Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joseph's Connection to the Story of Chanukah

There is always a connection between the current Torah portion this time of year and Chanukah where we read the story of Joseph and his brothers. How do Joseph and his brothers tie into Chanukah?

Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Director of Jewish Treats' parent organization, the National Jewish Outreach Program, explains that many ask, was Joseph a proud Jew or an assimilationist? He seems to have assimilated. He is estranged from his brothers and was sold as a slave in Egypt. When he came to Pharoah he shaved off his beard, wore Egyptian clothes, marries an Egyptian wife and even names his children Egyptian names. When Joseph finally confronts his brothers he says to them "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" Why does he ask this?

The brothers had already said that he was alive. But what Joseph was really asking is "is Jacob still alive in him?" He still identified with the family of Israel. He is saying that his father is still alive in him. That's the message of Chanukah as well. The challenge of living in a strange land where assimilation is rampant. We have the opportunity to choose to identify. And thank God, we choose to identify "Am Yisroel Chai" (The Nation of Israel Lives).

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