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Parashat Miketz

December 23, 2022
29 Kislev 5783
Genesis 41:1 - 44:17

Dear Friends,

We are in the middle of Chanukah, we have just officially entered winter, and the weather this week is here to tell us we are not in charge, in case that was in doubt after close to three years of dealing with Covid. If my tone seems down, I suppose that I too am looking for the light to grab hold of, as what the future has in store for us is a great mystery. But then I stop and say, isn’t that always the case?

We are reading the story of Joseph, Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 (Miketz -- at the end of), as we navigate the Festival of Lights that is Chanukah. Both the story of Chanukah, with its victory of the few over the many and Joseph’s ascension to a place of power from a prison cell, could not have been foretold. Joseph’s story is that of the power of the individual and the story of Chanukah is that of the strength we are able to provide to one another.

Joseph begins his story as a callow, self-centered youth; by the end of this Torah portion, he is second only to Pharoah. Some may believe that he is simply carried along and that good fortune is ultimately his after much misfortune. But Joseph’s transformation is so much more than good luck. He gains the capacity to understand his unique God given strengths and learns to use them not for his own self-aggrandizement but in the service of others. 

Joseph engages with three sets of dreams. The first set are his own at age seventeen and the second set are the dreams he interprets while in prison of the cup bearer and the baker. When he is eventually called upon to interpret Pharoah’s two dreams, he knows that his relationship to dreams are a portion of his gift. Joseph is the recipient of a threefold blessing; he dreams dreams, he has the capacity to interpret and understand the dreams of others, and most importantly, he is able to take what the dreams have taught him and turn those dreams into a workable reality. As we observe Joseph, he becomes an innovative man of action.

The Festival of Chanukah can be seen as the people’s holiday. It certainly celebrates a military victory,  but the true and deep miracle of Chanukah is all about the light. It is about the rededication of the Temple, the rededication of something that was profaned and made holy once more. And like Joseph’s story, this rededication and restoration of holiness is not an immediate response. The outcome of the story is unknown as they expect the oil to burn out in one day, yet it lasts long enough for new pure oil to be produced.

Both stories are stories of hope. Like one of my favorite poems, which I share with you below, hope is about bringing the light in and acting upon it.

The Gates of Hope
By Victoria Safford 

Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope—
Not the prudent gates of Optimism,

Which are somewhat narrower.
Not the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;

Nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness,
Which creak on shrill and angry hinges
(People cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through)

Nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of
“Everything is gonna’ be all right.”

But a different, sometimes lonely place,
The place of truth-telling,
About your own soul first of all and its condition.

The place of resistance and defiance,
The piece of ground from which you see the world
Both as it is and as it could be
As it will be;

The place from which you glimpse not only struggle
But the joy of the struggle.

And we stand there, beckoning and calling,
Telling people what we are seeing
Asking people what they see.

Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom
Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sun, December 10 2023 27 Kislev 5784