Kislev Dvar Torah

The following Dvar Torah is offered on the occassion of the Yahrzeit of R' Yitchok Menachem B"R Yaakov Morgenstern, 17 Kislev.

Silence is Golden: “And Hashem remembered Rachel…” (Beraishes 30:22) Rachel Imanu suffered childless for years while her sister bore son after son, all Shiftei Kah, to Yaakov Avinu. The Midrash states that Rachel finally merited children due to her silence (i.e., while Leah wed Yaakov) and her offspring inherited this proclivity towards silence. Binyomin remained silent though he knew Yosef’s fate(1) . “Yoshpha” was the stone representing Binyomin on the Efod and this may be read “Yesh Peh,” as in: “he has a mouth, but remains silent”. Further, Esther (descendant from Binyomin), did not divulge her identity.

The Kotzker explains that silence and modesty were Rachel’s essential characteristics. That is, she was unpretentious and engaged in Avodas Hashem privately, away from the view of others(2). This was Yosef’s spiritual methodology as well. Internally, he strived towards spiritual perfection while, to others, Yosef was a “misalsel b’saaro,” concerned with his appearance. Consequently, Yosef’s difficulties are not called “tests,” though his great-grandfather went through “Ten Trials.” Avraham Avinu A”H’s entire being was devoted to the exaltation of Hashem’s Glory before all the world and, therefore, these trials were seen by all – “nisayon” is from “nes” or banner, which flies for all to see. Yosef’s spiritual battles were internal (e.g., when he resisted the advance’s of Potifar’s wife) and his efforts towards righteousness were unintended for public consumption(3).

The Next Step: Chana
The source of our format for silent prayer is based on Shmuel I, Ch. 1. Chana’s heart was broken and she had retreated completely inside of herself until her prayers could no longer be contained. At that point, they burst forth and she prayed quietly but with great passion (so much so, that Eli Hakohen believed her drunk). Chana’s lineage is unclear, yet her condition and actions point at least to a strong spiritual connection with Rachel Imanu(4).

Month of Kislev: Inside Out
The Shem MiShmuel discusses the nature of this month. “Kislev” was formed with, and is associated with the letter Samech. It is related to the stomach in Kabalistic literature (explains the latkes and sufganiyot) and has the constellation Keshes, the bow and arrow. While the miracle of Chanukah is one meant to glorify the Kingdom of Hashem externally, the Samech and the bow are closed forms and, together with the stomach, indicate an internal focus.

Due to the Greek persecution of Jews and outlaw of religious practice, the Jews were forced to turn inward, especially in prayer. The Chashmonayim, the heroes of Kislev, engaged in desperate supplication to Hashem to save them from the Hellenist influence and persecution. Their prayers were modeled on Chana’s famous prayer – prayer from the soul’s depths, which may be compared to the Keshes. The force at which an arrow is shot is directly related to how tight the bow is pulled. Similarly, the greater one’s heart is contracted, the greater the forces with which one’s prayers are propelled.

Their worship had been internal and their explosive prayers to Hashem a result of the spiritual energies built from within. This led to a miraculous victory granted by Hashem and, ultimately, to the wondrous miracle that took place in the Mikdash – one that we are obligated to publicize. We are obliged to transform the internal avodah of Kislev to external glorification of Hashem through the Lights of Chanukah.

Moveover, just as Chana, the Chashmanoyim, and Rachel and Yosef before them, we are obliged to never give up in the face of adversity – but to turn modestly inward in silent prayer and private, steady spiritual development. When our efforts reach a crescendo, the resulting burst of energy will, G-d willing bring forth our salvation.

  1. Yitzchok Avinu A”H had not told Yaakov of the sale of Yosef in light of the fact that Hashem did make it known to Yaakov.
  2. A Kotzker chassid was overheard reciting the Shema in a very loud voice. The Rebbe asked whether the overt display was meant sincerely, for Kovod Shamayim, or whether it was for the benefit of those who were in earshot.
  3. This was important as Yosef preceded his Nation into the Egyptian exile. This internal spiritual fortitude, created under duress in a foreign land, was a crucial element of Klal Yisroel’s development during the bitter exile.
  4. Elkana, Chana’s husband, is called an “Efrasi,” which – according to some – indicates he was from Efraim, descendant from Rachel. One can surmise that Chana, too, descended from Rachel – which helps us understand more so her method of Avodas Hashem, the silent prayer spouting forth from deep inside one’s spirituality. Even according to the majority opinion that the family descended from the Tribe of Levi, they lived in the land of Shevet Efraim and would have been thusly influenced by the children of Rachel.
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