Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayeshev,
First Day of Chanukah
To be read on 25 Kislev 5763 (Nov.30)
Torah: Gen. 37:1-40:23;
Haftorah: Zacharia 2:14-4:7 (for Chanukah,
describing the Temple menorah)
Mevarchin Chodesh (the New
Stats:Vayeshev, 9th out of 12 in Genesis, contains 0 positive
mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot.
It is written on 190 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 28th out of
54 in overall length.
how Yosef shepherded with his brothers and brought bad reports of them
to Yaacov. Yosef was Yaacov's favorite son, to whom he gave a colorful
coat, but this favoritism bred jealousy towards Yosef. By reporting
in detail two dreams he had, Yosef provoked even more jealousy. One
day, the brothers went to shepherd in Shechem, and Yaacov asked Yosef
to go to them. Seeing Yosef approach, the brothers plot to kill the
'dreamer'. Reuven stopped them and suggested throwing Yosef into a pit
instead, in the secret hope of saving Yosef later. After removing his
coat, the brothers threw Yosef into the pit. In Reuven's absence the
remaining brothers sold Yosef to merchants who were on their way to
To hide their deed, the brothers dipped Yosef's coat
in goat blood. Believing his son killed by wild animals, Yaacov grieved
inconsolably. Yosef was sold to Potifar, captain of Pharaoh's guard.
Meanwhile, Yehuda married and had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shela. Er
married Tamar. When Er died in consequence of a sin, Yehuda told Onan
to marry Tamar and have a child to carry on Er's name. Onan died as
well due to his sins. Yehuda was reluctant to let her marry his third
son. When Yehuda went to shear sheep, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute
and became pregnant from Yehuda. As payment to the 'prostitute' he doesn't
recognize, Yehuda promised a goat, and as collateral gave her his seal,
wrap, and staff. Sentenced to death for unlawful pregnancy, Tamar sent
Yehuda his seal, wrap and staff, hinting to her innocence but protecting
him from embarrassment. Yehuda declared Tamar's righteousness. Tamar
gave birth to twin boys, Peretz and Zerach.
In Egypt, Yosef became manager of Potifar's house, but
attracted the attention of Potifar's wife. Because Yosef evaded her
advances, she became angry and accused Yosef of trying to rape her.
Yosef was subsequently imprisoned. He became the supervisor of the other
prisoners. Pharaoh's butler and baker were imprisoned in the same dungeon.
Each dreamt a dream which Yosef interpreted correctly: The baker was
to be sentenced to death, but the butler would be returned to his position.
Yosef asked the butler to mention him to Pharaoh, hoping this would
free him. Yet when the butler was released, he forgot his promise to
FROM THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:09-63
"There has been no harlot here." (38:21)
No element of impropriety surrounded the birth of Peretz and Zerach;
the entire incident was all part of the Divine plan that would lead to
the birth of Moshiach, who will be a descendant of Judah. The reason for
the circuitous and concealed manner in which this came about was solely
to divert the attention of the Satan.
(Rabbi Meir of Premishlan)
The proper time to light the Chanuka menora is "when the sun goes down,"
when night begins to descend upon the earth. For a Jew is never to fear
darkness, even a spiritual one, as even a little light of Torah and mitzvot
dispels much gloominess. Likutei Sichot (from L'Chaim #247) The Eighth
Day of Chanukah is a spiritual culmination. The number "seven" relates
to the normal cycle of events within nature. "Eight" has a connotation
of higher than nature. On the other days, our effort to overcome darkness
with light is only partial. On the eighth and final day, however, we kindle
all the lights. It is when all of the energy of the previous seven days
comes to a focus. We go all out. We live Chanukah. On this day, we can
internalize Chanukah's lesson better than on any of the others: never
surrender, even to an enemy who appears stronger. Through this process,
we draw the strength to light up the darkness throughout the rest of the
A MYSTICAL CHASSIDIC DISCOURSE (M:09-63
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALA (K:09-63
Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume
English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit
-- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630),
known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A
scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow,
and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed
away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where
he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.
The Torah reports Joseph as being 17 years old. This number was not reported
without good reason. We have explained how Jacob in his capacity of representing
the emanation tiferet, which is the home of the four-letter
Ineffable Name, embodies that name, and how in particular the letter vav
in that four-lettered-Name alludes to Jacob. We have also described Joseph
as a miniature dimension of that letter vav, and how Joseph too
serves as a kind of vehicle for G-ds Name in a miniature
way. That miniature is the mystical dimension of what we call
mispar katan, i.e. numerical values arrived at by omission
of all digits 0. [Thus, the numerical value of the letter
yud would be 1, instead of 10, due to dropping the zero.) The mispar
katan of the four-letter Name amounts to 17 (yud=1;+ hei=5;
+ vov=6; + hei=5; totaling 17). A way of remembering this
is the verse: hodu lHashem ki tov, praise G-d for He
is good; the numerical value of tov is 17. This is why the Torah
reports Josephs age when he was 17.
essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent
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In connection with the 19th of Kislev, the day of the first Lubavitcher
(the Alter) Rebbe's liberation from prison, the following is a concept
he wrote about his teacher, the Maggid of Mezritch, whose yartzeit
is the same day: "It would often happen that my teacher would verbally
express an idea, and although it could be heard, would not be understood
by the casual listener. It was as though he was speaking to himself. The
reason for this is that spiritually positive ideas enter the world from
very high and pure spiritual levels. The purpose of my teacher's unintelligible
talk was to allow that particular concept to enter the world in a revealed
By expressing those words, even just the letters of the
phrases, my teacher was drawing them into this plane and allowing them
to be absorbed and expressed by others, even by someone on the other side
of the world. When that other person would make an effort, in Torah study
and prayer, his mind would open up, allowing him to capture this idea
that my teacher had drawn down. Were it not the case that my teacher would
have drawn this idea into the world, no matter how hard someone would
try, he would never be able to grasp that holy idea, because the idea
was still in Heaven. This is why his speech was not always understood,
because it did not really apply to the listeners."
One of the commandments in the Torah (and the Noahide laws) is the prohibition
to eat a limb from a living animal. In this week's Torah portion, this
is one of the sins Yosef told his father that his brothers performed,
consequently causing his brothers to hate him (see Rashi 37/2).
Our tradition teaches that our forefathers followed all of the Torah laws
even before it was given to the Jewish People on Mt. Sinai. Yet there
is a question if a person could be considered actually Jewish before this.
Joseph believed that he and his brothers were not yet Jews, while they
were of the opposite opinion.
One of the differences is in relation to the commandment of eating a
limb from a living animal. This commandment applies to both Jews and non-Jews
with one difference. Once an animal is ritually slaughtered, it is permissible
for a Jew to eat it, whether or not the animal is still moving. This is
not the case for a non Jew. As long as the animal is still moving, it
is still considered alive and forbidden to a non Jew. This is one case
where by ritually slaughtering an animal, Jews have a more lenient ruling.
Joseph complained to his father that his brothers were not observing the
commandments properly. He was relating to the seven Noahide laws. The
brothers disagreed with him in principle, and resented his bringing their
father into the argument.
Rebbe Michil explains about this: What is the inner meaning in eating
a limb from a living animal? Every physical thing has a spiritual life-force.
The purpose of a Jew's eating is to isolate and elevate the divine aspect
contained in the food. When an animal dies, its spiritual energy is evenly
distributed in the entire animal, so that every separate piece of meat
has some of that energy. Practically speaking, that divine spark is what
we extract from food by eating during the week, and these sparks are elevated
on Shabbat. However, when an animal is still alive, the soul is a unified,
indivisible entity. Even if an animal loses a limb, the soul of the animal
remains intact within the animal, but there is no life force in that dismembered
limb. If a person eats from that limb, he is eating raw physical substance
with no divine spark or value! The eating is serving no good purpose.
Therefore, it is forbidden like other unkosher food.
Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter
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