Overcoming adversity through faith
By Ross Chudow
This week’s parshah is Miketz. It talks about overcoming adversity. It shows Joseph starting as a slave in jail, innocent of the crime he was accused of, and ultimately becoming second in command in one of the greatest nations of the time. In order to become second only to Pharaoh, there are a lot of challenges that Joseph has to face and then overcome. First, Joseph must decide whether or not to interpret the dreams of his fellow cellmates. Dream interpretation is one of the things that made his brothers so jealous of him that they sold him into slavery in the first place. This time, however, his dream interpretation skills save him from jail, when Pharaoh’s butler remembers Joseph’s talent and suggests that Joseph help Pharaoh.
If I was in Joseph’s position, I definitely would have been scared to interpret a dream in front of Pharaoh. He must have thought, “What if Pharaoh doesn’t like my interpretation? I’m already in jail, he’ll most likely just kill me.” But, Joseph gets over his fear and believes that G-d will come through, which G-d does by making Joseph second in command of the Egyptian Empire.
But Joseph’s challenges do not end there. He is next confronted with his brothers’ pleas for help and food, the very same brothers who treated him so badly in the past. Joseph could take the easy route here and deny his brothers assistance, giving in to the natural feelings of revenge and hatred. Instead, Joseph tests his brothers to see if they have matured, and in doing so, ultimately reunites his family. This time he has shown that, because of his faith in G-d and family, he can overcome the challenge of his own emotions.
While I could spend more time talking about the complex, intricate details of Joseph’s story, this week is also Chanukah, another story that speaks to how, through faith in G-d, Jews can overcome adversity. In the Chanukah story, we have the Maccabees, a little group of fighters that somehow have to defeat the gigantic army that is coming for them and their land. Somehow, these people did win over the Greek Empire. This shows that with a bit of help and a lot of courage, anyone can overcome anything.
Ross Chudow is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.
What leadership means
By Avital Shalva
This Sunday is Rosh Chodesh Chanukah. The story of Chanukah is about the Jews revolting against the Greeks who created an unjust society. Judah the Maccabee led the battle against the Greeks, and they were able to recapture the Second Temple. They realized that the Temple had been desecrated, and that all the oil for the Menorah had been impurified. They searched for something to light the Menorah with and finally found one single jar of sanctified olive oil. They lit the Menorah, thinking it would stay lit for a day, but the single jar of olive oil lasted for eight days. According to tradition, this is why we celebrate Chanukah for eight days. The Chanukah story teaches how one small thing can have a much bigger impact.
Judah the Maccabee led the Israelites into a battle and won over the Temple, but I believe that the real leader in this story is Matisyahu, Judah’s father. While the king’s guards ordered him to bow down to idols, he refused, saying, “Though all the nations that are under the king’s dominion obey him, … yet will I, and my sons, and my brethren, walk in the covenant of our fathers” (I Macc. ii. 19-20). Matisyahu brought the thought of a rebellion to Judah, and his single act inspired the fight that led to the miracles of Chanukah.
This brings us to Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is celebrated when the moon is the smallest. Just like with Chanukah, Rosh Chodesh also shows us how a little light and a little leadership goes a long way. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, in the 300s C.E., the Jewish community relied on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish government, to create the calendar. But when the political situation changed, communication turned to chaos. Without the Sanhedrin’s monthly determination of when the new moon was, the Jews would not be able to keep track of the Jewish holidays. As the chaos continued, Hillel II decided to provide a new calendar to share with the Jewish community. Despite opposition to his system, Hillel II decided to stand up and become a leader. Thanks to his bravery and innovation, Jewish communities around the world for the past almost 2,000 years have been able to celebrate the holidays accurately and in unison with each other.
Both Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh teach us that even a small amount of leadership can make a difference.
Avital Shalva is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.
Lessons of Shabbat Chanukah
By Ben Silverman
Miketz is about Pharaoh’s dreams and how Joseph interprets them.
Pharaoh explains what he sees in his dreams to his advisers: seven ugly and gaunt cows that come and eat seven handsome and sturdy cows. He also sees seven healthy ears of grain swallowed by seven shriveled and thin ears. Pharaoh is puzzled. All of the advisers are confused. Was it a bad dream or a good dream? Then Joseph comes along and says to Pharaoh, “The Lord has told you what he is about to do. The seven healthy cows represent seven good and healthy years, and the lean and ugly cows represent another seven years of hunger” (Genesis 41:23). Now, Pharaoh is satisfied.
What made Joseph’s interpretation so special? Well, he saw both sets of cows and grain at the same time and recognized that the dream foretold both positive and negative things. The bad and the good can exist together because people respond in different ways. Rabbi Soloveitchik said, “It is not about what evil it is, it is about how you respond to that evil.”
In Joseph’s story, directly after his discovery of the upcoming famine, he takes action immediately, though the famine is seven years away. He goes around the land to stock up on food during the seven years of plenty so during the seven dry years, the land would have enough food.
Joseph’s readiness to take action is similar to that of the Maccabees. The Maccabees stood up against evil and like Joseph responded in the right way even though the odds were against them. When the Maccabees were denied the freedom of practicing their own religion, they took action and fought against the Greeks. The Maccabees came out victorious against the Greeks and now could practice their religion. Their story reminds us that when we see a problem, we have to respond.
In our world today, there are many problems to be dealt with. One of our most important Jewish values is tzedakah. We often think tzedakah means charity, but it comes from the word tzedek, which means justice. The Maccabees pursued justice by advocating for religious freedom. Joseph too carried out this important value by distributing food equally throughout the land when there was a famine. Perhaps the message of Shabbat Chanukah is to think about the problems in the world around us and find one we can contribute toward solving.
Ben Silverman is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.