weekly reading: The Doorway

B”H parashas Mishpatim It is notable that the parashas begins with the ordinance (mishpat) that a Jewish bondsman may serve his master for six years; however, in the seventh year he goes free. The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 216 years. We received the Torah less than two months after leaving Egypt. […]

The Doorway — Etz Chayim

G-d’s Protection

B”H “The pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, departed not from before the people.” – Exodus 13:22, JPS 1917 Tanach Upon departing from their former lives as slaves in Egypt, B’nei Yisrael was provided with H’Shem’s presence in the form of “the pillar of […]

parashas Beshalach: G-d’s Protection — Inspired Torah

seventh day of lights

B”H

by Tzvi Schnee

December 29, 2019

At the local health food store, here, in Florida, my other state of dwelling throughout the year, I noticed two chanukiahs (Chanukah menorot) sitting on the small customer service desk: they each had the shamas candle plus four candles on one side of the menorah. I mentioned to a cashier person who was watching me looking at the menorot; as politely as possible, with a smile, almost half-jokingly, I told her that today is the seventh day of Chanukah, so they were a little bit behind, each only having four candles.

When I got back to the house, out on the patio where I can reflect, while occasionally watching the stillness of the pond, I realised how it is quite remarkable in and of itself that there were actually two Chanukiahs with candles, sitting there at customer service. And, what is the significance that each only had four candles plus the shamash candle? This may seem like an extraneous question; however, chasidism teaches that everything has meaning. As my confidante on the East coast from years past, used to say, “everything matters.”

The message could be, “halfway there.” I.e., between darkness and light. That is because on the fifth day there are more candles lit than not. While on the fourth day, there is an equal number of candles lit and unlit. That great leap of faith from darkness to light is what Chanukah is all about: “The path of the righteous is as the light of dawn, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Chanukah message

B”H

“But know that the L-RD hath set apart the godly man as His own; the L-RD will hear when I call unto Him.”

– Psalm 4:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

We celebrate Chanukah, scarcely calling to mind the significance of the holiday, aside from the miracle of the oil that continued to provide light for the seven-candled Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash (Temple) for eight days. The rededication of the Temple, after regaining control of Jerusalem, was in accordance with it’s purification from all that was impure, having been ransacked by the Syrians. The effort made is contiguous on a spiritual level, inasmuch that the lesson learned by example, is for us to “clean out,” carefully, the impure elements of our lives, so that we may rededicate ourselves to H’Shem.

Then, when we cry out to G-d, He is more likely to listen: he will hear our prayers if we are on the derech (path), at least, attempting to walk in sincerity. Whereas, if we do not set ourselves apart from what is ungodly, whether in our own lives, or the environment around us, then our prayers will be drowned out, amidst the noise of Olam HaZeh (This World). Rather the message of Chanukah is to stand up for H’Shem, while remaining true to Torah.

Most Jews became hellenized by the Greeks, leading to a level of assimilation that would have destroyed us from the inside out. The Maccabees resisted the decrees made against the commandments by the occupying powers. Because of their zealousness to follow the commandments at all costs, G-d enabled them to defeat the invading enemy and reclaim the mizbeach (altar). Offerings made to the G-d of Israel constituted the significance of the Temple, the central place of worship in Israel for the Jewish people. Today, our offerings are misplaced if G-d is not part of the equation. Assimilation will continue to take its toll, if we do not make an effort to resist what is contrary to leading a g-dly life.

the Light of Chanukah

B”H

December 25,2019

A peaceful day – everything is closed. Yet, the door to life is always open. I’ll be taking a walk, outside today, after walking out the front door of this house. Mostly, I have been spending time on the patio, writing blogs; however, the path of life in the slow lane is calling out to me. Inertia will only take me so far along the way of relaxation, writing, and bird watching – all from a chair on the patio, enclosed by screen panels on three sides, plus the mostly screened “roof.” It’s like multi-tasking in slow motion, with the wind keeping the pace, rustling the palm fronds on the nearby palm trees.

I am spending Chanukah with my Mom, replete with the additional “blessings” of lighting candles, attending services, and observing Shabbat. Bittersweet, because my father passed away on the fifth day of Chanukah last year. So, the light shines brighter on that day, when five out of eight candles are lit; and, his neshamah (soul) glows stronger, with the light of G-d shining through the darkness.

2nd day of Chanukah

B”H

December 24, 2019

We have three menorot (plural of menorah) at the house; one for lighting, two as all day 24/7 reminders of each day of Chanukah. So, today, there are two unlit candles, plus the shamash (servant) candle on two of the menorot. Short of a constantly burning flame, this will suffice as a continual reminder of the holiday; i.e., the appropriate amount of unlit candles for each successive day.

As I write, I recall that the most traditionally designated term for a menorah that is specific to Chanukah, is called a Chanukiah – the nine-candled menorah. One for each of the eight days of Chanukah, plus the shamash. This type of menorah seems to have become more standard as a symbol in general, than the seven-candled menorah that was designated for use in the Beis HaMikdash, at leat, in regard to synagogues, because it is not acceptable, according to halachah (Judaic law) to have a seven-candled menorah associated with a synagogue. Only in the Beis HaMikdash (Temple); and, we await the building of the Third Temple. In fact, there is a carefully constructed seven-candled menorah awaiting that day, currently on display in Jerusalem.

Until that day, the Chanukiah seems popular: there is a nine-candled menorah design on the ark, where I attend synagogue in Arizona. Also, here, in Florida, where I attend synagogue, there is a nine-candled menorah with lightbulb fixtures, on the most prominent external wall of the synagogue. Yesterday morning, the lightbulb fixtures were lit in accordance with the first day of Chanukah. I imagine the same is in effect for today as well.

We need these constant reminders, so that our souls become infused with what is godly in our lives – the spiritual significance of the times. The light of Chanukah should permeate our thoughts for these eight days. We should glow like the menorah, and shine in the darkness. Spread the light to others by lighting up the way for those who are unable to see the positive side of life. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Vayeishev – Judah’s Teshuvah — Clearly Torah

B”H Torah Insight for parashas Vayeishev 5780 Judah, the first ba’al teshuvah (penitent),by Tzvi Schnee (21 Kislev 5780) Yes, he was the first to leave the derech (path), and the first to return: as is written, “Judah went down from his brothers,” depicting his spiritual descent when he left the company of his brethren; consequently, […]

Vayeishev – Judah’s Teshuvah — Clearly Torah

parashas Vayishlach 5780 – Diminished Merit — Inspired Torah

B”H Shiur for parashas Vayislach 5780 “Jacob sent messengers (malachim).” – Genesis 32:4 According to Sforno, Jacob sent messengers, in order to find out Esau’s state of mind concerning him (Sforno, sefaria.org). Jacob had spent twenty years working for his Uncle Laban; now, Jacob was returning to his native land, as stated in Genesis 31:13. […]

parashas Vayishlach 5780 – Diminished Merit — Inspired Torah