Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17) Chanukah and Your Ability to Be A Role Model

 Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams, neither of which could be explained by anyone in his court. Pharaoh’s wine steward had seen Joseph’s ability to explain dreams when the two were cell mates in prison. He suggested that Joseph, a young Hebrew slave, might be able to explain Pharaoh’s disturbing dreams. Desperate for a suitable interpretation, Pharaoh agreed to the suggestion. Joseph was released and Pharaoh was so impressed by his grasp of the content of his dreams that he appointed Joseph to be Prime Minister of Egypt, second in power only to Pharaoh. Promoting a young foreigner, who was also a slave and completely unknown to the Egyptian royal court, to such prominent and powerful position seemed to be an eccentric move on Pharaoh’s part but when we carefully read the text, we see that Joseph refused to take credit for his dream interpreting wisdom. He told Pharaoh that any insights he had, came through the grace of G-d and those dreams were G-d’s way of communicating to Pharaoh.And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: ‘I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it; and I have heard say about you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying: ‘It is not in me; G-d will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.’ (Genesis 41:15,16)And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: ‘Being as G-d has shown you all this, there is none so discreet and wise as you. (ibid. 41:39)Joseph’s conviction of G-d being the Supreme Force, and his refusal to see himself as having any importance, made a tremendous impression on Pharaoh. The Egyptian monarch realized that he was dealing with a righteous, G-d fearing person. Such an individual could be counted on to possess an honesty and integrity not normally found among the intriguing, plotting members of a royal court. This was exactly what the Egyptian ruler was looking for in the position of top advisor. Ultimately it was Joseph’s humility and having no difficulty admitting his limitations that impressed Pharaoh. We don’t need to be religious to acknowledge G-d’s role in our lives but it doesn’t come naturally. We like to attribute success to our business acumen or keen insight but when we begin to look deeply into how certain opportunities came our way or how coincidentally we happened to go to a particular college or be connected to someone who has affected our lives, we realize that there are many factors that have given us the advantages in life we possess. When things go well, people have a tendency to take credit for the achievement but when things don’t go well, they blame G-d. Why did I lose my job? Why is this happening to me? Why do I have so many problems? When was the last time a CEO complimented an executive for an innovative idea and the reply was one of humility? Joseph didn’t take credit for his insight and that humility seemed to have made an impact on Pharaoh. Awe of the Almighty is a trait admired by people—whether they’re connected to G-d or not. When we hear of a religious person committing a crime, we are bothered by the incongruity of his actions and his supposed belief. People who are reverent of G-d are honest, sensitive and serve as role models. If that’s not the case, it means the person is insincere or maybe even duplicitous or he has a distorted or even depraved concept of G-d. The following story happened over 100 years ago. There was a famous Jewish leader named the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933), who was once called to be a character witness for a Jew on trial in Poland. Before calling the Chafetz Chaim up to testify, the defense attorney told a story. He said that the Rabbi had a produce store (he didn’t want to take money for teaching Torah). One day a poor person grabbed a few vegetables and ran out of the store. The Chofetz Chaim ran after him and shouted, “you don’t have to return the vegetables or pay me; I forgive the debt.” The judge said incredulously, “Do you expect me to believe that story?” The defense attorney said, “to be perfectly honest, I don’t believe it either; but they don’t tell stories like that about me or you.” People instinctively recognize integrity when they see it. A Jew’s mandate is to be a role model. Joseph’s humility was recognized by a coarse monarch. The Chofetz Chaim followed suit and Jews have done so for thousands of years. Our job is to follow their lead. This Shabbos is also Chanukah, a time we do a positive action—lighting the Menorah—to remember the miracles that happened over 2,000 years ago. A small number of devoted Jews (the Hasmoneans) fought and defeated the Greek army, perhaps the strongest in the world at the time, and were able to get their Temple back. The word “Chanukah” means dedication, a trait necessary to war with a superpower, and it’s also the quality necessary for being a role model. This year when lighting the Menorah, take a moment to think of the dedication it takes to be a role model for your family, community, and workplace—and ultimately to be a role model for yourself. Joseph, the Chofetz Chaim, the Hasmoneans, and many other great Jewish men and woman gave themselves over for the Jewish people. Instead of just lighting the Menorah, ask yourself and your family, for whom am I a role model AND what must I do to earn that title? Asking these questions upgrades your Chanukah experience. Most of us wear many hats, each of which grants us the opportunity to be shining examples. Being a representative of exemplary behavior is something in our reach. Keeping your commitments to friends, volunteering, and having the reputation of being the honest and non-flirtatious person at work are just a few examples. Respecting and taking care of parents sets a template for those who see you doing so. Being forgiving and understanding of other people’s challenges or limitations demonstrates not only good behavior but, perhaps more importantly, it shows others that it can be done. This Chanukah as we light the lights, let us remember that each of us has the ability to be a light to someone—or perhaps many people.  May we all find the light inside us this Chanukah.  Good Shabbos / Happy Chanukah   (Source: Sichos Mussar, Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz)
Read MoreChanukah 5782-2021:Transforming Our Monsters Eric A. Kimmel’s  book Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, is a Chanukah favorite for many children; here’s a brief summary.
Hershel, a wandering Jew, wanders upon a Jewish village on Chanukah and notices that no one is lighting Chanukah candles. The villagers explain to him that a group of goblins have been tormenting the village during the Chanukah and the only way to stop them is to get the king of the Goblins to light the Chanukah candles himself. Hershel, ever the brave adventurer, treks to the shul on top of the hill to defeat the Goblins. Each night of Chanukah a different goblin comes to stop him from lighting Chanukah candles and each night Hershel outsmarts them. He convinces one Goblin he’s super strong by crushing an egg, which he convinces the goblin is a rock. Another goblin is thwarted when Hershel, playing into the goblin’s greed, gets his hand stuck in a pickle jar. Finally, Hershel is visited the last night by the King of Goblins. But Hershel has a plan. The lights in the synagogue are all extinguished and when the imposing silhouette of the King of the Goblin appears, Hershel remains stoic. “IT IS I, THE KING OF THE GOBLINS!” the imposing figure announces. Hershel remains unmoved, “Don’t be silly, you’re one of the boys from the village—you’re trying to scare me.” Frustrated the King of Goblins tries to figure out how he can convince Hershel that he is, in fact, the King of the Goblins. And here is where Hershel makes his move. “It’s too dark,” Hershel explains, if you want to convince me you need to make it brighter. So the King of the Goblins, in order to convince Hershel who he is, lights some candles. Unbeknownst to the King, these are the Chanukah candle and with that the Goblin’s reign of terror is ended. It’s a cute story and is nostalgic for many adults. But there is also a rather profound lesson contained within. “In the very place you struggle most,” explains the 19th century Chassidic master R. Tzadok of Lublin (Tzidkat HaTzadik #49), “is the very area that contains the most potential for spiritual transformation.” There are two ways to approach a person’s struggles: you can ignore them or you can transform them. Sometimes we try to distract ourselves—we ignore our deficiencies; we focus on areas other than our failure. Chanukah, however, reminds us that there is indeed another way. Instead of fleeing from our proverbial goblins, we transform them into sources of light. Instead of waiting for daybreak, on Chanukah we illuminate the night and transform the darkness.
Rabbi David Beshavkin shared this message with the author, Eric Kimmel, whose response was powerful:
I didn’t write Hershel with a particular message in mind. My task, as I see it, is to tell a story. Readers will create their own understandings that grow out of their own experiences and needs. Your response is a good one, and valid. One point I hoped the story would make is that Hershel defeats the goblins without magic or super powers. If kids think superheroes are going to save the day, we’re lost. Those folks don’t exist. All we have are the powers within us.
And this is the lasting message of Chanukah. In a darkened world, Chanukah reminds us that the true power to change and transform the world for good is not by wearing a cape and flying around fighting crime.  “All we have are the powers within us.”We continue to live in extremely challenging time. There’s so much adversity that it sometimes feels like we’ve been visited by goblins. But as Jews have done for centuries, we remind ourselves on Chanukah that the power to transform any difficulty resides within us all. The enemy might be external, life circumstances thrown our way that we didn’t sign up for, but the solution is internal.     Chanukah Samayach / Happy ChanukahGot a question?