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Parashat Vayeshev

December 8, 2023
25 Kislev 5784
Genesis 37:1 - 40:23

Dear Friends,

”If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week or ten thousand year- we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.”

-Sharon Salzberg

As we celebrate Chanukah, adding light each night, and as we read the story of Joseph and his rough beginnings, we are provided with hope and possibility in these dark days. This week’s Torah portion Vayeshev, "and he settled" (Genesis 37:1 - 40:23) is filled with dreams and their interpretations. Dreams happen while we sleep, but we also refer to dreams when we wish for an improvement in our lot. Joseph goes from being someone who is entitled to being a man who has begun to fathom that the world does not revolve around him and that being present for those around him will make a difference. 

With Chanukah, the rabbis ask us to remember not the battle of the weak against the strong but rather the miracle of the light that continued to burn even when there was not sufficient oil. By their emphasis on the light and the re-dedication of the Temple they turned our eyes away from the battle and towards hope. 

The verse by the prophet Zechariah Not by might and not by power but by my spirit (4:1)
was reinterpreted in a song by Debbie Friedman:

Not by might, & not by power,

But by spirit alone (“ruach!”)

Shall we all live in peace.

The children sing,

the children dream,

And their tears will fall,

But we’ll hear them call,

And another song will rise.

By the conclusion of the Torah portion, Joseph experienced all three states of being: the might of being his father’s favorite, the power of being admired and the realization that everything is not about him, thereby allowing his journey to truly begin.

And with Chanukah here, we begin ours. Chanukah is the holiday of light and re-dedication. May we not only work to remember our dreams at night but also the ones that fill our days. May we see light where there is darkness, find joy where we can and may we rededicate ourselves to act upon the dreams we have yet to fulfill - dreams that allow us to see a path to a brighter future working with one another. Let us recognize the light within each of us and build upon it despite the tears and pain we may be feeling. Let us rebuild and allow the light in.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyyar 5784