Thursday, December 7, 2017



Last year, as he was beginning his remarks at a fahrbrengen[2] he was leading, Rabbi YY Jacobson related the following:
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it here tonight. I was in Aventura, Florida for an educator’s convention, and had a flight that was due to land back tonight in New York at 6:13 p.m. I was concerned that landing so late would not leave me ample time to make it here, so I switched to an earlier flight.
“However, when I arrived at the airport that flight was delayed. Then it was delayed again, and then it was delayed a third time, following which they told everyone to exit the plane. It seemed clear that I wasn’t going to make it back. Surprisingly, a few minutes later, they announced that everyone should re-board. We were cleared for takeoff, and landed in New York… at 6:13 p.m. I came straight here, and arrived just minutes ago.
“This whole experience reminded me of another event that happened to me a few years ago, that changed my perspective on traveling and delayed flights.
“I was heading to Ottawa for a large speaking engagement, and then too, my flight was delayed a few times, and I realized there was no way that I was going to make it to the speaking engagement. I called the Rabbi who had invited me and arranged it and informed him of the bad news. He was incredulous. He told me that there were so many people coming, and I had to figure out a way to get there. I told him that even if I drove I wouldn’t make it, and there were no other options for any outgoing flights that could get me there sooner.
“My mind was still racing when I hung up, as I continued to contemplate if there were any other possibilities. Then I noticed an elderly chossid sitting nearby, calmly peering into a sefer. I asked the chossid where he was heading, and he replied that he was going to Ottawa to be sandek at his grandson’s bris. I looked at my watch and replied that it was almost sh’kiah (sunset); there was no way he was going to make it. The b’ris had to be performed on the eighth day and couldn’t be delayed. The chossid nodded calmly.
“I couldn’t believe it. “You’re okay with missing the opportunity to be sandek at your grandson’s bris?” The chossid replied, “You don’t know the vort of Rav Chatzkel of Kuzhmir?”
“When I admitted that I didn’t, he told me that every morning we recite the beracha thanking Hashem “hameichin mitzadei gaver – who prepares the footsteps of man.” Rav Chatzkel noted that anyone who recites that beracha and doesn’t have in mind that wherever he ends up that day is all b’hashgacha p’ratis, is saying a beracha levatalah.
“The chossid continued, “I said that beracha this morning. I thought that I was going to be in Ottawa for my grandson’s bris, and I was very excited about it. But the Master of the World obviously had other plans. So that’s the end of the story.”
With that, Rabbi Jacobson concluded his story, and began the fahrbrengin. 

In the home of my Zaydei[3], I found a sefer called Rachshei Ilan, a collection of the schmoozen (ethical discourses) given by Rav Yosef Leib Nenedik zt’l hy’d, the Mashgiach in the famed Kletzker Yeshiva, who was murdered by the Nazis.
In the back of the sefer, the author printed a letter my Zaydei sent him, in which my Zaydei recounted a schmooze that he recalled from his years in the yeshiva. The following the basic idea he recorded:
The pasuk in Hoshea[4] states “For the ways of Hashem are straight; the righteous will go in them, and the wicked will stumble in them.” A person has the ability to choose his actions and to decide whether he will adhere to the mitzvos, or transgress them. However, he must know, that no matter what he decides to do, the Will of Hashem will ultimately be carried out.
The classic example of this is from the events with Yosef Hatzaddik. He dreamed that his brothers would bow before him and he would be their leader. They were angered by his dreams, and did all in their power to ensure his dreams would never be able to come to fruition. They cast him into a pit full of snakes and scorpions, and then sold him like a lowly slave. However, all their efforts to stifle his dreams, only set in motion the trajectory which eventually culminated in the dreams being fulfilled. It was only because he had been sold down to Egypt that he eventually became its leader.[5]
The ways of Hashem are straight, in that nothing we do will ever be able to impede His Will from being carried out. The only question is what will our role be regarding the fulfillment of His divine plan? Will we do what is correct so that Hashem’s plan will come about through us, or will we seek to fight it, in which case the plan will come about anyway, with us being left culpable?[6]

The whole story of Yosef’s life came about because he was in the right (or wrong) place at an exact time. When he approached the brothers in the field, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to kill him and stage that he was ripped apart by an animal. Potiphar’s wife arranged for the perfect opportunity to be alone with him to finally seduce him. The Sar Hamashkim ‘just happened’ to be with Yosef when he had his dream that Yosef was able to interpret.
It was a long, lonely, and arduous journey for Yosef Hatzaddik, but it became clear afterwards that every step of the way was exactly as Hashem orchestrated. Everything in its time and in its place.  

Regarding the laws of Chanukah, there is also a clear emphasis on time and place. We never find so much particularity about both of these components regarding any other mitzvah.
The candles should ideally be lit at a height of between three and ten tefachim, and should be lit by the door, or by the window, or by the gateway outside. They are supposed to be lit from sunset until a half hour later[7].
Other mitzvos that must be performed during the day or night, can be performed throughout that day or night. But regarding Chanukah candles, there is a very particular limited window[8] of time for the lighting.
Rabbi Tzvi Sobolofsky notes that in regard to offering korbanos in the Bais Hamikdash, there was also a strong particularity on time and place [9]. The service of the korban was extremely precise and had to be performed exactly as the Torah commands. Those Korbanos whose meat was eaten, were only allowed to be eaten within a specific amount of time and within certain parameters, depending on what type of korban was offered.
During the time prior to the Chanukah miracle, the Syrian-Greeks sought to destroy the sanctity of Judaism and the Jewish home.
Therefore, when the Sages established the holiday which celebrates the defeat of the Syrian-Greeks, they added great emphasis on strengthening and celebrating the sanctity of Judaism and the Jewish home. They sought to create a connection between the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles which we perform within our own homes, with the avodah performed in the Bais Hamikdash.
In doing so, it fosters within us the awareness that our homes are holy, and we strive to live holy lives. The gemara[10] states that the basic mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is “Ner ish ubayso”, loosely translated to mean that there must be one candle lit in one’s home each night of Chanukah. The literal translation however, is “the light of a man and his home”. It is hinting to us that we, the inhabitants of our homes, are the source of the light within our homes.
It is that holy light generated through our performance of mitzvos and Torah learning within our home, that we seek to spread outwards into the darkness during Chanukah. 
Through the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, reciting hallel and expressing our gratitude for all of the miracles Hashem performed for our ancestors then, and continues to perform for us each day, we strengthen within ourselves the knowledge that Hashem is with us in all times and places. That is the light that shines in the darkness.

“Who prepares the footsteps of man”
For the ways of Hashem are straight”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Vayeshev 5777
[2] Farbrengen in Yiddish means "joyous gathering". The term is used by Chabad-Lubavitch, and is the equivalent of what other sects of chassidim call a tish. It may consist of explanations of general Torah subjects, with an emphasis on Chassidishe philosophy, stories, lively singing and dancing, and often with refreshments.
This particular farbrengen was in honor of Yat Kislev (19th of Kislev), the day the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, was freed from prison. Chabad celebrates the day as the ‘New Year for Chassidus’.  
[3] Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l, Rav of Anshlei Slonim in the Lower East Side.
[4] 14:10
[5] The brothers of Yosef were undoubtedly tzaddikim of the highest level. The Mashgiach must have meant that in regard to the fulfillment of the prophetic dreams of Yosef they were ‘wicked’ in the sense that they sought to destroy those dreams. Chazal explain that the brothers had righteous and justified intent in trying to kill Yosef. Nevertheless, in the bigger scheme of what occurred, it retroactively became clear that they were wrong. 
[6] I wonder how much chizuk my Zaydei personally derived from this thought, and if that might be why it was the schmooze he chose to recount. My Zaydei’s father was the Rav of his town – Seltz, and was brutally murdered by the Nazis, as was my Zaydei’s mother and sister. Zaydei, a lonely orphan, somehow escaped, until he eventually somehow landed up in Samarkand, where he met my Bubby (may she live and be well until 120). He never disclosed about his experiences during that frightful time, but we know that his emunah in the ‘straightness’ of Hashem’s ways never wavered.
[7] During the time of the gemara, after the first half hour after sunset when it was dark outside, people were no longer travelling the roads. Today however, when the roads are filled with people on average until 11 p.m., until then is still considered the ideal time to accomplish ‘persumei nisa’ – publicizing the miracle, which is the main objective for lighting Chanukah candles.
[8] Pun intended
[9] The opening laws discussed in Maseches Zevachim (which is about the laws of slaughtering korbanos) are about the validity of an offering in which the Kohain sprinkling its blood on the altar did so with improper intent about eating from its meat beyond the allotted time, or outside the permitted area. 
[10] Shabbos 21b


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