by Rabbi Jay Spero
Miketz - Chanuka
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Every year, on the Shabbos during Chanuka,
we read the portion of Miketz. What is the connection between Parshas Miketz and
After Yoseph's brothers sold him, he ended up in Egypt. At first he was a
servant in the home of one of the prominent ministers in the Pharoh's
government, Potifar. After that he spent twelve years in an Egyptian jail. While
there, Pharoh had a series of disturbing dreams. Years earlier, Yoseph had
correctly deciphered the dreams of two of Pharoh's servants. When this was
related to Pharoh (by one of the servants whose dream had been interpreted)
Pharaoh called upon Yoseph to help him out.
Yoseph explained to Pharoh the meaning of his dreams and Pharoh elevated Yoseph
to make him the minister in charge of shepherding Egypt through its imminent
Although the story ends well, with Yoseph becoming the second most powerful
person in Egypt and the eventual reconciliation with his family, we must
remember that Yoseph had been forcibly removed from his family for twenty-two
years. In all that time, Yoseph never lost his trust in Hashem, or
second-guessed Him. In all that time, he never forsook his pride in being a
scion from Yaakov and he never attempted to assimilate into Egyptian culture.
We find a parallel vein in the story of Chanuka. It is easy to be a Jew when
things are going our way. In fact, during the time of Shlomo Hamelech (King
Solomon), there were no converts accepted into the Jewish people out of concern
that perhaps the conversion did not stem from a sincere desire to accept the
yoke of the Torah, but was rather an attempt to connect with the success of the
Jewish people (Rambam, Laws of Forbidden Relationships 13:15).
But when the chips are down, it is not so easy. When the story of Chanuka took
place the Temple was in the hands of the Greeks and while the enemies of the
Torah were thriving, those who were faithful to the Torah were being persecuted.
Nevertheless, the Jews who remained faithful to the Torah, the Chashmonaim,
never hesitated in their actions. They had the utmost confidence, an arrogance
even, that if they placed their trust in Hashem and observed his Torah, they
could not go wrong.
This is one of the principal lessons from Chanuka: that a Jew must have this
pride in his Judaism. Rabbi Dessler calls this "azus d'kedusha", a
holy brazenness. Even though the Chashmonaim were preparing to fight the
fiercest army in the world, they never lost their confidence.
In this generation, it is crucial we follow their example and carry the banner
of the Chashmonaim. Although there may be many voices questioning Torah
observances, and while pluralistic options arise and are trumpeted by large
groups of people and the media, we must retain this pride in our relationship
with Hashem and our observance of His Torah. With that we will keep the flame of
Chanuka burning throughout the year.
Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac
Synagogue in Buffalo.