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Torah Tuesdays with Hennie Black- Parshat Miketz

torah tuesdays parshat miketz

By Hennie Black

This week’s parsha, Miketz, is almost always read on Shabbat Chanukah, leading our sages to draw parallels between the story of Yosef and the story of Chanukah. One of the most striking parallels points to the nature of the enemy that both Yosef and the Maccabees faced.

Throughout our history, the Jewish people have had to contend with both physical and spiritual enemies. Physical enemies are much easier to define and recognize, as they are enemies who desire to annihilate and destroy us. Spiritual enemies, on the other hand, allow us to survive, but slowly endeavour to integrate us into larger society, causing us to lose our commitment to our Jewish beliefs and values. 

Both Yosef and the Maccabees faced a spiritual enemy. Yosef’s story of exile began at the age of seventeen when he was sold into slavery by his brothers, leading to his being cut off from his family and those who shared his belief system. As a result, Yosef could have easily succumbed to Egyptian life and the influences of a foreign culture that surrounded him.

In spite of the challenges, Yosef held true to his faith, his traditions and his past. When asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, Yosef said, “It’s not me interpreting the dreams, it is Hashem.” Yosef gave credit where credit was due, recognizing that he was merely an emissary of G-d.

This was a moment that Yosef could have taken advantage of to achieve greatness and power due to his unique ability to interpret dreams. Pharaoh was at Yosef’s mercy and Yosef could have asked for anything he wanted.  And yet Yosef responds, “It is Hashem who guides everything that I do.  I am just his messenger.” 

This was precisely the attitude of the Maccabees during the story of Chanukah. Although small in number, the Maccabees stood up to the mighty Syrian-Greek army and were victorious. They could have credited their success to themselves, attributing their victory to their determination, perseverance and strategic warfare.

Instead, the Maccabees recognized their success was due to Hashem. Indeed, their actions following their victory provides a glimpse into their mindset: On the heels of victory, the Maccabees sought to light the Menorah and rededicate the Temple. Their focus was to thank and praise Hashem for the miracle of winning the war.

When we celebrate Chanukah, we remember the miracle of our victory against a spiritual enemy. In spite of the Greek edict disallowing Jews to practice the rituals of their faith; in spite of the destruction and defilement of the Temple, the Maccabees and their followers held on to their faith. They wanted to relight the Menorah. Above all, they wanted to reconnect to G-d.

Today, the Jewish people are still faced with spiritual enemies. As we light our menorahs, let us ask ourselves the following soul-searching questions: How do we reconnect to our inner light? How do we rededicate ourselves to personal learning and growth? How do we recommit ourselves to being a strong link in the chain, ensuring our children and grandchildren will carry on lighting the menorah and publicizing the Chanukah miracle in the future?

Looking at Yosef and the Maccabees as exemplars, we know the response: We must respond with faith and resilience. We must rededicate ourselves to living meaningful and purposeful lives, bringing more light into a very dark world.

Chanukah Sameach!

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