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The Shmuz on the Parsha

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

The Power Given to Man

Chanukah

“The main reason for the decree against the Jewish people was because the Kohanim became lazy in their service.” – Bach, Tur Shulchan Aruch 670 Almost every yom tov has a festive meal associated with it; Chanukah does not. The Bach explains that Chazal established these days as a time of “praise and thanksgiving,” purely a spiritual celebration without the normal physical festivities mixed in. He explains that HASHEM sent the Yivanim because the Kohanim were lackadaisical in their service in the Bais HaMikdash. The solution came about when the Jewish people showed a willingness to sacrifice their lives to bring back the Avodah. HASHEM then saved them through the Chashmonayim who were Kohanim. Since the underlying

14

problem was purely spiritual (the way in which the Kohanim performed in the Bais HaMikdash), and the cure was spiritual (the willingness of the Jewish people to sacrifice for it), Chazal felt it fitting to institute days of spiritual celebration, of “singing Hallel and thanksgiving.” This Bach is very difficult to understand for two reasons. The first is that while the original decrees of the Yivanim were against Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and milah, it certainly didn’t stop there. Within a short time of Antiochus’ armies entering our cities, any vestige of Jewish practice was outlawed. Any form of Torah learning, any mitzvah a Jew performed, was punished by death. The Ramban in Chumash explains to us that if it weren’t for the Chashmonayim, Torah would have been forgotten from Yisrael – the result being the end of the Jewish people and the demise of mankind. Is it possible that this severe a consequence could be brought about by something as insignificant as the Kohanim being lazy in the Avodah? What makes this even more difficult to understand is that there were other problems within the Jewish nation that seem far more serious. Amongst our rank and file were many Misyavnim – Hellenist Jews – who wished to be more Greek than the Greeks. They viewed the Greek/ Syrian culture as progressive and adopted it as their way of life. But even more threatening was that they did everything in their power to advance the Greek ways To advertise, call 718-513-9885

into the Jewish nation, in direct battle against Torah values. These individuals were so committed to idol worship and foreign beliefs that according to some, they opened the gates of Yerushalayim to welcome in their savior, the “great” king Antiochus. Since the issue that we are dealing with is the existence of the Jewish nation, and the presence of so many enemies within our own people seems such an obvious cause, how can the Bach say that the cause of the decree was the Kohanim being lazy in the Avodah? The answer to this question can best be understood from a different perspective. A city devoid of people There is city in Europe that currently has a population of — zero. No one lives there. Not a soul. Amazingly, it is a modern city, adorned with highways, factories, school buildings. . . The only thing missing is people. The name of the city is Chernobyl, and the reason it is desolate is that in 1986, it became the site of the worst nuclear accident in history. On April 28th of that year, the nuclear power plant became unstable. Radiation began leaking out, and despite the best effort of international teams of experts, the entire area quickly became uninhabitable. A 19-mile area surrounding the city had to be evacuated and is still considered


a death zone. The Ukraine Ministry of Health estimates that well over 125,000 people have died from radiation exposure from that single incident. Yet if you look at pictures of the city, nothing is unusual. The streets are nicely laid out, the telephone poles are neatly arranged along each street, and the school yards are all bedecked with swings and slides. The only thing absent is any living creature. Because, exposure to the amount of radiation still present, is lethal. Modern man has discovered that there are powerful forces in nature, forces that can power neighborhoods, forces that when released can blow up entire cities. Yet the human eye doesn’t see them. The unschooled mind isn’t even aware of them. When looking at a rock, you and I see an inert object, but a scientist sees mostly hollow space with electrons spinning around in high velocity orbits, particles in constant motion. Chazal tell us that no particle of physicality exists without a spiritual counterpart keeping it in existence. While the human eye sees rocks, stones and trees, underneath the surface are powerful spiritual elements keeping the physical in existence. Those underpinnings need a constant infusion of energy. When HASHEM put man into this world, He made him the steward of Creation. Everything is dependent upon him. If man uses the world for its intended purpose, it is energized and given the power to exist. If man uses the world inappropriately, he robs existence of its energy force. The Medrash teaches that when HASHEM created Adom, He showed him the beauty of Gan Eden and said, “Pay attention that you don’t destroy My world.” The keys of Creation were given to man. While man cannot crush stones with his bare hands, the spiritual maintenance of everything physical was put into his control so that all of Creation is dependent upon him.

work, it must be used properly. If the Kohanim were lazy with the Avodah, they couldn’t have possibly understood

This seems to be the answer to the Bach. There are certain powerhouses that HASHEM created to nourish the planet. One such dynamo was the Bais HaMikdash: the gravity of their actions. They failed to understand the underpinnings of all of Creation, and they weren’t operating the power generator properly. Because of that, the Jewish nation itself didn’t function on the level it should have. The result was that some became so weakened that they joined the enemy, and the situation was so desperate that it potentially spelled the doom of mankind. The spiritual nourishment of all of Creation was lacking. This concept is very applicable to us

in two areas. The first is that much to our despair, there still is no Bais HaMikdash in our days. However, there are still power plants providing the spiritual energy for all of Creation today: our yeshivas. While to the unschooled eye they may appear as mere buildings with regular people sitting over Gemaras, they are actually nuclear dynamos pumping out high dosages of spiritual energy. If we had eyes with which to see, we would witness the constant flow of high levels of spiritual energy – the power source of all of Creation. And so for our good, as well as for the good of the world, it is incumbent upon us to do everything in our power to maintain these sources of spiritual power. The second area is far more personal. The Nefesh HaChaim teaches us that each individual is a maintainer of worlds. HASHEM created many, many upper worlds, and each Jew is the spiritual power source for some of those worlds. While my eye may not see the results of my actions, part of the upper worlds either thrives or is weakened by my actions. And so we must treat ourselves and the consequences of our deeds with all the respect due to a maintainer of worlds. As long as we remain locked in our physical bodies, we will never perceive the true impact of our actions. However, when we read Chazal describing the effect of the Kohanim not fulfilling the Avodah properly, we get a glimpse into the effects of our actions and the power given to man.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier was a high school rebbe for 15 years before creating Shmuz. com. The Shmuz, a popular website that dispenses weekly Torah inspiration to 10,000 people across the globe, reflects the down-to-earth, practical voice of Rabbi Shafier. Offering refreshing parasha thoughts, life-changing hashkafa workshops, and captivating marriage seminars (like “10 Really Dumb Mistakes that Very Smart Couples Make”), Rabbi Shafier is direct, daring, and downright funny, providing audiences with essential Torah principles packaged in an enticing, enjoyable way. A father of six and grandfather of four, Rabbi Shafier lives in Monsey, New York.

Bais Ha’Mikdash – Energy source of Creation This seems to be the answer to the Bach. There are certain powerhouses that HASHEM created to nourish the planet. One such dynamo was the Bais HaMikdash: a powerful, nuclear reactor surging forth spiritual energy to all of Creation. However, for the system to

16

All of the Shmuzin are available free of charge at www.theShmuz.com or on the Shmuz App for iphone or Android. Att: Past issues may have inadvertently Sheimos, Please disgard this Magazine accordingly in geniza Thank You. To advertise, call 718-513-9885


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The Jewish Prince of Persia by Sara Yoheved Rigler

M

oshe (not his real name, lest the wrong people read this) looks like any other religious Jewish man in Jerusalem – dark hair, dark beard, wire-rimmed glasses, poring over a Talmudic tome in a yeshiva. No one would suspect that he is the greatgreat-grandson of a former Shah of Iran. Moshe’s life has had more dramatic twists than the Disney movie. He is a scion not of the Pahlavi dynasty, which was deposed by the Islamic Revolution after two short generations, but rather of the Qajar dynasty, which proudly ruled Persia for ten generations. He remembers visiting his great-grandmother, the daughter of Mohammed Ali Shah Qajar, whom they called the “Little Princess” until her death at age 99, who used to regale him with stories of growing up in the palace, in the shadow of the Peacock Throne. He also remembers escorting his great-uncle into a room of Persian expatriates in Europe; everyone bowed to his uncle and called

24

him, “shazdejeun, great son of the king.” Moshe’s grandmother was married off to an aristocrat whose fiefdom was far from Tehran. “In great aristocratic families, it’s not good to work,” explains Moshe. “All his life, my grandfather didn’t work, but he gambled and did opium.” One fateful night, when Moshe’s mother Mina was nine years old, her father gambled away everything he owned – his palace, his landholdings, his stable of Arabian stallions. The family was cast out of their home with barely food to eat. It was the first of three times in her life that Mina would lose everything in a single night. The family retreated to Tehran and was given an apartment in the palatial home of the Little Princess, Mina’s grandmother. The family had lost its wealth, but not its prestige. “People in Persia are very proud of their origin,” comments Moshe. “People respected my mother because she was high-born. Even if you lost all your money, you are still respected. Persians are very To advertise, call 718-513-9885

proud, and if you are aristocracy, it’s even more so.” But at age 17, Mina risked losing even her status. She fell in love with Charles, a European Christian living in Tehran. When she revealed to her mother that she intended to marry this man who was neither Persian nor even Muslim, her mother threatened to disown her. Mina did not back down. At the end of a raging argument in which her mother told her she never wanted to see her again, the door was closed behind Mina, leaving her on the street with a single suitcase. Too chaste to go to Charles’s apartment, Mina sought shelter with a friend. The friend took her to a large house filled with women and gave her a room. After some time, a French man entered the room. It turned out that the place was a brothel. She escaped and fled to Charles. Charles, at age 22, was a budding scientist and a man of eloquence and charisma. He went to Mina’s mother and eventually convinced her to accept


the marriage. Although Mina had a strong belief in Hashem, like most of the Persian aristocracy she was a lukewarm Muslim. She converted to Christianity

The Shah of Iran’s descendant tells his story from Jerusalem.

in a school bus. One day one of the school buses was blown up by a rocket. All the children on the bus were killed. Two days later my brother and I were in Europe.” They arrived in their new boarding school in the European countryside in a chauffeured Rolls Royce. None of the locals had ever seen such a sight. They thought the boys were from the family of the fleeing Shah. During the first phase of the Revolution, Iranians across the political and religious spectrum were united in their desire for liberty and to get rid of the Shah. Had Mina been a Pahlavi, she would have been executed. Instead, she was from the revered Qajar dynasty. Like many of the aristocracy, she made an amiable alliance with the new government. A year later, she brought her sons back to Iran.

For Henry’s family, the national chaos was exacerbated by personal tragedy. Unscrupulous Western concerns had been trying to buy Charles’s innovative technology, but he had repeatedly refused. Finally, two Harvard men came to Tehran and over a period of a few months implemented a carefully plotted scheme to win Charles’s confidence. One night they plied him with liquor and got him to sign his business away. Overnight, the family lost everything. A broken Charles went to Europe, where he tried to start over again. A few months later, the family was notified that Charles was found dead, apparently of a heart attack.

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They lived in Tehran and Charles launched a company based on his scientific discoveries. In 1971, their second son Henry (later to become Moshe) was born. Strangely enough, his grandmother insisted on having him circumcised on the eighth day. He was also baptized as a baby. He was not given a Persian name, nor did his father permit him to learn to read and write Persian. Charles wanted his son to feel that the world was his home; his fate was to grow up with no home. Charles’s business was successful, and Henry was raised in the lap of luxury: his own horse, skiing every weekend, vacations in European capitals, and an Occidental school attended by the upper class. He remembers the privileged precincts of North Tehran as “a paradise for children. People were extremely good and friendly, we had a huge family, and I watched English television.” His idyllic childhood was ended by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. “People were killing each other in the streets,” Moshe recalls. “I used to go to my school

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She approached a company that had been associated with her husband and asked to work for them. They offered her a lowly position as a salesperson. She converted

a room in their small apartment into an office, and started from scratch. Her efforts, however, were undermined by rampant government corruption. Mina went directly to Ayatollah Khomeini. Henry remembers the servants in his home during his halcyon childhood speaking of the coming of the Messiah. When Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Persia at the outset of the Revolution, virtually the entire populace regarded him as the Messiah. Mina, shrewd and secular, was an exception. But when she spoke directly with him to complain about government corruption, she became starstruck. Khomeini would not look directly at a woman’s face. Nevertheless, by the end of the interview, Mina had become his faithful protégé. Upon arriving home, she received a phone call saying, “Any time you have a problem, just call the office of Ayatollah Khomeini and he will take care of it.” For the rest of Khomeini’s life, even

26

during the most violent days of the regime, Mina enjoyed his personal protection. “The government feared my mother,” asserts Moshe. Several years later Mina had become a fantastically s u c c e s s f u l businesswoman. Meanwhile the Revolution had entered a repressive phase. The religious zealots began to kill off all the other factions.

Jerusalem. The boys attended a Christian boarding school. They were completely alone in a foreign country. They had no contact with their father’s relatives, who had failed to attend Charles’s funeral; Mina had severed all ties with them. Mina visited two or three times a year, taking them on vacations to the United States, Vancouver, Hawaii, Spain, etc., but even on vacation her attention was on her business. For high school, the boys attended the International School of Valbonne on the French Riviera. Known as “the school of geniuses,” it was the academy of choice for the sons of heads of state from every continent. Throughout his teenage years, Henry engaged in a quest to find ultimate Truth. He read copiously in literature and philosophy. He dabbled in Spiritualism, E p i c u r e a n philosophy, art, and theater. He experimented with Zen meditation; after just a few months he attained “a sort of Nirvana.” With shoulder-length hair and all black clothing, he walked barefoot around Valbonne’s campus. His quest for Truth did not take him to religion. Having been raised by monks in Christian schools, he did not take Christianity seriously. Having been exiled by Islamic zealots, he had no respect for Islam. His quest was intellectual, not religious, and Hashem played no part in his life. Then one day while he was in college, Henry had a mystical experience. He was suddenly, powerfully gripped by a consciousness of Hashem as real and immanent. This state, which was not drug-induced, lasted a fortnight. After it ended, Henry wanted nothing else as much as to re-experience that Hashem-

hanukah Bak C r ing u Yo

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His idyllic childhood was ended by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. “People were killing each other in the streets,” Moshe recalls.

Moshe remembers watching the movie Z in the home of the first Minister of Justice after the Revolution. Two years later, that Minister was murdered by Islamic radicals. “Tehran became like the Chicago of the 20s,” remembers Moshe. “People with machine guns were gunning down other people in the streets. They closed the Occidental school my brother and I attended.” Mina wanted her sons to become educated, cosmopolitan people. She decided that they had no future in the new Iran. A year after bringing them back, she again sent them to Europe, this time for good. Henry was nine years old when he bid his final farewell to the only home he would know until he created his own in To advertise, call 718-513-9885


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Discovering Judaism One evening while in law school, some of his secular Jewish friends mentioned that they were going to a Jewish class that evening. Henry invited himself along. As Henry attests, “Everything the rabbi said, I felt, ‘This is what I have been seeking.’” His Jewish friends soon stopped attending the weekly class, but Henry continued. He resonated completely with the teachings. In a bookstore, he found some classic Jewish texts, such as the Kuzari and The Path of the Just. Reading them, he was overwhelmed by the sense, “Yes, this is what I want.”

28

After law school, Henry decided that it was not enough to study Judaism; he had to live it. The Path of the Just, an 18th century text describing the ascending levels of character refinement and spiritual attainment, became for Henry a map back to the Hashem-consciousness he had

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known and lost. After law school, Henry decided that it was not enough to study Judaism; he had to live it. He made up his mind to convert to Judaism, but when he tried to make an appointment to initiate the conversion process at the city’s Beit Din (Jewish court), he was ignored. Finally he phoned the Beit Din and asked to speak to the Chief Rabbi “about something very important and private.” The secretary asked what he wanted to speak about, but Henry insisted it was private. He was given an appointment, but as soon as he told the Chief Rabbi why he had come, the Rabbi told him, “I have ten minutes, not one minute more, to give you.” An hour later, he was still engaged in an intense conversation with Henry. At the end, the Rabbi told him, “Come back in one year. In one year, I will accept you.” Henry understood that it was a test of his sincerity and persistence. The Rabbi did not know that he was dealing with the undauntable Qajar breed. A year later, Henry came back. After two years of studying how to be a Jew, Henry converted at the age of 28. Six months later, he married Noa, and they made aliyah to Israel, where he studies in yeshiva. Converting to Judaism meant forfeiting his aristocratic prestige, his mother’s approval, and all connection to his extended family. “For an aristocratic Persian, becoming a Jew is the most awful thing you can do,” declares Moshe. “It’s simply unimaginable. It’s shameful.” During the long conversion process, he never became discouraged by the prospect of losing all the privileges of his birth and upbringing. “I believed something,” Moshe attests. “I believed that Torah is the Truth, and I wanted to have it. I didn’t want to just learn about it. I wanted to reach the spiritual heights described in The Path of the Just.” After his conversion, Moshe had a conversation with his brother. “Why don’t you convert?” Moshe asked him. “You know Judaism is true.” Moshe’s brother replied, “I know it’s true but I can’t convert. I love luxury and comfort too much.” Sitting in his simple Jerusalem apartment, surrounded by his wife and children, Moshe ponders the trade-off he made in choosing truth over comfort. Did he get more than he lost? Moshe’s answer

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM AISH.COM

consciousness. As an intellectual, he trusted his mind and knew that what he had experienced was an unadulterated dose of Reality. But where could he find Hashem again?


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The First Scratch Is the Hardest by Emuna Braverman

A

friend recently finished remodeling her home. It was a big project that took over a year to complete. A few days after they finally moved back in, one of her young children took a crayon and colored on the freshly painted walls. “My new home is ruined,” she wailed to me. “My new car is destroyed,” whined another friend after a too-close encounter with a garbage can left a scratch along the side. And haven’t we all had one of those vacations where it rained or the kids fought (wait; that was every vacation!) or the accommodations weren’t as expected. “Our whole trip is destroyed,” I have kvetched. What’s wrong with all these responses? Life is not an all-or-nothing experience, and we set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration if we expect it to be. Living in a material world means that stuff happens, things don’t work, mistakes are made, something goes

32

wrong. We can either learn to roll with the punches and focus on the positive or spend our lives miserable. The choice seems obvious yet many of us frequently choose the latter response. Instead of enjoying all the wonderful moments on the trip all we see is the rain and the activities we can’t do. What about the different kinds of activities we can do on a rainy day? Instead of focusing on the moments of family togetherness on the same trip, we are thrown off by that moment of fighting (be it physical or verbal). It’s a brief moment that the kids forget about immediately but we may make the mistake of letting it linger, of feeding the flames of frustration. Instead of taking pleasure in our new home and recognizing that it’s a place for people to actually live in, we allow that crayon to really annoy us (on a deeper level, we can be grateful that we have healthy, spirited children we can draw on the walls – a budding artist maybe! Does anyone actually buy this argument?). You get the point. It all depends

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on how we look at it and what are our expectations. Perfection is not attainable in this world, not in ourselves and not in our surroundings. The more we seek or expect it, the more disappointed and frustrated we feel. And, conversely, the more we understand that this is a world of imperfections and that our job is to navigate our way through them with joy, the better equipped we will be to do just

Best to just get it over with and then focus on the pleasure.


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that. Fortunately many of these problems can be solved. Walls can be repainted, body shops can remove scratches, we can move to a different room or a different hotel. (The fighting’s a little harder to control!) But something new will pop up. Paint doesn’t last forever. Pigeons’ droppings cover our cars and it always rains the day we get it washed! But that’s okay. We can laugh at it and move on. We can teach ourselves not to look for perfection and to appreciate what we have. We can revel in a home well used with carpet stains and chipped paint and cracked dishes (okay maybe I’m going a little too far). And once we take the pressure off of ourselves and our families for everything to be perfect, we can relax and enjoy. The first scratch is always the hardest. It’s best to just get it over with and then move on to the pleasure! REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM AISH.COM

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THIS BOY’S LEARNING IMPROVED OVERNIGHT.

HERE’S HOW

“It just doesn’t make any sense!” Rabbi Cohen* could feel his blood pressure rise. Yakov’s latest Chumash test faced him accusingly, crumpled and covered in red marks. Yakov, of course, was nowhere to be found, having escaped to his room the second he heard his father walk through the front door. It was just another horrifying mark from a boy who was bright, quick - and until this year - brought home only Alephs. What was going on? Rabbi Cohen was shocked and at a complete loss. Was his kid skipping homework? Being bullied? “Going through a phase”? Lucky for Rabbi Cohen, he expressed his frustration to his friend in Shul the next morning. And that friend suggested he stop by The Optical Lab. The rest, as they say, is history.

had no idea why their visions were getting blurry. They innocently assumed it was time for new prescriptions, and so they booked quick check-ups. Chasdei Hashem! Dr. Sadeghi caught the underlying problem immediately. Not only that, he scheduled them for easy, simple cataract surgery – right there on the spot. He then performed the painless procedure right here in our Boro Park office. Within a few days, these patients were seeing better than new! Dr. Sadeghi is no newbie. He’s conducted over 15,000 eye procedures in his lifetime – over 20 this week alone. From quick checkups to comprehensive care, you can take advantage of his expertise - call us in the morning, and you’ll see him that very afternoon. No wait times, no hassles, no stress. We accept all insurances, and Dr. Sadeghi sees patients of all ages, from 3 to 103.

We met Yakov that very afternoon. Our on-call ophthalmologist caught the problem immediately.

We’ve brought him on board because, at The Optical Lab, we care.

1 pair of stylish, corrective lenses later, and Yakov was back to acing tests.

It’s why we keep our equipment state-of-the-art – so that you benefit from the latest and greatest lens innovations and technology.

This story is true, and it’s just one of many we hear daily. It’s why Rabbi Cohen’s friend recommended The Optical Lab. Because, first and foremost, we’re a LAB. We know our stuff. We’re not staffed by salesman and technicians trying to push pricey frames. We’re staffed entirely by licensed eye care professionals. Everyone you meet, from the person answering the phones, to the guy behind the counter is - at minimum - a NY State Licensed Optician. Not only that, but we have our very own Ophthalmologist, the renowned Dr. Mehyar Sadeghi, seeing patients in our office. Dr. Sadeghi is NOT an optometrist Nu, what’s the difference? Well, our ophthalmologist not only writes prescriptions, he catches and cures larger issues. In fact, just this past month, Dr. Sadeghi has already caught cataracts in two of our patients’ eyes. These men

It’s also why we’ve recently upgraded our facilities, providing FREE digital and high tech coatings to all our customers. That’s right, you read the above correctly – every time you buy a pair of glasses, we upgrade your lenses with a super hydrophobic coating 100% FREE. These lenses are the latest breakthrough in lens technology, helping you see better, clearer and farther. It’s very easy fix symptoms, but noticing and curing an underlying issue takes immense skill and years of experience. At the Optical Lab, we have both. It’s how we were able to spot Yakov Cohen’s issue immediately, and it’s how we’re able to serve you with the highest level of care. So the next time you or one of your children needs a checkup, or a new pair of lenses, come check out what all the fuss is about. We’ll be happy to ‘see’ you!

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Chanukah, 1942 by Carola Schiff

Spreading the light in Nazi-occupied France.

M

y father, Reb Meir Shlomo Sommer, Monsieur Sommer as he was called in France, was a man of uncompromising faith, conviction and courage. He was the principal of a Jewish Day school in Hamburg/Altona, Germany until Kristallnacht, when the Nazis closed the school. In July 1939, my father and mother were able to flee to France on a two week tourist visa to escape the Nazi reign of terror. In France both my parents were interned, separately, in various detention and labor camps. By Divine miracle, they were both released and reunited in October 1940. Since they were Jewish refugees from Germany, they were considered a threat to France and were forced to go into hiding in the outskirts of Perigueux, a small town in southwestern France. In 1942, at the height of the Nazi reign of terror, there were constant “Raffles” – Jews would be summarily rounded up and sent to horrible detention camps and from there to the infamous death camps of Eastern Europe. Curfew times were

38

enforced and no one was allowed on the streets at night. It was a constant struggle to find hiding places to evade the Nazis and their French collaborators. “From a population of about 330,000 at the end

Since they were Jewish refugees from Germany, they were considered a threat to France and were forced to go into hiding of 1940, nearly 80,000 Jews had been deported or murdered in France. They To advertise, call 718-513-9885

represented more than 24 percent of the Jewish community.” (The Holocaust, The French, and the Jews, Susan Zuccoti p.207). During their internment and in hiding, my parents clung to their faith with tenacity. Against all odds, my father maintained his strong Torah principles, never compromising on Kashrus, Shabbos or Jewish holidays. He was a man of strength and kindness. He was filled with love for his fellow Jew, and always tried to help others in need. He would regularly ignore the war-imposed curfew, and at the risk of his life, braved the terror of the Nazis in order to teach Torah to Jewish children in hiding. After the war, my father was the spiritual leader in Vichy, France. Shortly after his untimely death in 1956, we received the following condolence card highlighting how my father managed to spread the light of Chanukah during the darkest time in Nazi-occupied France:

Chanukah 1942

1942 in Perigueux, France, a few men


hurried into a rundown wooden barrack. Each opened the door carefully looking around to make sure they weren’t being followed. They then went into a hidden backroom. This room served as the makeshift Shul for those brave enough to venture out. The “shul” barely scraped together a minyan of men to pray. They davened Maariv quickly, their hearts rapidly beating with the knowledge that at any moment the Nazis could storm in and arrest everyone. One man lit the menorah as the others ran to grab their coats and get home as fast as possible. Suddenly, a man in the back of the room stood up and in a deep, warm voice started to sing “Maoz Tzur.” The men were frightened and aghast. Someone might hear; it was too dangerous! Soon another man joined in singing, then another and another, until everyone was tearfully and courageously singing with joy. For the moment, gone were the fears of the Nazis. For a few moments, Chanukah was there in all its glory, as in days of Judah the Maccabbe, a few brave men stood proud, their faith prevailing over the evil surrounding them. The man who stood to sing was my father, Reb Meir Shlomo Sommer known to all as Monsieur Sommer, of blessed memory. My father had never told anyone of us his Chanukah victory during those dark time, yet even after his death, this story continues to inspire light. REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM AISH.COM

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Winston Churchill: Three Definitive Ideas that Changed the Course of History by Rabbi Benjamin Blech Delves into the pivotal role the great leader played in stopping Hitler

T

here is a frightening realization that strikes one who watches The Darkest Hour, the new film about Winston Churchill’s dramatic appointment to become prime minister of England in 1940: there was a chance that Hitler would have succeeded in conquering the world and effectively bringing an end to Western civilization as we know it. In retrospect we may claim that Hashem would never have allowed it to happen, that the evil which gave birth to the Holocaust would surely not have been permitted to triumph. But history has its share of horrors – and for righteousness to overcome wickedness Jewish tradition states that we cannot simply rely on miracles; history needs heroes for it to bend to the arc of justice. Jewish faith assures us of Hashem’s concern for our survival. Jewish faith also demands we share with Hashem the responsibility for combating evil and creating the possibility for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of universal peace. To have been alive in 1941, as I was, was to recognize the immensity of the threat to civilized mankind and the Herculean effort required to halt what appeared to be the unstoppable forces of the Nazi Third Reich. To say the words or even to think the thought that Adolf Hitler might have become a modern-day ruler of the world is to be overcome with the fear of

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an indescribable nightmare. Winston Churchill played a pivotal role in preventing the nightmare from becoming reality and the world from turning into a living version of hell. The Darkest Hour gives us some of the historical context for the film’s emphasis on the period of May – June 1940. The movie’s historical advisor, Phil Reed, director emeritus of the Churchill War Rooms, and Michael Bishop, Executive Director of International Churchill Society, agreed that “It was the most important moment in Churchill’s life and career and the most important historical turning point of the 20th century. It was really the moment when Hitler could have won the war.” Churchill turned the tide. The war would drag on until 1945, but Hitler’s path to world domination was stopped. And while historians will continue to deliberate, discuss and dissect the specific ways in which Churchill’s leadership proved to be critical for victory, I would like to single out three major ideas which defined his outlook, altered the course of the war, and continue to serve as a powerful legacy for contemporary leaders as guides for our endangered generation. 1. No appeasement Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last.” To advertise, call 718-513-9885

On 30 September in 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain proudly boasted of his great achievement in signing the Munich agreement: The settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. We regard the agreement signed last night and the AngloGerman Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again…. My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. Chamberlain’s speech, a pathetic attempt to justify appeasement at all costs and to defend a policy which rewards aggressors while looking away from their victims, is primarily remembered for its ironic value: less than a year after the agreement Hitler’s continued aggression and his invasion of Poland was followed by declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom. Thankfully Chamberlain was succeeded by Churchill – who understood that appeasing those whose seek your destruction makes it easier for them to achieve their goals in the future.


“This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill In perhaps Churchill’s most powerful speech he did not hide from his constituents that in the pursuit of the common goal for England’s peace, security and survival he was offering his people “blood, sweat and tears.” It is a truth which needs always to be reemphasized. Our ideals come with a price, our values at a cost. There will always be threats which seem insurmountable. They need to be countered with convictions of honor and good sense. Democracy today again faces severe challenges. Israel in particular confronts the age-old hatreds of countless enemies. Remarkably, Churchill chose to emphasize the very message of the forthcoming Hanukkah holiday – never yield to the overwhelming might of the

P U R C H A S E

3. Courage to fight for your principles “You have enemies? Good. It means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” All too often we define ourselves by our friends. Perhaps far more significant is the recognition and acknowledgment of our enemies. America has enemies – because the American way of life esteems democratic values which threaten cultures of discrimination and countries of fascism and dictatorship. Jews have enemies – because anti-Semitism is all too fashionable as scapegoat for political and religious injustices. A life of principle calls for courage to speak out not only for the good but also against the evil, to appreciate your friends but also to condemn your enemies. On one of Churchill’s last visits to the United States he was asked by a reporter what it was that first led him into politics. Without hesitation came the answer: “Ambition.” “And what, sir,” the reporter continued, “kept you there

Y O U R

C H A N U K A H

G I F T

all these years?” Without a beat Churchill answered “Anger!” Ambition was certainly an important motivation for Churchill to enter politics. However to endure all the difficulties of leadership, the personal attacks, the demanding decisions, the sleepless nights and the unending stress, there was a more profound motive: anger at those who saw nothing wrong in appeasing the Hitlers of the world instead of opposing them; anger at those who idolized barbarism and idealized racism; anger at the inhuman cruelty and tyranny of Bolshevism and Nazi-ism; and anger at those who felt content to remain mere spectators of history, no matter how criminal its direction, rather than becoming involved in shaping its destiny toward the good and the righteous. Of course Churchill had his faults. Historians have not overlooked his personal failings. But what makes this film so necessary and the overview of his world outlook so necessary is that it reminds us how much the world today needs leadership – leadership of courage, leadership of strength, and most important of all leadership of wisdom.

AT . . .

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enemy just as the Maccabees proved that “the few can overcome the many”.

2. Never give in


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Cooking Olive Oil This Chanukkah celebrate the miracle of olive oil with these delicious, healthy di ps. 60

We all love Chanukkah, the festival that celebrates the miracle that occurred in Israel two millennium ago.. The miracle happened with the oil of the humble olive, one of the seven species of the land of Israel. When pressed and under duress, the olive produces a magnificent drop of pure oil. And what is magnificent as well as miraculous about olive oil? It’s not just that the chemical properties in the oil ignite to produce a strong and steady flame that chases away the darkness. That’s incredible enough! It’s not just that olive oil can be soothingly rubbed on our dry, chapped and irritated skin to provide instant relief, as well as being used in healing massage for aching muscles. That’s another couple of reasons to be grateful! There is even a very high level content of a specific type of very beneficial monounsaturated fat, (particularly oleic acid) uniquely abundant in olive oil that many studies suggest can be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. There is also evidence that the anti-oxidants in olive oil improve cholesterol regulators and increase LDL cholesterol reduction. Olive oil is even purported to have other anti-inflammatory and anti-hypertension effects! This Hanukkah celebrate the miracle of olive oil with these delicious, healthy dips that can be lavished generously on salads, baked fish, cooked whole grains like brown rice, millet and quinoa or on oven-baked latkes. Since the miracle occurred with olive oil, we can enhance our deep sense of appreciation for the gift of life and commemorate our celebration of life by eating these very healthy, life-enhancing dips. Each one contains ingredients rich with anti-cancer and heart-sustaining properties. Wholesome, vibrant ingredients like turmeric, basil, garlic, nuts, fresh parsley and tomatoes, all combined with olive oil can have a truly miraculous effect on our health.

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Chanukah Pesto ¼ cup of walnuts 1-2 cups of fresh basil ¼ cup olive oil ¼ tsp sea salt 2-3 large garlic cloves 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice Blend briefly in a food processor.

Spicy Oil Tomato Di p 2-3 chopped ripe tomatoes ¼ cup minced parsley 1 medium onion, diced 2 large cloves of garlic ½ tsp sea salt ½ tsp hot paprika 2-4 Tb olive oil 1 tsp cumin Mix together ingredients by hand or blend briefly in food processor

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Turmeric Oil ¼ cup olive oil ½ tsp black pepper 1 Tb turmeric powder Mixed by hand

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Healthy Sufganiyot (Donuts) 3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 2 tsp baking powder 1 tsp cinnamon ¼ tsp salt 2/3 cup brown sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla 2/3 cup soy or almond milk (or juice) 1/2 cup date spread (or 100% fruit jam) ½ cup olive oil, divided Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir eggs, vanilla,

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liquid and ¼ cup oil in a separate bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Knead gently. Take about 1/4 cup of dough, form a small ball, and spoon in a tsp of date spread. (You can also use a jelly syringe.) Fold over the dough to cover up the date spread and keep the round shape. Generously coat an oven tray

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Boro Park buzz #116 Dec 10 2017 chanukah  

Bringing You The Buzz on Jewish Savings & Events

Boro Park buzz #116 Dec 10 2017 chanukah  

Bringing You The Buzz on Jewish Savings & Events

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