Hanukah begins this Sunday evening, December 2. For the past dozen years Am Kolel has emphasized the celebration of Hanukah as a festival that affirms religious and human rights. We need Hanukah to remember who we are, where we have come from and what we aspire to for our people and humanity. We strengthen each other when we come together as a community. We hope you can join us for this Sunday's Hanukah & Human Rights Coffeehouse and Kumsitz at Temple Emanuel. Proceeds will be distributed to CASA de Maryland, Torat Tzedek (a human rights organization in Israel), and Mary House. Light the first candle with us.
This week's Parsha begins the saga of Joseph. The Parsha, placed right before Hanukah, takes us into many places of darkness. The patriarch, Jacob, doesn't trust his sons, except for Joseph. Already disliked by his brothers, Joseph spies on them and dreams how he is superior to them. Some of the brothers want to kill him and throw him into an empty pit. Reuben and Judah are opposed to murdering him and so he is sold into slavery and taken to Mitzrayim. There he does not comply with his owner's wife who wants to seduce him. Upset, she accuses him of trying to seduce her and Joseph is thrown in jail.
Another dark stroke is the story of Judah's daughter-in-law Tamar, now without husband, being denied her marital rights when Judah refuses to give her his only living son in marriage (the laws of Yibbum). She poses as a prostitute and has intercourse with Judah in order to carry the family seed. More darkness... What is the point of this story in the midst of the suffering that Joseph is experiencing?
Out of these stories about life's dark side we are given, through Tamar, the seed of the direct ancestors of King David and the vision the Messianic Age. From Joseph we learn that Joseph "walked with God" rising above the darkness and reestablished the Covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Their suffering and soul wrestling ultimately leads to unity and healing. It is the will and, as Heschel calls it, the "spiritual audacity" of Tamar and Joseph that transforms their families and the future.
May the Light of Hanukah be renewed within us, Reb David