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Parshat Miketz

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Awake and Be Free

Here’s Hanukah

Even before Shabbat arrives this week we will already be celebrating an important holiday. Hanukah — the earliest non-Biblical holiday — begins this Tuesday evening — or as we say on the Jewish calendar — Yom Shlishi (Day Three). In the Jewish ritual calendar Hanukah is a “minor” holiday and a work day. In our day, Hanukah represents both an ancient and a modern miracle, the re-awakening of the people Israel. Modern Israeli independence day is celebrated in the spring, but it is impossible not to think of the miracle of Israel on Hanukah.
The essential Hanukah observance is of course to light the Hanukiah or candelabra. It should be placed be where it can be seen from outdoors, if at all possible, because part of the observance is to “publicize the miracle” that Hanukah represents. A special prayer is inserted into the Amidah and also the Bircat HaMazon (“grace after meals”). The “Al HaNissim” prayer relates the substance of military events but deliberately concludes by referencing the purification of the Temple and the rekindling of the lights. (Here’s an Al HaNissim site for Torah tots and Here’s a brief primer on the brachot and Here’s an online site where you can build a virtual Hanukiah)

Meanwhile, back in the Torah Reading

Here is another tale of awakening. Two years pass after Yosef interpreted the dreams of Pharoah’s chief-butler and chief-baker. Suddenly things start happening. As did Yakov (Breshit 28:16) before him, Pharaoh awakens suddenly from a nightmare, not once, but twice. (41: 4 and 7). Cows come out of the river; healthy ones, then diseased. The latter eat the former. Pharoah awakes. He sleeps. Again a nightmare; bad corn eating good. What can it mean? No one can answer. All are mystified. Yosef is remembered. He is cleaned and clothed and brought before Pharoah.
Yosef tells Pharoah that Elohim will look after Pharoah’s welfare. Is this a reassurance or a warning? Time will tell, but in the short run Pharoah is pleased with Yosef’s interpretations. Yosef, perhaps having learned from his father, plants an idea in Pharoah’s mind. He is rewarded with unimaginable power, yet still dependant on the favor of the national sovereign.
At the end of Chapter 41, we find Yosef selling grain to the Egyptians, who presumably were the ones to grow it during the seven years of feast. Has Yosef simply collected grain from Egyptian farmers, only to sell it back to them when they needed it? Soon enough Yosef’s family will come down to Egypt for survival, and further events will unfold. Is the experience of slavery necessary for the appreciation of freedom.

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