‘And the Spirit of God is in [them]’
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TorahParshat Mikeitz

‘And the Spirit of God is in [them]’

Genesis 41:1 - 44:17

(File photo)
(File photo)

As you open up these words, I hope that you are doubly full — satisfied with a meaningful Thanksgiving and hopeful with the lights of Chanukah burning bright in your window. As you are turning to these words now, you, like every other Jew in this world, are preparing for the beauty of Shabbat Chanukah, a time in which we are blessed to read from three sifrei Torah. As you are taking in these words, I hope you will find the twin lights from the chanukiyah and this week’s portion of Mikeitz.

Early on in this week’s portion, we find Joseph summoned to Pharoah’s throne room. There, the sole Jew amongst the powerful and elite of the nation, stands steadfast in a place where he surely knows that a wrong answer could easily end his life. Joseph, undeterred and unswayed by the terror of the moment, stands fast and firm in his faith and himself. The actions of Joseph so move Pharoah that he turns and asks, “Is there anyone like this…with the spirit of God within him?” Gen. 41:38. The example of Joseph in this moment is what stands with us, is what is passed on to us as part of our heritage.

Our Hasmonean forbearers remained steadfast in their faith, they found within themselves that strength that Joseph possessed. In their moment of terror — the desecration of our Temple, the outlawing of their way of law — they kept the spirit of God alive within themselves. Challenged unlike any generation before them, the first generation to truly know anti-Judaism (what would later become antisemitism), they steeled themselves, lit the light and found the faith to march forward.

As we moved forward from that victory, time and again, until this very moment, we have had countless chances to stand as Joseph once stood. At this very moment, we can look to the lights burning brightly in our windows, shining through the night in the public squares, and within the reflection of the light, I believe we can see the heritage of Joseph, of the Hasmoneans, of all those who came before us and stood proudly as they claimed their heritage. We, their descendants, can look at these Chanukah lights, knowing they are not the last embers of a challenged generation, but the burning hope of a people who know how to bring light into a darkened world.

As you turn to light your Shabbat and Chanukah candles, may you find the blessings of these lights of hope, of strength, and of a brightened tomorrow. PJC

Rabbi Jeremy Weisblatt is rabbi at Temple Ohav Shalom. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.

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