The Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class held its group celebration during a festive service on December 15. This is the fourth installment of the seven drashot.
I would like to talk about a few ways that I relate to both the Joseph story and today’s Haftorah. Dreams and light figure prominently.Joseph has some very powerful, foretelling dreams and one could say his entire story and that of the Jewish people unfolded as a result of these dreams.
I, too, had a dream that had a profound effect on my life. Some years ago, before I met and married George, before I converted to Judaism, I was undergoing some difficulties in my life. One night, I had a very vivid dream in which I was on a dark and rocky and muddy path. I was physically stumbling and could not see my way and was frightened. All of a sudden, a light began to shine on the path and I could see my way forward. Upon awakening, I remembered the dream and felt a sense of calm that I had not felt in some time. Years passed, my life changed greatly, I married George and I eventually converted to Judaism (that’s another long story). One day in services I heard the passage from Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”. A bolt of recognition shot through me and I knew this dream had come from G-d. For me, Gd’s word (the divine direction and guidance revealed in the law) proved to be the light I needed to stay on my life’s true path. Because of this revelation, I have chosen Eliora as my Hebrew middle name. Its meaning is “G-d is my light”.
Speaking of light: We are now in the midst of Chanukah, the festival of lights – a triumph of the Jewish people and of light over darkness. Chanukah also marks the anniversary of the dedication of this incredible Congregation in 1949 by Jews who had overcome the darkness of the Holocaust by escaping to Shanghai and then coming to San Francisco after World War II.
In today’s Haftorah, Zechariah describes a vision of a seven branched menorah. This menorah has become the symbol of the nation of Israel and its mission to be “a light unto the nations”. We are to accomplish our mission by setting an example, as the angel explained “not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit”. During Chanukah we display an eight branched menorah symbolizing the miracle of the oil burning 8 days even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting following the Maccabee’s successful revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the forces of assimilation.King Solomon, in the book of Proverbs, declares our souls are candles of G-d. Mendy Herson says “while we celebrate the Jews’ victorious military struggle against the Syrian-Greek Hellenists, we are also celebrating their own inner struggle with themselves. Hellenism equaled materialism and pleasure. Each Jew needed to make a choice: would he struggle to find his internal lamp, to ignite his soul? Or would he acquiesce to the “beauty” of self-indulgence and label darkness as light? In searching themselves, the Maccabees found their internal flames and personal victory. This led to public victory and the miracle of the lights.
So this Chanukah, as we recite the blessings and light the Chanukah candles, let’s look at the flames and see ourselves, our soul and its light. Let’s commit to our personal Chanukah victory.”