Chanukah is where we take one step beyond

Chaverim,

There is also a very strong link between our portion of Mikeitz and Chanukah (besides that it is read during the chanukah week almost every year). At the beginning of this week’s reading, Pharaoh has a dream about seven cows coming up from the river. These cows were healthy looking, robust, full of flesh. Following them were seven other cows that were gaunt and ugly. The gaunt ugly cows ate the fleshy cows and left no trace of them.

Seven is the number which connotes this-worldliness. Seven cows emerged from the Nile. There are seven colours in the rainbow; seven notes in the diatonic scale; seven days in the week.

However, Chanukah is the festival where we celebrate eight; when we connect to that which is beyond this world. Chanukah is where we take one step beyond and recognise that miracles are real—that God is real. When we witness that a prisoner can rise to become  a vizir, that a small group can become victorious against a overpowering force, and that the dreams of  dreamers can become reality.

Chanukah is the time to light up the darkness in order to see that there are these and more miracles happening around us, all the time. Big ones, such as a new life born into the world, or a smile from someone who recovers from an injury, or small ones like a perfect summer day—you call it.

Chanukah is the time to thank each and everyone of you for the light, hope and joy you brought into my life and into the life of our congregation.

May in return God’s light shine upon you and be gracious to you.

Chanukah Sameach—Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Adrian M Schell

 

Parashat Miketz: Jew by choice should feel pride and be viewed as courageous

In this week’s portion, Miketz, Joseph moves from being falsely imprisoned to becoming second in command in Egypt. As Joseph settles into his new life, he is given a new name by Pharaoh: Zaphenath-paneah. This name reflects Josephs new status in life and the journey on which he has embarked. We, as a congregation, as the Jewish people, do something similar when we admit new Jews by choice into our holy covenant with God.

To receive a new name marks such an important moment in this person’s spiritual journey and should be something very joyful and outstanding, but unfortunately it is not always, as the second half of the new name, the ancestral link (bat / ben Avraham ve Sarah) is sometimes used by “born Jews” to shame or stigmatise those who converted. Using what should be a symbol of pride – to be a true daughter or son of those who have chosen to follow God’s path for the first time – to single out “converts”, leaves the bitter taste that Judaism is understood by them as a closed club for a born elite in the air, and that those who have joined the covenant are second class Jews, at the most.

The fact that anyone with the drive and honest wish to convert is allowed to do so is one of the most important ideas on the Jewish conception of our covenant with God; being Jewish is not a genetic condition, but a complex hierarchy of identity and choice.  Judaism is an inclusive religion that is willing to welcome individuals who desire to become Jewish. Jewish tradition teaches that Jews by choice are not less authentic or authoritative than those who are Jewish from birth.

When a convert receives an aliyah to the Torah for the first time, he or she should feel uplifted by a process of inclusion and holiness, not deflated by alienation and degradation. Jew by choice, like immigrants, should feel pride about their journeys and be viewed as courageous for responding to their transformative calling. This is why we bestow a new name on them and why we link them to Abraham and Sarah. There is no space to shame them.

Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Adrian M Schell

Torah Reading Shabbat Miketz / Chanukah
Genesis 41:1−44:17;and Numbers 7:30-41
Reading: Gen 41:47-55 – Plaut p.271; Hertz p.158
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7 – Plaut p. 1448

Rosh Chodesh Tevet is on Monday and Tuesday

Shabbat Vayigash
Genesis 44:18−47:27
Reading: Gen 45:1 – 9- Plaut p.288; Hertz p.170
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15 – 37:28 – Plaut p. 302; Hertz p.178

Shabbat Vayeichi
Genesis 47:28–50:26 (End of Bereshit)
Reading: Gen 49:1-12 – Plaut p.309; Hertz p.183
Haftarah: I Kings 2:1 – 2:12 – Plaut p. 323; Hertz p. 191

Chanukka @ Bet David

A second chance to light the chanukiah with us will be this Friday, 15 December as part of our Kabbalat Shabbat service.

 The last candle is lit on Tuesday night, the 19 December.