Torah Fax

Friday, December 30, 2005 - 29 Kislev, 5766
Torah Reading: Mikeitz  (Genesis 41:1 - 44:17)
Candle Lighting Time:  4:19 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:24 PM
Rosh Chodesh Tevet is Shabbat and Sunday, 12/31 & 1/1

The Protocols of the Elders of Chanukah

This week's parsha commences with the two dreams Pharaoh had. In the first, he sees seven lean cows swallowing seven fat cows, and yet - the seven lean cows do not change. In the second dream, he sees seven healthy stalks of grain swallowed up by seven meager stalks, and they too do not change.
Joseph is summoned, and he interprets the two dreams as one:
There will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine that will "swallow up," i.e., make the people forget - the seven years of plenty.
But since both dreams essentially conveyed the same message, why did G‑d have to show Pharaoh two dreams?
Joseph himself asked this question, and he readily answered:
"And as for the repetition of the dream to Pharaoh, this is because the matter is ready before G‑d, and G‑d is quickly going to carry it out." In other words, by repeating the dream to Pharaoh, G‑d was trying to convey to him the urgency of the matter, so that he can take preventative action.
And thus Joseph, in the very next verse, offers some unsolicited advice as to how to deal with the impending crises. He suggests that store houses should be filled and preparations should be made during the years of plenty to cushion the negative effects of the famine.
Commentators raise the question: Why did Joseph volunteer his suggestions to Pharaoh without being asked by Pharaoh? Wasn't that chutzpah on Joseph's part? After all, he was asked to interpret the dreams, not offer solutions to the problems posed by those very dreams.
One simple answer to this question is that Joseph was convinced that the repetition of the dream was G‑d's way of saying, "you must find a solution now; there is no time to waste." Hence, Joseph responded by giving immediate advice. Even if it were brazen for Joseph to volunteer this information before being asked, Joseph had no alternative. Part of the message of the dreams themselves was to offer the remedy for the famine which they portended.
Many have sought to find a connection between this week's Torah portion-always read during Chanukah-and the Festival of Chanukah itself.
In light of the above analysis of Joseph defying protocol to advise Pharaoh about the famine, we can see a clear link to the actions of the heroes of Chanukah, and a lesson for our times.
When we review the behavior of the Macabees we see how their action was brazen. There was no logical basis for them to start a rebellion against overwhelming odds. It made no sense for them to defy the Syrian-Greek government that exercised total sovereignty over little Israel . It was unmitigated chutzpah on the part of the Macabees to resist Greek culture that brought the world into a new era of enlightenment; particularly when most Jews at that time did in fact assimilate into Greek culture.
In short, the zealous heroes of Chanukah defied their King Antiochus, Greek culture and the majority of Jewish leadership. They pushed every logical rule aside and they put their own lives in grave danger to restore the purity of Jewish faith and practice to their people. Where did they get the inspiration to do this?
Jewish mystical thought teaches us that each and every one of us possesses a spark of pure holiness that when allowed to surface it can overcome every obstacle. The discovery of the lone cruse of uncontaminated oil sheds light (pun intended) on the way the Macabees were able to fight their enemies. This pristine core of our souls-that is usually covered up and concealed, symbolized by the sealed cruse of untouched oil-was unleashed by the Macabees. And it was with this energy that they were able to surmount all obstacles.
But, the question still remains. What ignited their spark at that time more than at other times in Jewish history?
And the answer lies in the story of Joseph. When he saw the "handwriting on the wall" expressed through the repetition of Pharaoh's dream, he realized the imminence of the disastrous famine. And in times of crises, the inner core of our soul can no longer be comfortable hiding in the tranquil shadows of logic and respect for etiquette and protocol.
Similarly, the Macabees realized if they do not stand up against their enemies and struggle for the integrity of the soul of Israel, a catastrophe of untold proportions would ensue for the Jewish people.
We are living in such times. Our generation has also been subjected to a "double dream" or two manifestations of the exile in which we live. We have seen the ugly head of repression and persecution on the one hand, and the enticing winds of modernity and assimilation on the other hand.
And more recently, we have seen how the whole world has "ganged up" against Israel , threatening its very existence and the lives of all its inhabitants. The leader of Iran-a potential and likely possessor of nuclear weapons and the desire to use them-calls for "wiping Israel off the map," G‑d forbid, even as he denies the Holocaust. And the world responds pathetically.
To be sure, people of faith know that, in the end, we will prevail. We will have a new Holiday to celebrate the coming of Moshiach and the end to all this nonsense. In addition, we have been told that Moshiach's coming is imminent, and all the signs mentioned in Biblical and Talmudic texts portending his coming have materialized. But, Judaism teaches us that Messianism is not about sitting back to watch the drama unfold. It is all about activating the pure cruse of oil of our souls (identified in Kabbalah as the Moshiach of our souls), to stand up against all the forces that threaten the integrity of the Jewish people and Judaism.
The miracle of Chanukah teaches us that the fact that people so inspired are just a minority is immaterial.
And the story of Joseph and the Macabees also instructs us as to the need for action in the face of an impending threat, even if it goes against protocol and defies logic and societal norms.
The result of these efforts will be nothing less than the ushering in of the Age of Redemption, when we will celebrate Chanukah with renewed vigor and inspiration.   
Moshiach Matters
The advance of scientific understanding is increasingly revealing the inherent unity in the universe, as expressed in the forces of nature. Being aware of this can serve as a preparation and prologue to the Era of Moshiach, for at that time the Creator's simple, uncompounded Unity will become evident. That time will also reveal the way in which G‑d's Unity finds expression in the unity that is inherent in all of Creation.
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue.
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