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Reuniting, and Not

12/18/2020 02:06:17 PM


          Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Miketz, telling the story of the initial reunion between Joseph and his brothers, though the brothers do not recognize Joseph. We discussed during Torah study yesterday how Joseph tests his brothers, to see how they’ve changed and to decide whether to reveal himself to them. There seems to be some element of him manipulation of the situation he finds himself in that is a little bit about vengeance for their treatment of him all those years ago, and certainly one can understand why Joseph might behave that way. But as we also see him get very emotional in this and next week’s parshiyot, it seems that there is a desire to reconnect, despite the fear and anger and resentment that may still linger between them. His accusations against the brothers, keeping Simeon imprisoned while the rest go home to bring Benjamin back to meet the Egyptian viceroy, and so on, are a way for him to assess whether they brothers have changed and if it is safe for him to reveal himself.

          Tonight, we conclude our festival of lights. Like our high holy days a few months ago, and our holy pilgrimage festivals the months before that, we celebrated at home. We used technology to come together as a community, and I know many family members shipped gifts directly to one another this season in lieu of big family parties. There have been a few times throughout the year that folks around the country have tried to come out of their hiding places and safe zones, to reunite with family and friends, and found it was unsafe to do so. This pandemic is reaching a one-year mark globally, and although the end is certainly in sight now with the vaccine, we will certainly reach the one-year mark locally as well of not being able to gather as we’d like.

          The Sefat Emet, a 19th century Hasidic work out of Poland, teaches that the reason our second Chanukah blessing says, “Who performed miracles in those days, at this time,” is to teach that we need to pray to receive illumination from these days of Chanukah, and from the miracle of our ancestors, to sustain us through the days to come. The holiday of Chanukah ends just before the darkest/shortest day of the year. We still have some long nights ahead of us, and need to be able to carry these past 8 nights of light to get us through to the sunny days yet ahead. The Sefat Emet also teaches that the Holy Blessed One prepares the remedy before the injury. In reading this passage with some other rabbis on a Zoom call earlier this week, it was brought up how we are really so fortunate that we already had zoom and livestreaming and so on before this year, and were able to transition to digital gatherings quickly. Another rabbi brought up also how fortunate we are that there have been people working for centuries on various diseases, and that much of that groundwork led to a speedy discovery of a vaccine for Covid-19. Although we still had to suffer through this year, some more than others, some remedies were there for us before the injury fully hit.

          Unlike the sons of Jacob who pass their brother’s test, our situation is not yet changed, and family reunions are still not advisable this holiday season. We remain, like Joseph, estranged in a strange circumstance, just trying to do our best to stay alive and help others do the same – at a distance. We must allow the warmth and light of our Chanukah candles to keep us cozy and our spirits bright through the rest of the winter, and try to remain grateful for the partial remedies that were in place before the crisis as we wait out the rest of it. May you find yourself blessed with miracles in our time, as did our ancestors in their time, and may we spread light, love, and health throughout the world. Amen and Shabbat Shalom.


Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782