Miketz - Chanukah Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum December 31, 2005 30 Kislev 5766 6th day of Chanukah
Today we greet each other with Shabbat Shalom, a Good Rosh Chodesh, and a Happy Chanukah. Each of these three occasions has an important and enlightening message. This morning, I'd like to explore the connection between all three by looking at parashah"Miketz," the start of the new month of Tevet, and the holiday of Chanukah.
Parashah "Miketz" continues the story of Joseph, who, as a young boy, became the victim of injustice and bad mazal-"luck." His tale of hardship began as his beloved mother died while giving birth to his younger brother, Benjamin. It was not long before Joseph was then betrayed by his ten older brothers, who deceitfully tore him away from his beloved father. They had planned to kill him, but settled on merely abandoning him in a secluded pit. Passing Midianites pulled Joseph from the dark pit only to sell him into slavery. Are the innocent mistakes of childhood that the sages said caused jealousy amongst the brothers deserving of such cruel treatment? Joseph’s hardships soon worsened. As a slave in Potiphar's house, Joseph was falsely accused of seducing the high official's wife and was thrown into prison. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine how lonely and scared Joseph must have felt. He had no allies-no friends, no family support. He tried to be good, but was taken advantage of by those around him. Betrayal, loneliness, heartache. Such tsuris ("agony")!
Yet Joseph never panicked. He didn't give in to defeat or hopelessness. He held strong to his faith in G-d, believing that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. He understood that his fate-his very survival-was in G-d's hands. Eventually, Joseph's prayers were answered and he was released from jail to become the viceroy of Egypt, second-in-command to Pharaoh. With G-d's help, Joseph had risen from the lowest depths to the highest heights.
Famed psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm has said that "The deepest need of man is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness." Joseph's deep faith in G-d kept him from ever being totally alone. This is the message of this week's parashah.
The second message is one of rejuvenation and renewal. As we begin the new month of Tevet, Rosh Chodesh reminds us that G-d has deliberately placed in the heavens visual signs to raise our spirits during the darkest times. By placing the sun and the moon above us, we see how light will always resurface after the dark. We are certain that the new moon will grow into a full, bright force, giving renewed strength and hope where there was none.
The third point of this triangle is Chanukah, which celebrates the miracle of the weak overcoming the strong, the faithful few overcoming the many, the pure over the impure, the righteous over the wicked, and the devout over the sacrilegious. We recite theAl Ha-Nissim prayer to thank G-d "for the miracles and the salvation, for the mighty deeds and the victories, for the battles that He performed for our forefathers..."
We place an additional candle in our menorahs each night and watch the glow grow brighter and stronger, signifying the ascension of our faith. The lonely shammash candlemay stand taller than the others, but alone, it is nothing. Rabbi Mosheh Ibn Ezra, the medieval philosopher and poet, wrote, "No one is lonelier than one who loves only himself." What good is the shammash without the other candles? Like the Jewish nation, the purpose of the shammash is to spread its light to others. Candles represent the illumination of the world. Chanukah reminds us of our ability to overpower the darkness as we light one more candle.
Rav Avraham Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, said the only way to fight darkness is to bring light into the world. We often feel the darkness when we are surrounded by negativity or lack spirituality. Lighting candles gives power to the inner voice that tells us that we are an important part of G-d's plan. We are never alone because our connection to G-d is universal. G-d is present in our homes, in our businesses, and in our hearts. G-d is part of us; therefore, we are never disconnected. Like the biblical Joseph, we should never fear the dark or feel abandoned. We stay connected through our prayers and dreams. As we light our Chanukah candles and bless the New Moon, we concentrate on our connection with G-d's light.
Just as G-d opened the doors for Joseph, so too will He show us the way. That is the blessing of our people. If we feel we are one with G-d, He will shine His light upon us in loneliness and reward us with strength and hope. Shabbat Shalom, Happy Rosh Chodesh, and Happy Chanukah.