned earlier, my father did not remember what the Rebbe and Rabbi Zemba spoke about during their long conversation. But he said he would never forget that all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud flew around the room. When they left the hotel, my father recalls, Rabbi Zemba was extremely excited and didn't stop speaking about the meeting to everyone with whom he conversed for several days.

After that meeting, nearly 10 years passed. My father survived the Holocaust, first in the Ghetto, and afterwards in the Extermination Camps. His first wife and their five little children were slaughtered in front of his eyes. When the war ended, and he was left alive by the grace of G-d, he experienced a mental and physical breakdown. For two years, he moved from displaced persons camp to displaced persons camp, trying to learn if there were relatives -- close or distant -- who survived. In the end, it became clear that all his brothers and sisters -- each one of them -- was liquidated by the oppressor, may its name be blotted out.

In the year 5708 (ca. 1948), he traveled to the United States, to Philadelphia. There lived his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald of the Amshinov Hasidim; he had never met his uncle who had immigrated to America before he was born. But the uncle arranged my fathers travel to the U. S. and received him with great love, and did everything to make it easier for him and to comfort him after the portion of awesome suffering he underwent . . . Under pressure from his uncle, with the intervention of the Amshinov Rebbe,my father decided to put his life back together, married a second wife (my mother, of blessed memory).

She was a child of Karkov, daughter of Rabbi Zushya Sinkowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, of the elders of the Alexander Hasidim. Together with his sister, he succeeded in fleeing immediately at the beginning of the war, running from country to country until they set sail for Canada. There, they raised in the house another cousin, the great leader, Mr. Kuppel Shwartz, one of Toronto's leading Jews. Before my parents were wed, Mr. Shwartz took my father to New York for an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) to obtain his blessing.

My father told me that he trembled to see the change that had overtaken the Previous Rebbe, how age had crept up on him since the Warsaw wedding. (It was very difficult to understand the Rebbe's speech; one of the Hasidic elders who stood in the room explained what the Rebbe was saying). Mr. Shwartz told the Previous Rebbe that my father had been saved, but lost his family in the Holocaust.

Then, from the holy eyes of the Previous Rebbe there began to fall streams of pure tears. The Rebbe blessed my father and wished him a long and good life. Before he left, my father told the Rebbe that he had been fortunate to be at the wedding of his son-in-law, the Rebbe, in Warsaw. Then, my father tells, the Previous Rebbe's eyes brightened and he said that since his son- in-law lived here, and he was at the wedding, he should certainly visit him to pay his respects.

Mr. Shwartz and my father left the Rebbe's chambers, and after they were shown where to find the chambers of the Ramash [Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson], as he was known then, they knocked and entered, saying they came at the instructions of the Previous Rebbe. My father was elated that the Ramash remembered him immediately.

His first question was that my father should tell about last days of Rabbi Zemba because he heard he was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto but did not know any details. After my father told all he knew, the Ramash said, "since the Rebbe told you to visit me, I am obligated to say to you words of Torah. And since the month of Kislev is close to Hanukkah, it is known the custom of many Hasidim," followers of the Baal Shem Tov, to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah. What is the reason? Since the fifth day can never fall on the Sabbath, if so, then it implies strong (spiritual) darkness. This is the potential of the Hanukkah candle -- to illuminate the greatest darkness. This is the mission of every Jew in every place he may be -- New York or London -- to illuminate the darkest place.

Needless to say, my father was startled as he had all but forgotten the very same thing that the Ramash had told him nearly 20 years earlier. And now, his memory was jarred, and he realized that the Ramash had repeated, almost word-for-word, what he told him then, in the hotel in Warsaw.

After his wedding, my father served as a rabbi and teacher for Congregation Adath Israel in Washington Heights. There we were born, my sister and I. My father remained there some five years, and, with the help of Mr. Shwartz in Canada, moved to Toronto and worked there as a rabbi and teacher in the Haredi congregations there.

Over the course of years, in Toronto, my father became close to the Satmar Hasidim in the city, since he ministered in his rabbinical work to these Hasidim. Though he never sent us to the Satmar schools, he sent us to educational institutions that were spiritually similar. Me and my brother were sent to the well known Nytra Yeshivah. Though my father's outlook was philosophically close to Satmar, he never spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the contrary, he always spoke of him in with praise and in especially respectful terms, as did his children.en.

In the winter of 5729 (ca. 1969), I was married. My father told me that even though I wasn't a Lubavitcher Hasid, he feels the need to go with me to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for my wedding -- just as he had done, even though he had not seen the Rebbe for some 20 years. I agreed with a whole heart.

But then, I learned it's not so simple to visit the Rebbe. Only after negotiations with the Rebbe's secretary -- and only after my father explained to him that we could not wait several months to reserve a place in the queue for audiences -- did he agreed to place us in line, but only after we promised we would only ask for a benediction and would not detain the Rebbe. My father promised and we left Toronto on the appointed day. I don't remember the exact hour we entered the Rebbe's chambers, but it was closer to morning than night, if not dawn itself.

I saw the Rebbe's face for the first time in person. His face, especially his eyes, made a great impression on me. My father gave the Rebbe the customary epistle on which were inscribed the names of myself, my bride-to-be and my father's request for a benediction. The Rebbe took the epistle from my father's hands. Before he opened it, he looked at my father with a broad smile and said, "Not more than 20 years ago the time had arrived, especially as the Previous Rebbe sent you to me." My father stood, scared and trembling, and couldn't find the energy to open his mouth. Meanwhile, the sexton banged on the door, but the Rebbe waved his hand as to negate the knocking, like someone who was saying, don't pay attention.

In the midst of all this, the Rebbe opened the epistle, glanced at it, and immediately began to give us his blessing, blessed my father with a long life and good years, and said, roughly, "Just as you rejoiced at my nuptials, may the Lord give you nachas and strength to dance at your grandchild's wedding." Tears poured from my father's eyes, and I was also elated. My father had been physically broken from all he had endured in the camps, and this benediction of the Rebbe's was especially dear.

Before we left, my father got together the strength to ask the Rebbe that since he had promised the secretary we would enter solely to request a blessing, and he has a pressing question, would the Rebbe permit him to ask it. The Rebbe smiled and laughed, and said (roughly): "Since the Rebbe the father-in-law sent you to me, I am obligated to answer all questions. And as before, we heard loud banging on the door, and the Rebbe signaled we should ignore it.

My father turned to the Rebbe and said that for different reasons, we had lived among the Satmar Hasidim and their fellow travellers for many years. There, we frequently hear complaints about the views of Lubavitch. "Even though I do not accept all the gossip that I hear, they have nonetheless succeeded in raising within me a great doubt about the Lubavitch view in connection with working together with the "wicked people." The verses are well known, such as "And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate." "How is it that Lubavitch can openly work together with those who battle against G-d and his Torah?"

My father told the Rebbe that he requests forgiveness for the question, and did not mean to offend. Quite to the contrary, he really wants to understand the Rebbe's view so he can answer others as well as himself.

The Rebbe then turned to my father with a question. "What would your neighbors do if a neighbor's daughter began to keep bad company? Would they attempt to return her to the way of Torah and the Commandments, or would they say, 'And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate and it is forbidden to involve oneself with the wicked; therefore, we should distance ourselves from her and not bring her closer?'" The Rebbe did not even wait for an answer, and promptly added: "This zealous one would answer that with a daughter, the injunction of 'From thy flesh do not conceal thyself would apply.'"

And then the Rebbe's eyes became serious, and he knocked on the table, and said: "By the Al-mighty, every Jew is as precious as an only child. With the Rebbe, the father-in-law, every Jew was 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'"

Then the Rebbe looked at me, and at my father with a constant gaze, and said: "One concludes with a blessing. As it is known, it is customary among Hasidim to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah with festivities. What is the reason? Since the fifth day cannot ever fall on the Sabbath, this signifies that it is the height of darkness. With the light of the Hanukkah candle, it is possible to illuminate the darkest thing. This is the mission of each Jew, to illuminate even the darkest places. It does not matter where he lives -- Toronto or London. Every Jew is veritably a part of G-d above, the only child of the Holy One, Blessed be He. And when one lights his soul with the candle of holiness, even the distant Jew is stirred in the darkest place."

My father was startled in the most shocking way. He didn't even hear the last words of the Rebbe's blessing, nor how we left the Rebbes chambers. All the way back to Toronto he was silent. Only two words: "wonder of wonders. Wonder of wonders."

Since then, about 10 years passed. In the year 5739 (ca. 1979), my youngest brother was married in the city of London. The whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I flew to the wedding in an airplane.

On the way to London, I saw my father was preoccupied. Something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he didn't want to say