Miketz - Chanuka 3

D'var Torah by Rabbi Jay Spero


Jewish Pride

Parshas 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 Chanuka?

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 famine. 

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.

Rabbi Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac Synagogue in Buffalo.

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