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Miketz

December 27, 2019
28 Kislev 5780

Parashat Miketz
Genesis 41:1 - 44:17

Dear Friends,

This week’s Torah portion speaks to us across time and space in the middle of Chanukah and as we approach a new decade. Miketz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) speaks to us about leadership and vision. This Pharaoh, unlike the one we meet at the beginning of the book of Exodus, was a man of insightful leadership. This week, I read two divrei Torah on this week’s portion that had a strong impact on me. One, by my teacher, Rabbi Jill Hammer, focuses on Pharaoh; the other, by Dr. Dena Weiss of Mechon Hadar, focuses on Joseph.

What does it take to be an insightful leader? Leadership is not easily defined, but it does take the ability to know when the skills of others whose skills are not our own might come in handy. We think of Joseph as being thrown into a pit, but the Hebrew word bor, meaning cistern, is used for both the place where his brothers threw him and the place where he was imprisoned. Interestingly, we know that a cistern would be a difficult place from which to escape, yet Joseph seems to do this again and again, escaping from difficult situations. As Dr. Weiss writes, digging a cistern is an act of faith; one has to believe that the rain will come and fill the cistern. It is very different from digging a well or diverting water from a river or a stream. One could say that Joseph has learned to be prepared from his lessons in the bor that there will be moments of plenty and moments of scarcity.

All of these thoughts bring us to Pharaoh, the ruler who dreamed and recognized that he needed help in discerning the meaning of those dreams. He needed someone who looked at things from a different perspective and saw in Joseph just such an individual. Joseph not only interpreted the dreams but gave Pharoah a plan on how to handle the years of plenty and the years of famine based on his experiences of scarcity and plenty. Pharaoh certainly did not have those experiences, given who he was and never having been exposed to the kind of misfortune that had shaped Joseph. The Pharaoh is a good leader because he is able to see just what Joseph has to offer in a difficult situation.

We can look to Pharaoh and see a model of leadership, one where we nurture one another’s gifts in order to create a better future for those around us. It is a model that sheds light, much like the light of Chanukah that grows each night as we add another candle.

May we see the light in one another and within ourselves as we go forward into the new year, recognizing that each of us has light to help illuminate the way through difficult times. Like the lesson of the cistern, the bor, we gather our resources together to enable us to come through difficult times.

Shabbat Shalom and happy Chanukah,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Thu, July 9 2020 17 Tammuz 5780