June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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In last week’s parsha, we began to read about the story of Yosef. If we look at each incident in isolation, it appears as if he is having one disaster after another. First, his father, Yaakov, scolds him for reporting his grandiose dreams. Then, his brothers hate him. They throw him into a pit with snakes and scorpions. Then, they sell him into slavery to passing Ishmaelites. Yaakov is led to believe that Yosef has been killed and mourns his supposed death. He actually gets sold to Potifar, whose wife tries to seduce him. She accuses him of sexual assault, when he does not succumb to her wiles. He gets placed in a prison. He even has two additional years added to his 10 year prison sentence.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson, commented on these circumstances and explained that these events helped create the personality traits that Yosef exhibited. Surely, Yosef — of all people — had a right to feel bitter and angry. He was betrayed by his brothers, put in prison on trumped up charges and had no future to look forward to. Yet, he always kept God’s name on his lips. He truly believed that everything would work out the way it was meant to be. As such, his mind was relaxed. He was able to see beyond himself, and show empathy and caring for others.

Having read ahead into this week’s parsha of Mikeitz, we know that there is a miraculous ending in store for Yosef. Through a series of unusual circumstances, he becomes the viceroy of Egypt — second only in authority to Pharaoh. He devises a plan which saves not only the Egyptian people and the surrounding counties, but all of the Israelites, from starvation during a famine.

If we focus on only each of his earlier incidents and lose sight of the bigger picture, we see one seemingly adverse event after another. However, when we step back and look at the whole picture, everything worked out for the best — as it was meant to be.

Perhaps, that is the lesson we are to learn from Yosef’s adventures. In life, we can easily become too focused on the moment and become despondent, when we encounter seemingly adverse circumstances and setbacks. Yet, if we place our trust in Hashem and pull back to see the bigger picture; perhaps, we can have faith that everything will work out the way it was meant to be. We can, then, look forward to a more optimistic outcome.

The story of Chanukah fits in with this theme as well. About 2,200 years ago, King Antiochus tried invading Israel and outlawed Judaism for a brief period. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and offered pigs as sacrifices. He tried to dampen the Jewish spirit and, for a while, struck terror in the hearts of our ancestors. However, the Maccabees resisted the Greeks. They revolted and won back the Temple. Unfortunately, all they could find was one little bottle of holy oil with which to light the menorah. This would only last a day. It would take at least another week to produce more consecrated oil. Things seemed bleak… Some people might have been despondent. Instead, miraculously, this little bit of oil was able to shine bright. It produced enough light to last for eight days. The rest — as they say — is history.

Many times, we encounter dark moments in life. Things seem bleak… Our emotions turn to despondency. We have only the smallest amount of “holy oil” left inside of us. It may not seem that we can go on. It is precisely at moments such as these, that we need to recall the big picture — as in the parsha — and the miracle that took place on Chanukah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe said many times that Chanukah leaves us with a timely and reassuring message. The forces of light will always prevail. “A little light expels a lot of darkness.” Freedom will overcome oppression; the forces of brightness and light will always overcome the forces of darkness.

In our personal lives as well — no matter how bleak things may seem at the moment — we need to maintain the attitude that we will always be able to draw upon that little bit of “holy oil” inside all of us and rekindle our spirit. God has a master plan, and everything will work out the way it was meant to be. One way or another, we will persevere. May we all be blessed with good fortune and happy outcomes. May the lights of Chanukah shine brightly for us, and serve as a source of inspiration for ourselves and for society as a whole.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is past president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

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