Friday, December 23, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Miketz – Shabbos Chanukah

27 Kislev 5772/December 23, 2011

I’m typing this quietly because I don’t want my car to hear. My faithful Hyundai Sonata – may it live and be well until 120,000 and more (it’s not too far off) - is still going strong b’h. But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, it’s showing its age and wear and tear. It has many wrinkles, coughs a bit, and can be bit grumpy in the morning. It’s also an experience to drive down the highway. As the speedometer passes 60 it starts to feel like the car is about to take off. Passengers have voiced their annoyance that complimentary peanuts are not served.

So the other week when we were visiting my in-laws, the topic of discussion turned to car salesmen. [I don’t know why these car establishments all have ‘used’ car-salesmen. Why can’t they find new salesmen?] When Chani mentioned that she had seen a great deal advertised for a car, my father-in-law countered that the advertised deal usually refers to one specific car which is has almost no features, including no CD player or power windows. Their goal is to get you to come down to the dealership. Once they get you to ‘stick your foot in the door’ they use their wily and slimy influence to ‘interest you in something else’, luring you into spending more on features you don’t necessarily need in order to upgrade to a more expensive purchase.

The ‘foot in the door’ technique succeeds due to a basic human reality referred to by social scientists as ‘successive approximations’. The more a subject agrees to small requests or commitments, the more likely he is to continue in a desired direction of attitude or behavioral change, feeling obligated to adhere to greater requests.

This technique is the logic used in car dealerships, providing a free sample of a product, window advertising outside a store, vendors asking people to fill out an optional questionnaire or survey, and agreeing to view a brief sales presentation in order to collect a free vacation (ever go to a Timeshare meeting?...)

Sfas Emes explains that the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles was enacted to be in the doorway opposite the Mezuzah in the doorpost (most people today light in the window facing the street, but there are some people who light at the door). The Syrian-Greeks had a particular obsession with destroying doorways. The Mishna relates that they made thirteen breaches in the Soreg, the fence which was the dividing line prohibiting gentiles from proceeding further in the Bais Hamikdash. He also explains that the three mitzvos they prohibited Shabbos, circumcision, and Rosh Chodesh are ‘gateway’ mitzvos, i.e. mitzvos that lead to higher levels (see Sfas Emes, Chanukah 5642-5643).

The Torah says (Bereishis 4:7) “Sin rests at the door”. The Evil Inclination seeks merely to get his foot in the door. Once he’s in, he employs ‘successive approximations’ to expand his welcome. In our time the Evil Inclination has found ways to penetrate our homes by bypassing the doors, and we must be wary of those dangers as well.

Chanukah is a holiday when we spiritually fortify our doorways, being careful to not allow negative influences to penetrate our homes so that our homes are islands of morality and Torah values.

In the meanwhile I ask everyone to please pray for the health and longevity of ‘Sonata shel Dani’. May the miracles of Chanukah apply to my car, keeping it going well after its parts should have ceased to work.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

A happy and lichtig Chanukah,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum