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Parashat Miketz and Shabbat Hanukkah: The Way of the World
liaya `ny ,il ie` :xn` ,jlede hrnzny mei oey`xd mc` d`xy itl
on ilr dqpwpy dzin `id efe ,edeae edezl xfege icra jeyg mler izgxqy
d`xe zah ztewz d`xy oeik ,]dltzae[ ziprza mini 'g ayie cnr ,minyd
mini dpeny dyre jld ,`ed mler ly ebdpn :xn` ,jlede jix`ny mei
“When the first human being saw that the days were growing shorter and shorter, hesaid: ‘Perhaps it is because of the fact that I sinned that the world is darkening on myaccount, and returning to utter chaos and this is death that is being levied on me fromheaven.’ He got up and fasted and prayed for eight days. [This takes place during themonth of Kislev
, the month when we celebrate Hanukkah]. When he saw the season ofTevet
, and saw that the day was getting longer and longer, he said: ‘This is the way ofthe world.’ He went and made an 8 day holiday.” (Avoda Zara 5a
above imagines Adam’s first days on earth taking place during the monthof Kislev
, the month when we celebrate Hanukkah. As he saw the days getting shorterand shorter, he imagined that this pattern would continue until there was no light left atall and the world was complete darkness. He fasts and prays. After several days, thewinter solstice passes and the days begin to get longer again. Adam realizes that achange has occurred, that the light in the world is now beginning to increase. He makesan 8 day holiday, a kind of proto-Hanukkah during the dark days of winter.
When Adam says, This is the way of the world, what does he mean? That darkness willalways followed by light? Or that life is ever-changing, full of ups and downs, none ofwhich are lasting?
What would our forefather Joseph say about “the way of the world”? By the time thisweek’s parasha
opens, Joseph has had the following experiences: being held in higherregard than his siblings by his father; getting thrown down into a pit and then sold intoslavery by his brothers; ascending from slavery to become the chief steward for awealthy Egyptian, and being sent down to jail after he is falsely accused of seducing theman’s wife. One could imagine him learning from his life experiences that any state ofbeing, whether it is happiness or despair, success or abject failure, is temporary. Butthis is not his perspective. In next week’s parasha
, when his brothers apologize to himfor what they did to him all those years ago, he says,
d¨aŸ ½h§l D´¨a ¨W£g Æmi ¦dŸl¡` d®¨r ¨x i†l¨r m¬¤Y §a W£g m ¾¤Y ` §e
“Although you meant it for ill, God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20). As Joseph seesit, "The way of the world” is that if you gaze at the darkness for long enough, you willcome to see the first light of dawn.
Perhaps Joseph is the spiritual teacher of Hillel. In the famous Talmudic argumentabout Hanukkah candle lighting, which can also be seen as a debate about “the way ofthe world,” we learn:
ziae Ÿjlede zget jli`e o`kn ,dpny wilcn oey`x mei :mixne` i`ny zia
`nrh.jlede siqen jli`e o`kn ,zg` wilcn oey`x mei :mixne` lld
“Beit Shammai says that you light eight lights on the first day [of Hanukkah], and eachday you light one less, and Beit Hillel says that on the first day you light one light, andeach day you light one more.Hillel’s reason is that we always ascend in holiness.”(Shabbat 21b)
For Joseph, the way of the world is to find the light in the darkness. Hillel takes thisapproach one step further: when there is darkness, it is our job to light the candle, notsimply to see
the light but to create the light. As we prepare to break ground on our newbuilding, it is with the hope that our expanded student body will enable us as a school tofind ways of bringing more holiness and light to the world. Hope to see you at thegroundbreaking!
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