Thursday, December 7, 2023

Parshas Vayeishev, Shabbos Chanukah, Shabbos Mevorchim 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayeshev

25 Kislev 5784/ December 8, 2023

Mevorchim Chodesh Teves


A former colleague who is a wonderful educator would address his students each day before the students began afternoon classes. For a while he would end each day’s announcements by bidding the students that they “be matzliach (successful) and make us proud”.

One day he announced to the students that upon further reflection he decided to reword his daily signature closing. He explained that he felt it was not correct to bless the students that they make us proud, for that should not be a student’s true objective. A student’s goal in school is to do the best he can and develop his skills and actualize his potential. True hatzlocho isn’t based on the standards or expectations of others, but upon being true to oneself. Although we likely would have tremendous nachas from their accomplishments that should never be their primary motivation. The goal was for them to be matzliach in their own way. From that point on he would simply wish the students that they “be matzliach”.

I suggested to my colleague that the new closing was somewhat lacking as well. There are many students, and adults, who are matzliach yet do not recognize it. Despite the fact that everyone around them feels that they are performing well, they feel deflated and discouraged.

The flip side is equally a problem. There are those who do not recognize that they are not performing at their optimal level but feel they are doing perfectly fine. Such students cheat themselves out of far greater accomplishment.

Therefore, I suggested, the blessing be reworded that “you should be matzliach and you should feel matzliach.”

This is especially true regarding Avodas Hashem.

Recently, while reciting Tehillim in Yeshiva after davening, I noticed one of my students heading for the door. Later in the day, I asked that student if he heard what recently happened in Gaza. I told him that an Israeli soldier in combat was running towards an enemy position without any ammunition. When a fellow soldier asked him where his gun was, he waved him off and said that his few bullets weren’t going to make much of a difference anyway. The other soldier screamed at him that he better get his gun quickly if he valued his life.

The student looked at me quizzically. Why was I telling him such an outlandish tale? I admitted to him that the story hadn’t happened in Gaza. But in a sense, it happened that morning after shachris.

If I had chastised him for being callous toward the situation in Eretz Yisroel, it would have been a harsh and false indictment. More accurately he has the same misperception many of us have. We often don’t realize or believe in the poignancy of our own prayers. If we realized that our tefillos and the merit of our Torah learning and chessed truly protects our soldiers and makes a difference in the ongoing outcome of the war, we would perform them with greater concentration. 

Yerushalmi (Chagigah 2:2) relates that the Greeks forced every Jew to write on the horns of their oxen, “I have no portion in the G-d of Israel.” The Greeks denied the idea that there is holiness and that a person can spread holiness. That concept impinged on their epicurean philosophy.

The victory of Chanukah celebrates not only the eternity of Torah but also our personal connection with the G-d of Israel.

As a rebbe and as a therapist, I can attest that there are many students in our Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs who excel in their learning and are viewed as stellar students. Yet in their hearts they feel like failures, bitterly and utterly disappointed with themselves.

It’s not enough to be successful, one must recognize and feel successful as well.    

Rav Nachman of Breslev (and others) note that when we light Chanukah candles and for the first half hour afterwards, our homes are elevated and attain the kedusha of the Beis Hamikdash and we have the kedusha of the Kohain Gadol.

It is not just on Chanukah when we light the Menorah that our Avodas Hashem is precious. That is how we must view ourselves constantly. We should not serve Hashem primarily out of feelings of guilt and inadequacy. True Avodas Hashem is performed with simcha in knowing our value and how precious our tefillah, Torah and avodah is to Hashem.   


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

Freilichen & Lichtig Chanukah,

        R’ Dani and Chani Staum