Chag Urim Sameach- Happy Chanukah everyone!
Last week, we began to read about Joseph, our favorite dreamer, and Jacob’s favorite son. Although he is a star in his father’s eyes, Joseph descends lower and lower: first into a pit, then through many slave trades, and finally down to Egypt. As Joseph descends toward his rock bottom, the Torah reminds us not once, but twice that God is with Joseph. When Joseph moves through his many sales as a slave, God remains “with Joseph, when he was successful and also when he stayed in the house of his Egyptian master [Potiphar].” Later in the same chapter, as Potiphar throws Joseph in prison, we read for a second time, “Adonai was with Joseph, and whatever he did, Adonai made successful.” These two verses illumine that even in our darkest moments, or lowest of circumstances, God is with us, even when things are so dark that we cannot see or feel the light of God’s presence.
The Or HaChayyim, a Moroccan born rabbi of the 18th century explains that Joseph did indeed know of God’s presence, and teaches that Shechina, divine flow moves through a person proportionally to that person’s openness to a presence within himself or herself. Or HaChayyim interprets our verses above as a reflection that Joseph opened himself up to divine presence. It was this connection and strength of faith that protected Joseph from feeling the desperate evil and lowness of his circumstances.
This week, as Joseph interprets Pharaohs’ dream, we again read of the presence of Adonai with Joseph. This time God’s presence is so apparent we see it mentioned in a dialogue between characters, rather than just described in the narration as it was previously. Pharaoh exclaims, “ish, a-sher ru-ach, E-lo-him bo.” “The Spirit of God is with him!” When I have the privilege of sitting with individuals in spiritual direction, who are sifting through both joys and sorrows, I will often ask, “Where is God for you, or with you in this?” Spiritual direction invites us to actively seek and discern God’s presence in whatever might be unfolding for an individual. Joseph’s sense of divine presence is so strong that even the Pharaoh himself recognizes its glow about Joseph.
As we continue to add light each night to the Chanukiah, may we open ourselves up to welcome the Ruach Elohim that so strongly embraces Joseph. May the increasing strength of lights on our Chanukiah illuminate for us the everlasting strength of God’s divine presence through both darkness and light.
Come and celebrate Chanukah with me this Shabbat! Join me for a service filled with light and Chanukah music at 7:30. Shabbat Shalom!