Friday, December 7, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev
23 Kislev 5773/December 7, 2012

What a delightful Holiday Chanukah is; a holiday of light and a celebration of the divine. The customs and traditions of Chanukah add to the joy of the day, as we play dreidel and then eat latkes and donuts until we ourselves feel like an unbalanced dreidel.
But I would like to call your attention to the week before Chanukah when there is an extraordinary series of days which most of us hardly think to associate together:
The nineteenth of Kislev is a day of great celebration for Chabad Chassidim. It is the anniversary of the release of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, the holy Ba’al HaTanya, Rav Schneur Zalman of Liadi, from jail in 1798. Lubavitcher Chassidim consider the day the ‘Rosh Hashana of Chassidus’ and celebrate it with great fanfare. [In addition it is the yahrtzeit of the Maggid of Mezritch, one of the greatest students of the Ba’al Shem Tov, who died on 19 Kislev 26 years before the Ba’al Hatanya’s release from prison.]
The twentieth of Kislev is the yahrtzeit of Rav Yitzchok Hutner zt’l, the legendary Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin. Rav Hutner was a deep and profound thinker who inspired thousands of students through his unique and penetrating analysis of many ideas contained in the Torah, specifically connected to the holidays. Rav Hutner possessed a regal bearing and exuded the majesty of Torah.
The commemoration of his yahrtzeit is not only observed in Yeshiva Chaim Berlin but also has connection with other yeshivos founded by Rav Hutner’s disciples, such as Yeshiva Sha’ar Yoshuv in Far Rockaway, founded by his student Rav Shlomo Freifeld zt’l, and Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, founded by his student Rav Noach Weinberg zt’l.
The twenty first of Kislev is a day of celebration for Satmar Chassidim. It is the anniversary of the day of the release of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt’l, from the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp on December 4, 1944. The Rebbe was one of 1,685 people who were part of the famed ‘Kastner train’ which Dr. Rudolph Kastner arranged through clandestine negotiations (bribing) with the infamous Nazi, Adolph Eichmann.
[On a more humorous note, this year the night of December 4th coincided with 21 Kislev. In ma’ariv prayers of that night we began reciting ‘V’sayn Tal Umatar’ during Shemoneh esrei, an addition of two words. It has been said that on that night Yekkishe Jews1 tell their wives that they will return home from ma’ariv late due to the insertion of two added words…]
For some time my Zaydei, Rav Yaakov Meir Kohn zt’l, was the Rav of the Slonimer Shul in New York’s Lower East Side. On one occasion he was invited to speak at a sheva berachos of a most unique marriage. The groom’s side was of Satmar Chassidic descent, while the Bride’s side was a blend of Litvishe and Chabad descent.
My Zaydei noted that their marriage granted him a new insight into the great dream of Yaakov Avinu (recorded in Parshas Vayetzei, Bereishis 28:12-17). The verse states that in his dream Yaakov envisioned a"סלם" (sulam - ladder) that was implanted in the ground with its head reaching the heavens. My Zaydei explained that he noticed that the first letters of the word sulam are an acronym for Satmar, Lubavitch, Misnaged2”. In his dream Yaakov envisioned the unity of these three groups, and that was at the root of the ladder which leads to the heavens.
In the week before Chanukah there are consecutive days of celebration/observance for these three groups. Each of these groups, along with every other sect of Torah-Jewry are a lamp upon G-d’s Menorah. It is incumbent upon us to respect the light of each of those candles. We may not agree with each other nor do we observe each other’s customs, but we have to respect the light they add to G-d’s Menorah. 
That indeed is the ladder that leads to heaven, and the key to the ethereal light hidden in the Chanukah candles.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos
Lichtige Chanukah/Orot Samyach,
   R’ Dani and Chani Staum

720 Union Road • New Hempstead, NY 10977 • (845) 362-2425
1 i.e. Jews of German descent known for their exactness and punctiliousness
2 The Jews of Lithuanian descent were often called Misnagdim – ‘opposers’, because of their early opposition to the Chassidic movement during its early years.