Friday, December 23, 2005

Parashá Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40)

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40) Vayeshev 5766

GOOD MORNING! It has been said that every Jew thinks that he is at the perfect level of religiosity and observance - anyone more religious and observant is a fanatic, anyone less is a disbeliever. However, one thing for sure, underneath the perhaps displeasure and even disbelief that everyone can't have the same intelligence to be on one's own level, there is a love and warmth towards the rest of the tribe.
Hanukah is coming. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to touch the lives of those who don't have your love and appreciation of our heritage? The eternal question - how do you share with others without turning them off? Well, in addition to subscribing them to the Shabbat Shalom Weekly email at

Last week I left you with the following question: 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 Chanukah for eight days and not seven?
Here are a few answers mentioned in the Book of Our Heritage (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242):
The first day commemorates the military victory.
The discovery of the one remaining jar of oil marked with the Cohen Gadol's seal was a miracle. One day is celebrated for this.
The discovered oil was divided into eight portions to last the eight days required for the production of new oil. Until new oil could be produced, the Menorah would be lit only briefly each night. Miraculously, the small portion of oil burned the entire day. Thus, each of the eight days was a miracle.
All the oil was emptied into the Menorah, but after the lamps had burned all night, they were found the next morning still filled with oil. Therefore, each day was a miracle.
The very fact that our ancestors did not despair from lighting the lamps the first day, though they knew that they would not be able to light again until new pure oil could be produced in eight days' time, was a great miracle. It is this optimism which enables the Jewish people to endure through all generations and every exile!
It is fascinating that most of what Western Culture holds dear - sports, art, music - comes from the Hellenistic influence. Hanukah was not a nationalistic battle for political independence. It was a war for values. Ever wonder what the world would have lost had the Jews not beat the Greeks?
All of the values that we hold dear for an utopian society come from our Torah heritage: (a) Respect for Life, (b) World Peace,(c) Justice and Equality, (d) Universal Education, (e) Family Values, (f) Social Responsibility. If you are intrigued, then check out the free downloadable Aish Hanukah movie at .
For more on "Hanukah" go to!

Hear classes on... HANUKAH Download to Go or Listen FREE On-Line

Torah Portion of the WeekVayeshev

This week's portion includes four stories:
The selling of Yosef (Joseph) as a slave by his brothers - which eventually positioned Yosef to be second in command in Egypt and enabled him to save the known world from famine.
The indiscretion of Yehuda (Judah) with Tamar (Tamar)...
The attempted seduction of Yosef by Potifar's wife, which ends with her framing Yosef and having him imprisoned.
Yosef interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the wine steward (who was reinstated and forgot to put in a good word for Yosef) and the baker (who was hanged).

Dvar Torah based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
When the brothers saw Joseph approaching them in Dotan, they plotted to kill him. The Torah states:
"And Reuven heard and he saved him from their hands. And he said, 'Let us not hit a mortal blow.' And Reuven said to them, 'Do not shed blood.' " (Genesis 37:21-22)
What can we learn from Reuven that will develop our skills of convincing others?
Rabainu Bachya comments that Reuven wanted to save his brother, Joseph. If he were to have said, "Let us not hit him," he would have shown his brothers that his motivation was compassion for Joseph and they would not have listened to him. Therefore, Reuven added the word nefesh, a mortal blow. Reuven was saying, "I don't want you to commit murder regardless of who the person is." Similarly, in verse 22 he said to them, "Do not shed blood." He did not say "his blood." This implied, "I, too, hate him and it is not his blood that I am concerned about. Rather, I am concerned that you should not become murderers."
From this observation of Rabainu Bachya we see a very important principle when it comes to influencing someone. The focus of your arguments should be on points that the listener will accept even though your own focus might center on a different aspect of the situation. Reuven's goal was to prevent the shedding of blood. He wanted to save Joseph. If he would have told them to have mercy on Joseph, they would have disregarded his pleas. He wisely showed them that their behavior was not in their own best interests since they would lower themselves by their actions.
A person will only do what he or she perceives is in his or her best interest. Therefore, it is always more effective to present ideas and suggestions from that point of view.
* * *
Dvar Torah based on based on From Living Each Day by Rabbi Dr. A. Twersky
Hillel, the great Jewish rabbi, taught that on the first night of Chanukah we light one candle and each successive night we add an additional candle until on the eighth night there are eight candles.
Why did Hillel prescribe this method for commemorating the eight days of Chanukah? Wouldn't it have been more impressive to light eight candles each night?
There are two important lessons for us to learn:
We must always strive to grow and increase our spirituality. One never stays in the same place -you either improve or you fall behind.
It is a mistake to grasp too much too fast. Growing spiritually is like climbing a ladder. If you try to climb too many rungs in one step, you're likely to fall. That is why we increase the Chanukah lights one candle at a time!