Shabbat Greetings

We learn the lesson of overcoming adversity in this week’s portion, Miketz (Genesis 44:1-44:17). It shows Joseph starting as a slave in jail, innocent of the crime he was accused of, and ultimately becoming second in command in one of the greatest nations of the time. In order to become second only to Pharaoh, there are a lot of challenges that Joseph has to face and then overcome. First, Joseph must decide whether or not to interpret the dreams of his fellow cellmates. Dream interpretation is one of the things that made his brothers so jealous of him that they sold him into slavery in the first place. This time, however, his dream interpretation skills save him from jail, when Pharaoh’s butler remembers Joseph’s talent and suggests that Joseph help Pharaoh.

I was reading an interpretation from a Bar Mitzvah that suggests if one was in Joseph’s position, you would have definitely would have been scared to interpret a dream in front of Pharaoh. He must have thought, “What if Pharaoh doesn’t like my interpretation? I’m already in jail, he’ll most likely just kill me.” But, Joseph gets over his fear and believes that God will come through, which God does by making Joseph second in command of the Egyptian Empire. But Joseph’s challenges do not end there. He is next confronted with his brothers’ pleas for help and food, the very same brothers who treated him so badly in the past. Joseph could take the easy route here and deny his brothers assistance, giving in to the natural feelings of revenge and hatred. Instead, Joseph tests his brothers to see if they have matured, and in doing so, ultimately reunites his family. This time he has shown that, because of his faith in God and family, he can overcome the challenge of his own emotions.

As many are aware, I personally needed the lesson of overcoming adversity this past week. I finally succumbed to the Covid virus. As someone said to me, “I guess you really are not Superman!” I was fortunate that my symptoms were very mild (thanks to vaccinations and boosters) and I was able to rejoin the community this week. I appreciate how everyone stepped up to help make everything happen this past week and teaching me that I need to stop trying to do everything. My work ethic was instilled into me by my parents and that will not change, but my realization that I am not serving the community in a healthy way when I try to do it all. I will use these time to remind myself that I can and will ask for help more often, just as Joseph had the help of his fellow prisoners.

While I could spend more time talking about the complex, intricate details of Joseph’s story, this week is also Chanukah, another story that speaks to how, through faith in God, we Jews can overcome adversity. In the Chanukah story, we have the Maccabees, a little group of fighters that somehow have to defeat the gigantic army that is coming for them and their land. Somehow, these people did win over the Greek Empire. This shows that with a bit of help and  a lot of courage, anyone can overcome anything. This year even more so as we continue to fight the scourge of antisemitism. May this season of light shine brighter for all of us. To all of our families whose loved ones celebrate, I wish you a meaningful Merry Christmas on Sunday.