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Four things to keep in mind this Shabbat

ראש חודש טבת

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

1. This Shabbat and Sunday, we celebrate the new month of Tevet. Tomorrow is a truly special day since we do not only celebrate Shabbat but Hanukkah and Rosh Chodesh (the first of the month) as well. There is a wide range of customs as well as festive additions to our prayers, to Birkat HaMazon, and to our Torah readings.
2. This week's Torah portion is Miketz, in which the story of Joseph and his brothers continues. Three Torah portions with hundreds of verses are devoted to the difficult struggles and eventual reconciliation of the brothers who formed the basis of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Ten Commandments are quite short in comparison to this detailed story, in which there would thus appear to be a most profound message for us all.
3. This evening we first kindle the six Hanukkah lights and only then the Shabbat candles. At the close of Shabbat tomorrow night, certain communities will kindle the Hanukkah lights first and then do Havdalah and other communities will do the opposite.
4. And here is a fascinating halachic question raised in the Talmud: If you only have enough money for Shabbat or Hanukkah candles, which should you buy? Today this is only a theoretical question, Baruch HaShem, but there was poverty among Jews in ancient Israel and in later generations as well and so it was essential that an answer to this question be provided. The answer is Shabbat candles since bringing light inside our homes comes first and only then can we focus our attention on lighting up the world outside. With all due respect to our public mission, it is secondary to what happens to our private mission of radiating light within our homes.
Shabbat shalom, chodesh tov, and happy Hanukkah.


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