We’re approaching Hanukah! This past Sunday night, at our Hanukah Human Rights Coffeehouse, we lit the Shamash. Each table had a Hanukiah and each Shamash was dedicated to a different human rights struggle in the world today.
This holiday, wisely placed by our sages when the days are short and darkest, draws us into the light of hope and redemption. We are reminded to actively participate in bringing Light and Redemption into our lives and into this world. For each light and for each day of Hanukah we have an opportunity to make a special dedication and do an action.
The word Hanukah also means “dedication.” What might those eight lights or days be dedicated to? For many of us this time of year we send donations to various causes, some local, others national and international. So, when lighting a candle, consider making a dedication and sending a donation by check or online. We can also increase the Light in other ways. Each night we can also reach out to family and friends, a phone call or an invitation to light candles with others and share some latkes.
This week’s Parsha, VaYeshev, is perfectly placed. We revisit the saga of Joseph. Jacob places so much hope in Joseph, dressing him in a coat of many colors, symbolic of the vision of the rainbow covenant of peace and harmoniousness. But Joseph is not ready to wear this mantle of Light and Redemption. He has little awareness of how his actions and his egocentric dreams alienate him from his brothers. He goes “down” to spy on his brothers, he is casted “down” into the pit, he is sold to merchants who take him “down” into Egypt and, in Egypt, is sent “down” into the dungeon. But, yet, we learn how Joseph emerges from this maddening darkness and rises up to embody Light and Redemption. He is the only biblical personality known as a Tzaddik, a Righteous Person. We can also see how this story has a parallel in Christianity.
We pray that the darkness that hangs over the world today and that pervades the Halls of Congress and throughout the land will be countered by the heart of these upcoming holidays that remind us to be loving to our neighbors, speak truth to power and work to increase the Light. We are the descendants of the Maccabees and the prophets.
In Hanukah we read from the prophet Zachariah. His words are addressed to Zerubabbel, the governor of Judea, who, after the Babylonian exile, laid the foundation for rebuilding the Temple. The prophet reminds Zerubabbel of what the goal is: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the God of Hosts.”
Khag Urim Sameyakh! May the Spirit be with us all, Reb David