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Parsha Mikeitz - Recognizing the Song in our Lives

Welcome to another exciting Parsha. As Rabbi Nachman said – the Parsha is about you and me. It Is Mikeitz. Let’s learn and connect to what has kept the Jewish people alive and vibrant over the last 2000 years and more It is poignant as ever this week.

Our Parsha starts off with Joseph languishing in Prison, and we all know the story of how he was released from Prison and instantly became the viceroy of Egypt. Our sages were critical of Joseph, that he did display enough trust in God to release him and asked another person to help him. Here we see the tension between trust in God and our own efforts to bring outcomes. We deal with this dilemma daily when we work or are busy in business. While there are no easy answers here, ask any modest successful businessman the reason for his successes. While hard work and talent may be a factor, luck and timing (God) plays a major role.

We also see the event when Jacob comes down to Eqypt and describes to Pharaoh that he had a hard life. Again, the sages were critical of Jacob. We live in complex world, and with Covid19 things are much challenging and confusing.

So, how can we stay positive. In this teaching below, Reb Shlomo relates.

One who sees the light but does not hear the song, sees nothing. Yes, he sees light, but he does not see “the light that it is good.”

So, what does this mean for us? Was is this the song? While everybody will their own interpretation of this, for me the light may bring clarity, but unless we take the opportunity, see the good in life , ourselves , our family, and people, we are doomed for mediocrity and failure.

Let’s learn a little deeper how Reb Shlomo shares the light and song here.

Reb Shlomo Menorah

Channukah Gems - learning with Reb Shlomo זצ"ל

Chanukah Gems from Reb Shlomo zt"l

The Hidden Light and the Niggun

[the following is a loose free translation of a Reb Shlomo Chanukah lesson found in Lev Hashomayim p.167.]

Rebbe Nachman says that every thing has its own ‘niggun’- melody. Every country has its own ‘niggun’. Each wisdom has its own ‘niggun’. Every person has his own ‘niggun’. Every tree has a ‘niggun’. Every flower has a ‘niggun’.

However there are two all encompassing songs; may we merit to hear them.

The first ‘niggun’, is the Song of the Creation of the World.

Did you think that when Hashem created the world and said “yehi or – let there be light” – that He commanded it to be, in the manner of a police officer making commands?

Hashem said “Yehi or” with a ‘niggun’ – [He sang the world into being.] This is understood.

One who sees the light but does not hear the song, sees nothing. Yes, he sees light, but he does not see “the light that it is good.”

Only one who merits to also hear the Holy One’s b”H ‘niggun’ of “yehi or” merits to taste the “Or Haganuz” – the hidden light; the light that is hidden within everything in the world.

Every one knows that the light of Chanukah is the “Or Haganuz”, concerning which it says “and Elokim saw that light that it was good.” Why do we see the “Or Haganuz”- ‘the light that is good’ particularly on Chanukah,?

It is because on Chanukah there are two important mitzvot- the kindling of the lights and “Hallel v’hoda’ah” – praise and thanksgiving – i.e. ‘niggun’- songs of praise and thanksgiving.

The second all encompassing song is the ‘song of the future [redemption]’; we sing this song on Chanukah. This song too is hidden in “let there be light”.

On the verse, “Elokim saw the light that it was good, and Elokim separated between the light and the darkness.” Rashi says “G-d saw the light, and that it was not appropriate that the wicked should have use of it. So He separated it for the tzadikkim- for the for the future.”

I want you to know that there are those who keep everything hidden for the future. Listen, the Chozeh of Lublin was a Levi, a descendant of the holy Sheloh. He never sang because he wanted to preserve his voice until he would sing with the Levites in the Beit Hamikdash.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that Hashem hid the 'Or Haganuz' in the Torah. This means that one, who wants to benefit from the “Or Haganuz”, must study Torah. There he will find it.

So the Slonimer Rebbe asks if so then the “Or Haganuz” is not hidden!- the Torah itself is revealed light! The Slonimer answers, yes, the Torah is light, and still within its light, there is “Or Haganuz”- ‘hidden light’; if you want to hide something, the best place to hide it is in light - light within light.

When G-d gives you some light, you think that that you already have everything, because you do not realize that beyond this light there is even greater light, and beyond that there is even more and greater light.

It is somewhat similar to the Swiss Alps. You finally make it up one mountain only to realize that there is an even higher mountain further on, which makes the first one look small. You go up the next mountain and there you see another mountain even much higher than the one you just ascended.

So it is, and even more so with the holy light. A yid sees a little bit of light and he thinks, ‘wow! I’m wearing a kippah, I have tzitzit, I eat kosher – I am already filled with light.’ ‘Chapp nisht! - Relax!- Don’t grab!’ Further beyond, there is even greater light, and further beyond there is even greater light and so on, infinitely so!

Once one of the students of the Mezritcher Maggid went up to lead the Mincha- afternoon services, and he froze; he couldn’t utter a word. The Alter Rebbe went over to him and asked what was wrong. He said that he realized that there was such a huge gap between where he was and the supernal levels that he saw ahead of him, that he could not imagine how he could even open his mouth to say one word. The Alter Rebbe told him not to worry because when he will reach the place that he sees ahead, he will then see even further. So long as you see that there is a gap between where you are now and what you see ahead, it’s okay. But if you no longer see a gap ahead of you, then you have what to worry about.

On Chanukah, by combining the mitzvah of light with the mitzvah of song and melody- songs of praise and thanksgiving, we draw the “Or Haganuz” to penetrate into the entire world.

Then we suddenly realize that it all depends on us. When we see all the evil in the world- instead of getting angry we must know that we are responsible. The Holy One blessed is He, has given us light and melody, and we have the power to fix the whole world.

[this lesson is from Lev Hashamaim on Chanukah p32]

Rav Nachman said that every transgression you do causes you to hate another person in the world. This is because a transgression profanes the holiness of your heart. Obviously, the people who hate the whole world have made many mistakes in their lives.

I want to share something unbelievable with you. On Yom Kippur, God forgives us for all our transgressions. On Simchas Torah we sweep them out and with joy and dance. But when does God fix our hearts?[*]

[*] In the process of tshuvah, the focus is on regretting the wrongdoings of the past and making an affirmatively accepting to act correctly in the future. However, after tshuvah, there still remains the issue of healing the heart of the residual spiritual damage it suffered as a result of transgressing.

When does He take out all the hatred and all the evil from our hearts? When does God give us back the holiness of seeing somebody else's light and saying a blessing over it? When do we see that somebody else's light is SO beautiful? [] On Chanukah! [*]

[] With these questions Reb Shlomo is illustrating the nature of a spiritually healthy heart. Such a heart it is free of all hatred and evil, free to thank G-d over another’s light and heathy to see and appreciate the beauty of another’s light. – [*] The fixing of the heart takes place on Chanukah. To understand this, Reb Shlomo continues-

Chanukah is the time of Aaron the High Priest- the holiday of Aharon HaKohen haGadol. Aharon's specialty was making peace between two people. How can someone make peace between people? Aaron HaKohen had the holiness of being able to actually cleanse a person's heart of hatred. This is a very special blessing.

Each time you make a spiritual mistake you hate somebody. But you know what else? Each time you make a mistake, sadly enough, you love your children less. Your heart is not completely pure any more. Children need a pure heart. They need the purest light. So for the sake of our children, we better quickly cleanse and purify our hearts.

When does God clean our hearts again so we can have the privilege of giving over Torah to our children? On Chanukah.

The holiness of Chanukah lights is that they burn even in the middle of the night. We are crying, "If I make mistakes again next year, let this Chanukah light shine and illuminate and heal all my darkness. Let this Chanukah light keep me from ever hating people. Let this Chanukah light give me so much holiness that all the darkness of the world cannot take away my love for my children." Chanukah is the highest kind of fixing the world.

If each time you make a mistake you hate somebody else, let's face it, each time you make a mistake you hate yourself. Each time you make a mistake you get further away from your own neshamah, from your own heart. On Yom Kippur God fixes your soul. But when does your light shine again? When can you look in the mirror and see a great light instead of seeing a ‘nobody’? When do you see your light again? On Chanukah.

All year long whatever you do, you think is nothing. Whenever you do anything you think, "It's bad. It's stupid. It's nothing." This is because you think so little of yourself. On Chanukah you kindle a candle and you know it's God's light. You realize that you are bringing down God's light [to the world]. You realize that you have been bringing God's light down into the world all year long.

I want to bless you and bless myself that this Chanukah should fix us. It should reach the darkest corners in our hearts. Everybody knows that the nights of Chanukah are the longest and the

darkest nights. This means that the light of Chanukah reaches into the darkest places. In the dark night I suddenly realize, "Gevalt, this is God's light!"

[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!

Light is the level of the reaching higher than your 'self', deeper than everything in the world. You can learn something and know more or feel more. This is not the level of light yet. Sometimes you learn a word and it gets very deep in your heart. Suddenly you reach somewhere deeper than the deepest part of yourself. This is called light. That is where you have your house.

On Chanukah we want to wipe out pagan worship. In Hebrew pagan worship is called, 'Avodah Zarah' - strange worship. That means pagan worship is worship that you are a stranger to. You are serving God, but you are serving God like a stranger. You do everything like stranger. The whole meaning of Chanukah is that we are wiping out 'Avodah Zara', wiping out 'strange worship'. Everything we do has to flow from the deepest depths of our hearts.

Many of us Jews are strangers to our own holidays. We are strangers to everything holy. We do it, but who cares about it? We don't feel anything before we celebrate a holiday, and we don't feel anything afterwards.

Why are we losing our children? There is nothing in the Yiddishkeit that we offer them. If you tell children something and it doesn't come from the deepest depths of your heart, they don't want to listen. They are 100% right. To tell the truth, I don't want to buy it either.

I want to bless you and me and all our children that we should always find people to teach us about God. We should feel close to it. We should feel at home with it.

If we danced with our children each time they learned one more letter, they would keep on learning. Each time a child learns one letter it is mind blowing! If we realized this, each time a child learned one more word of Torah we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves for joy. Then our children would keep on learning.

The blessing that we say over the light is, 'l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah' - to kindle the light of Chanukah. We don't say, '…b'Chanukah' - to kindle the light on Chanukah. We kindle the light OF Chanukah. That means that the light is there already. We have only to kindle it. The light we are seeing right now is the light of my grandfather and your grandfather. It is actually the light of the Kohanim, the Priests. It is the same light that burned from the bit of oil which lasted eight days in the time of the Holy Temple. It's the SAME light. It is waiting in Heaven all year to be brought down through kindling of the Chanukah lamps.

The young people of today are not unlike the young people in the days of the Maccabees. They too have strayed from their holy tradition. We need someone like Judah Maccabee to show us how beautiful it is to be a Jew. Young people must understand that G-d needs each of them to make a special contribution to our religion, that only they are capable of making. Every day we are supposed to add new lights. G-d wants even the most alienated person to be a shining light. On Chanukah we see in the shining lights only the beauty of people.

Everybody knows that Chanukah is the culmination of the high holidays. We are accustomed to think that joy and bliss are the highest a human being can aspire to, but our holy rabbis teach us that light is even deeper. So after Simhas Torah, when we experience the greatest joy in the world, we come to Chanukah. Chanukah is the Festival of Light. Chanukah is when we initiate the Third Temple, which shall be rebuilt soon. It is the one week of Chanukah, when every Jewish home is a little bit of the Holy Temple, which gives us the strength to hold out until the Holy Temple will be here for always.

Chanukah has two outstanding characteristics:

On every other holiday you don't need a house. On Chanukah you need a house to kindle light at the door. On Chanukah when I see someone else kindling, I also say a blessing. When do I know that I'm at home with the Torah? When do I know that the light of the Torah is really my own? If I blow my mind over everyone else's good deed and I can't control myself, I have to say a blessing over it.

It is possible to live in the same house as your wife and children and be strangers to one another. On Chanukah every person in the house is kindling light; every night the light is becoming stronger and deeper and more.

Our age is the age of strangers. We're strangers in our own homes; we're strangers in our own land; we're strangers in our own religion.

Let this Chanukah open the gates for all of us -- the lights of Chanukah at the gates to show how holy everyone else is. Let this Chanukah give us the strength to bring light to the whole world, because people only hate each other when they have no home. So our light of Chanukah will show the whole world how deep life is -- how deep it is to serve G-d.

The holy Ishbitzer says the greatest blessing one Jew can give another is to feel at home with the Torah. So many of our generation are assimilated only because nobody made them feel at home with Yiddishkeit. You and I should be privileged to kindle light at the gate of everyone's heart to make everyone feel at home.

Chanukah is the Festival of Light, the one Light, the only Light. The Light which will save the world. Let it be soon.

Sometimes we blow out our own candles; so on Chanukah Hashem gives us back the light we need the most.

Chanukah is the holiday when the Talmud says, "Chanukah is a man and his house," meaning that the whole family has to come together. Because between husband and wife, parents and children, you can stand next to each other for a thousand years and be as far away as two million eternities. Chanukah is the great light when we see each other again; according to the Kabbalistic tradition it is deeper than Yom Kippur. It is the holy of holiest, not in the Holy Temple, but in my own house. We kindle the light by the door to tell the people -- the outside people -- who have not yet found their own house, who have not yet found their own soul, who have not yet found even their own friend. And we share our light with them.

All the hatred in the world is only because people don't see each other. Chanukah is the holiday that we are closest to the Messiah and, gevalt, do we need the world to see us one time! And gevalt, do we need all the Jews one time to see the holiness of being Jewish! Let it be this year. Amen.

Good Chanukah, Good Yom Tov, G-d needs every light of Hanukah. G-d needs every Jewish home. The world needs every Jewish home to fill the whole world with light.

Reb Shlomo zt"l taught: The holy Baal Shem Tov said that on the night of Chanukah even the lowliest Jew can reach a place that is much higher than the place that he/she can reach on Yom Kippur or Simchat Torah.

On Chanukah it is customary to place the Menorah at a height of lower than ten 'tefachim'- handbreadths. We do so to symbolize a very deep aspect of the Chanukah miracle, namely that on Chanukah the Shechinah came down to us 'lower than ten tefachim'.

Normally the Shechinah would not descend below 'ten tefachim' – this represents the concept that first we have to prepare ourselves and rise towards Hashem as much as we are capable – to a height of 'ten tefachim', and there the Shechinah meets us. However on Chanukah, we had all become 'tamei'- ritually not pure, nor did we have any 'shemen tahor'- oil that is ritually pure for lighting the Menorah. We were not able to rise to the requisite height of 'ten tefachim'. Nevertheless a double miracle occurred. First, we actually found a small cruse of 'shemen tahor', and second, though there was only enough oil for one day, it lasted for eight days [until we were tahaor once more and were able to prepare a new batch of 'shemen tahor']. Because of their 'mesirut nefesh'- the total devotion of the Chashmonaim, the Shechinah descended to our level.

The Greeks who basically did not mean to harm us physically, did however seek to destroy our connection to Hashem and His Torah. They defiled all the oils so that we should not be able to light the Menorah with 'shemen tahor'. They did not mind that we should light our Menorah, and they may have even considered it to be a beautiful thing to do. But they did object to our lighting it b'kedusha ub'tahara – in holiness and purity; they would not agree that there is such a reality of 'kedusha' and 'tahara'. They objected to the idea that a Jew has a supra-rational connection with Hashem, that we possess a 'neshama tehora'- a soul that is pure, that always remains connected to Hashem. And indeed they had convinced many of us that this was so. Yet there was a small group of Jews, inspired by the righteous women, who were ready to give their lives for Hashem. They said that the pure soul of a Jew cannot be destroyed, that there is an aspect of the Jewish soul that always remains 'tahor'! And this level of our souls is always ready to give itself over completely to Hashem, no matter what- at any price!

The miracle of Chanukah is that every one of us can [and therefore must] get in touch with this deepest depth of our beings, even when we are in our lowliest of states. This will often require 'mesirut nefesh' – readiness to go way 'beyond our selves', and when we do, the holy Shechinah descends to us, and we once again begin to ascend to ever greater heights, coming ever closer to Hashem.

As Reb Shlomo taught us, when we find this 'shemen tahor' within, that is Hashem's candle, and we are not only obligated to light it- we are obligated to light it at our doorways so that it will shine out and illuminate the darkness of the world.

In honor of my two Rebbes zt"l, the two great lamplighters of our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Reb Shlomo who did all they could to rekindle the Jewish souls and hearts of Yisrael, we bless you, and please bless us too, to find our 'shemen tahor', to kindle our lights and share them with the world in great joy.


Reb Shlomo Brodt z’l Pearls

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 Hi