Drash on Parashat Vayigash
Rabbi Rabbi Misha Clebaner
North Shore Temple Emanuel
This week's Torah portion of Vayigash comes just a few days after the festival of Chanukkah. The parasha of Vayigash describes a miracle no less extraordinary than a small cruse of oil remaining alight for 7 days longer than anticipated - perhaps even more so! At the beginning of his journey, Joseph was tossed into a pit by his brothers and sold off into slavery.
Who knew what could have happened to their little brother? God forbid he could have been killed or tortured in the dungeons of Pharaoh. Instead, he rose like the sun or tall stalk of wheat that he had dreamed of those many years prior. Nes Gadol Haya Sham.
There are many interpretations about what the real miracle of Chanukkah is. Is it about a return to political sovereignty? Is it oil lasting for a week longer than originally thought? Some say that it is a miracle to maintain hope through adversity - whether under Hellenist control or the rule of Pharaoh.
Maimonides wrestled with the definition of a miracle. Was the water parting before Moses and the Israelites part of the natural cycle of oceanic and sea movements or do miracles come from above as a deviation or break from nature? Are humans pre-programmed to lose and gain hope throughout the many stages of our lives or is a sudden burst of hope a gift or miracle that we stumble upon? Could it be both - to receive an extra dose of hope or freedom than what would have naturally occurred?
That's certainly how it feels both for the Maccabees rededicating the recently defiled Temple or with Joseph succeeding in reaching his dream of shining bright despite being thrown into such dark circumstances. We are naturally able to do so much, but sometimes we really do benefit from outside help that gets us just over that finish line.
May we always be open to receiving this extra "oomph" of help even if we think that we've got it covered all on our own.