Chanukah Noticing the Good

(Torah Portion Miketz/Chanukah) Noticing the Good!

Reuven, the first born of the tribes, once meddled into his
father’s personal matters. Because of this infraction the first-
born entitlement was stripped from Reuven and transferred to
Yosef, the first born son of Yaccov’s wife Rachel. Reuven also
thought that because of this wrongdoing he had lost the right to
be included in the membership of the twelve tribes.

Reuven realized he was mistaken in regards to being included as one of the twelve tribes in a very strange way. Yosef dreamt that eleven stars were bowing down to him which predicted that he would one day rule over them. When he relayed his dreams to his brothers they became upset and resentful. This didn’t sit well with the brothers for they knew that the monarchy was destined for their brother Yehudah and they detested Yosef for this.

One brother was secretly happy with one part of Yosef’s dream. When Reuven heard in the dream that eleven stars were bowing to Yosef he extrapolated that if eleven tribes bowed to Yosef then indeed he was still included as one of the twelve tribes. He therefore felt gratitude towards Yosef and later at the critical moment – after the brothers convened a court and sentenced Yosef to death – Reuven came to his rescue and saved Yosef.

As we know, Yosef was not killed, rather he was sold to Egypt and after a long series of events he ended up as viceroy of Egypt and was able to stockpile enough food to sustain the region during the seven year famine.

During the famine Yaacov sent ten of his sons from the Land of Israel to Egypt to purchase food. When the brothers entered Egypt they were summoned to the palace and bowed down to the viceroy, who unbeknownst to them was in fact Yosef. He accused them of spying on the land and detained them. They immediately did some soul searching and figured that their predicament was due to having sold their brother. Then Reuven spoke up and said, “I told you not to do anything to the lad (Yosef) and you didn’t listen to me.” The commentator Seforno explains that, at the time, the brothers felt that Yosef was deserving to be put to death, and only now they felt they should have had more mercy on him. Reuven, on the other hand, held that he never deserved the death penalty.

Why did Reuven perceive Yosef differently than his brothers? Rabbi Ahron Kotler o.b.m. explains that, because Reuven had a debt of gratitude to Yosef because he included him in the twelve tribes, he was able to see Yosef in a different light than the brothers. The brothers saw only what was outwardly apparent in Yosef’s conduct and this led them to issue a verdict of death. But Reuven, because of his feelings of gratitude to Yosef, was able to see the holy inner core of Yosef, and perceive that he was thoroughly righteous.

An employer once related that he had a worker who got in trouble with the law due to his drug addiction. He said, “I will take him back to work for me because when he worked for me his skill and knowledge were extremely beneficial and valuable.” The boss was able to focus on the essence of the person because he had a debt of gratitude towards him.

Rabbi Avrohom Schorr infers from this that when a person feels gratitude he can see the good in something that on the surface may appear bad. If one continually thanks the Almighty and recognizes the good that He does and the blessings in his life, he will merit to see the good embedded in challenges that occur, although they don’t appear good.

The Sfas Emes says that recognizing and being thankful for all of G-d’s blessings and gifts stimulates a recognition and acceptance that even when the going gets rough, G-d is behind everything.

The holiday of Chanukah falls during the darkest time of the year, when the nights are the longest. The candles of our Menorahs shed a magnificent spiritual light into the world and give us glimmers of hope even when we are faced with the various shades of darkness coming from expressions of anti-Semitism, anti-Israel propaganda and resolutions and religious intolerance.

For over two thousand years nothing has stopped the observance of Chanukah – whether in Soviet Russia or in the concentration camps during the Holocaust – some of the darkest eras of recent times. We derive our strength from looking at the flames of our menorah, for it gives us the vision, clarity, hope and trust that all is in the Hands of the Almighty – and all is for the good; let’s continue praying and being faithful and we will soon see!

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks