This week we read about Joseph, the favorite son of one of our forefather’s Jacob, and his gift for interpreting dreams. His brothers had sold him into slavery with Pharaoh, and then he was imprisoned for being falsely accused of an affair with Potiphar’s wife. Mikeitz is chock full of the drama of Joseph’s life, from receiving the “ring” of Pharaoh and being placed as his second in command, to later on having the ability to take revenge on his brothers.
I would like to focus on one special part of this parsha which shows Joseph as doing the mitzvah of feeding and caring for the hungry. This past week, the Temple Jeremiah staff all participated in packing and separating large quantities of food for the Northern Illinois Food Bank. We gathered early last Tuesday morning and worked in different teams to sort the food, label it, and pack it in the appropriate boxes. This teamwork gave us a chance to laugh together, and to find creative ways to peel apart frozen meat—I think my favorite part was channeling my son Zev, by throwing them down on the ground hard to break them apart!
At the beginning of the Parsha, Pharaoh woke from a disturbing dream of seven healthy and seven unhealthy cows. He unsuccessfully searched high and low for someone to interpret these dreams until the chief cupbearer told Pharaoh of Joseph’s talents, and relayed of how one of Joseph’s interpretations of his own dreams was right on the money. Joseph predicted that the seven healthy cows of Pharaoh’s dream were seven years of great plentitude, and the seven sickly cows were seven years of famine. Joseph claims that the dream occurred twice in a row, because God was “making haste” for these things to truly happen. Joseph then provides detailed instruction as to how to ration the food for the famine, where to store it, and to appoint a competent administrator.
Pharaoh had truly “drunk the kool-aid” and was “Team Joseph” after his encounter with him, and appointed Joseph administrator over all the land. Pharaoh gave him the gold ring, which, as the commentator Rashi states, meant that Joseph was truly second in command to Pharaoh, and no one in all of Egypt would do anything without answering to Joseph.
Joseph went above and beyond in his job, securing the finest qualities of grains, and safely storing the largest quantities from these seven years of plenty that he could gather into secure places where it would stay fresh and edible during the seven years of famine. Sure enough, the famine came. Pharaoh sent the starving citizens to Joseph for sustenance. Because Joseph had gone above and beyond, they had enough food.
While some might say this was a miracle, it is necessary to acknowledge the thoughtfulness, work, organization, and dedication that went into feeding Egypt during the famine. It took someone like Joseph “thinking outside the box” to help make the miracle. When we were packing food that day last week, I believe that we truly witnessed the fruits of great leaders who were “thinking outside the box” in order to fill the boxes for food insecure people in our midst. How good it felt to be there to assist in the miracle.
Our holiday of Chanukah tells us of the miracle of the teeny tiny bit of oil which lasted for eight whole nights. Similarly, someone had to “think outside the box” in order to have the faith and courage to just try and see if it would be enough, even though it surely seemed that it would never be. It is customary to volunteer during the holiday of Chanukah, to assist in making miracles for those who need them most.
Please enjoy this contemporary, nostalgic Chanukah song: Happy Chanukah My Friend
Please join me in celebrating two very special upcoming Shabbatot. On January 17th we will commemorate the dream which became a reality with the thinking outside the box of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We will be joined by our Adult and Youth Choirs, along with special guest Van Gilmer and the Baha’i Temple Choir. Three weeks following, we are honored to welcome Lady Deborah Ketchum and the Bethlehem Healing Temple Choir as we celebrate Shabbat Shirah, where we commemorate the freedom of our people as they crossed the Red Sea into freedom. As with all of our services, all are welcome and encouraged to attend.
It is my prayer that each of you will find within yourselves the faith to “think outside the box” and to assist in making a miracle. Ross, Abigail, Zev and I wish you a Chag Urim Sameach from our family to yours, and as always, Shabbat Shalom.