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Parshas Toldos 5775
Candle Lighting Time: 4:22 pm
November 21, 2014
Volume 11 Issue 4
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Dvar Torah


 By Rabbi Yosef Prupas


Our Sages tell us (Berachos 18b), "the wicked are called "dead" even in their lifetime, and the righteous are called "alive" even when they are dead." Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler explains that by not employing the gifts given to man that distinguish him from the animal kingdom, he will be unable to connect to his neshama, and therefore unable to elevate himself spiritually (which is, of course, our mission in this world.) Therefore, not bonding with one's soul is equivalent to death, and hence, the wicked are dead even when they are physically alive in this world. There is no greater expression of this than in this week's Parsha. When Esav stumbles in, exhausted from a day of hunting, he asked Yaakov for the red stew he was cooking. Yaakov responds that Esav would first have to sell him the rights of the first born. Esav replies, "Look - I am going to die, so of what use is a birthright to me?" With Rabbi Dessler's above explanation, one could suggest that Esav was referring to his choice of direction in life. He had chosen to die spiritually; he was uninterested in being connected to his soul and therefore of what use was the role and potential of being the first born. Esav died alive.


We can reflect upon this a bit further. The paragraph concludes, "And Esav belittled the birthright." Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner explains that as a general rule every individual is naturally endowed with certain spiritual talents and qualities. If he does not appreciate them he will lose them. The most famous example is of Esav belittling his first-born rights. Both he and Yishmael had certain natural spiritual talents inherited from their parents. Had they properly appreciated them and used them responsibly, they would have been great people. Instead they belittled and saw no value in acting upon them, thereby losing that holy heritage forever. After Yaakov, however, any rejection of these great spiritual qualities by his descendants became impossible. Why? How could it be that there should be an exception to this general rule?


Rav Hutner offers two answers. First, when a Jew does not seem to appreciate his heritage, it is not intentional. He is unaware of its existence. What lies hidden only manifests itself during hard circumstances when as a result of the crisis he will take on a vow in order to merit a salvation. If things do not proceed as desired, a Jew will nevertheless fulfill his commitment, demonstrating an inner commitment that previously had not existed in the open.


A second answer is that the average Jew never fully understands or appreciates the spiritual endowment that was imprinted upon his heart. Therefore he does not have the right to permanently reject his heritage; it will remain within him forever.


Rav Hutner continues that with the above we can answer a certain difficulty that arises from a classification by the Rabbeinu Yona. Rabbeinu Yona teaches that one of the lower levels of repentance is repentance resulting from an incident of personal sorrow. The example he gives is Yiftach who asks the elders, "Why do you show up only now when there is a crisis and you need me?" How could it be then that the verse in Devarim tells us that at the "end of days" we will return to G-d because of pain and sorrow? Could it be that our final repentance will not be of the highest in quality!?


The answer is that G-d only uses pain and sorrow to reveal the true essence and spiritual connection that lies in the heart of every Jew. As explained earlier, one example is when taking a personal vow during a time of hardship in order to merit a positive outcome; a Jew will follow through on that commitment despite a negative result. That is the true nature of the descendants of Yaakov. We will never abandon our commitment to G-d. At the end of days, moments of pain will only reveal the G-dliness that lies within us and therefore we will merit the final redemption. May we know of no more pain, and no longer need to demonstrate that the Jewish people will remain alive forever.




Dvar Halacha
Halachos of Chanuka part 2


By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi


The Shulchan Aruch [671:1] writes that one must be very careful with lighting neiros Chanukah.  The Gemara [Shabbos 23b] says that anyone who is carefulwith lighting candles will merit children who are talmidei chachamim (Torah scholars).  Rashi [ibid] explains that the candles the Gemara is referring to is both ner Shabbos and ner Chanukah, because by observing these mitzvos one brings the light of Torah into the world.

The minimal obligation is that there should be one candle per house, each night.  However, it is mehadrin min ha'mehadrin (highest level of mitzvah observance) for each person to light his own menorah with enough candles for each night (Gemara Shabbos 21b & Be'ur Halachah 672:2 s.v. b'lailah).   Practically speaking, if there are two [males] living in one house, each one would individually light their own menorah, with one candle for each night (i.e. each would light one candle on the first night, two candles on the second night, etc.).

There are various halachos that were established to ensure that it is clear that the reason why one is lighting the menorah is l'sheim mitzvah and not because of personal use, as will be explained (see Rama 672:2).

Both men and women are obligated to light Chanukah candles (Shulchan Aruch 675:3).  The reason women are obligated even though it is a mitzvas asei shehasman grama (time bound positive commandment), is that they too were involved in the neis (miracle) (Mishneh Berurah 675:10).  The minhag is that women fulfill their obligation with the men's lighting (Mishneh Berurah 675:9).  Some Poskim hold that a husband may only fulfill his wife's obligation to light if he is home, or even if he is traveling as long as he is together with her (Harav Eliyashiv zt"l & ybl"c Harav Chaim Kaneivsky, shlit"a quoted in Sefer Shloshim Yom Kodem Hachag pg. 262 ftnt. 27).  If a woman would want to light herself [even if she is together with her husband], she may do so with a brachah [according to Ashkenazic custom] (Shu"T Minchas Shlomo 2:58:2:3 s.v. u'v'misheh brurah [pg. 166]).  There is a machlokes whether a katan shehegiah l'chinuch (child of educational age) is obligated (Shulchan Aruch & Rama 675:3).  The Mishneh Berurah [675:14] rules that regarding a minor it would suffice to light 1 candle per night.

It is permitted to use any type of oil or wicks for Neiros Chanukah (Shulchan Aruch 673:1).  However, it is considered mitzvah min hamuvchar (preferable) to use olive oil since it lights better (Rama 673:1).  The mitzvah min hamuvchar is only with olive oil, not other types of oils. Therefore, if one does not have olive oil there is no hiddur with oil over candles (Koveitz Halachos [Piskei Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlit"a] 1:1).  All the neiros should be of the same material [i.e. all candles or all oil] (Mishneh Berurah 673:2).  The shamash may be different than the others (Koveitz Halachos 1:10).  If ready-made neiros light better than neiros one makes oneself, it is preferable to light the ready-made (Koveitz Halachos 1:ftnt.1).

The Gemara [Shabbos 21b] says one should light at the entranceway to his house.  The reason is because it can be easily seen by people passing by and also shows that it is not for personal use.  The Gemara continues that b'shas hasakana (in times of danger [when people's lives were in danger if they practiced their Judaism]) it is permissible to light the menorah inside on the table [i.e. in a place where it was shielded from public view].  Nowadays, in Chutz La'aretz the minhag is to light inside, however it is still proper to light in front of a window [because there will be parsumei neisa to the people outside] (Mishneh Berurah 671:38).  Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l holds that when lighting inside it is preferable to light by the window or the place there will be the most parsumei neisa, rather than to place the menorah within the above mentioned areas (Igros Moshe OC 4:125).  If one is lighting inside, and lives higher than 20 amos from ground level [e.g. in an apartment a few stories up], if there are other buildings that are around the same height in close proximity, one should light by the window (Koveitz Halachos 9:3 ftnt. 3).  If there are no other buildings at that height one does not need to light by the window (Koveitz Halachos 9:3).   

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