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
Reading: Gen 45:1 – 9- Plaut p.288; Hertz p.170
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15 – 37:28 – Plaut p. 302; Hertz p.178
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.