27/28 Dec: Miketz & Chanukah Day 6: Shabbat comes in 3:42 pm, ends 4:52 pm
The theme of God’s intervention in history marks both the holiday of Hanukkah and this week’s Parashah. Joseph is rescued from prison and becomes the second most powerful man in Egypt. He is able to rescue his brothers, the same brothers who sold him into slavery. A series of natural historical events separates and then reunites the brothers. Yet Joseph in next week’s portion will say to his brothers, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:8) God is at work behind the scenes.
One way to look at miracles is as natural events; yet it becomes a miracle when a person of faith looks at the event and sees the hand of God. A miracle is an event that points towards a greater reality, a consciousness beyond the physical or material world.
It is possible to go through life without ever seeing a miracle. As the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism taught, “The world is full of wonders and miracles; but we take our hands, and cover our eyes, and see nothing.” What Hanukkah tries to do is teach us to uncover our eyes, look out at the world, and see the hand of God. On Hanukkah may we learn to look out at the world and declare, “A great miracle happened here.”
Rabbi Paul Arberman
So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme. One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.
Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.
Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself. This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:
” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”
Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society. His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.
I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman