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Miketz 5781 ~ Dec. 18

This evening we will once again change our routine for lighting candles. For the past eight nights, we have added to our evening routine, the lighting of the Chanukah candles. Hinei Ma Tov, how beautiful it was, not only to light our own candles in our own homes, but to be welcomed into so many homes on Zoom to celebrate the lighting in so many different and unique ways. The simultaneous lighting, in countless homes, gave our Zoom communal lighting an even greater observance of the mitzvah of “peersum ha’nes,” the widespread pronouncement of the miracle for all to see.  On each night of Chanukah I spent a moment scrolling through the screens to look in awe as the candles were lit in homes throughout Eastern Connecticut. I am not certain that we rabbis who planned the program could have envisioned the beauty of so many candles of light and hope across our screens. The smiles, the laughter and the meaningful words of those who led the lighting each night made the light shine through the darkness of cold winter evenings and a year of frustration, loneliness and fear. 

Super model Chrissy Teigen tweeted: “So wonderful to spend my first Hanukkah…. We had the most beautiful night full of gut laughing, 1000 hour brisket and latkes both eaten and Ubered around  … are they not PERFECT???) - applesauce is my new jam (HAHA get it) and I successfully memorized all the sides of the dreidel - especially shin.”  No, she is not Jewish, nor is her husband John Legend. However, their joy in the celebration with a friend brings a smile.  

And yet, as I opened different Jewish newspapers this morning, the joy of the celebration of the last day of Chanukah was dampened by several news events. At Dartmouth, the communal menorah was destroyed by vandals who shot pellets at it.  Two Jewish judges in Wisconsin, who denounced President Trump’s lawsuits, are being harassed by anti-Semites. The EU upheld a new ban on Belgium’s kosher shechita, laws of ritual slaughter. This law not only affects the Jewish community, but Muslims as well.

As we read the story of Joseph in our Torah for this Shabbat, perhaps we can learn from how he interpreted the events in his time, for our time.  It would have been easy for Joseph to enact retribution upon his brothers in Egypt for all that they did to him. The hatred that he experienced and the evil acts perpetrated against him may not have been forgivable.  Yet, if one follows the story closely, Joseph’s only motivation was to rise beyond those acts of cruelty. His only goal at that moment, was to bring shalom into his life, to be reunited with his family, and most importantly to calm the heavy heart of his father and the pain that he experienced from each one of his children, including Joseph. While Joseph tested his brothers’ sincerity, their maturation, and their sorrow in their actions, I wonder if he was also testing himself in the same way. Was he still that immature dreamer, despite being elevated to the second highest position in Egypt? Or could he find a different way to creating shalom within his life and that of his family.

This evening, as we welcome in Shabbat, (our chanukiyot, will be cleaned and polished to be put away for next year) our Shabbat candlesticks will be brought front and center. As one gazes at the Shabbat candles as we begin our Shabbat meal, one recites the Shalom Aleichem, loosely translated as “welcome or peace upon you who are celebrating Shabbat with us.”  Tradition suggests that the words are one of welcome to the maleachei ha’sharet, the angels of above, into our homes. We pray that they will bring blessing upon our homes and upon our personal lives. I would like to think that the words remind us that one of us is one of those malachim, angels from above and that our role on Shabbat is to insure a peacefulness within our homes.  At the same time, I pray that, as we offer the words of the “Shalom Aleichem,” the malachim, the angels from above, will soften the sadness that I feel at this moment for a world still misguided by hatred and lack of understanding.

Shabbat shalom, 

Rabbi K

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782