This week’s parshah, Miketz, details Joseph’s life in Egypt. Joseph is our Jewish ancestor who lives his life blending into the larger culture around him. He holds his covenantal identity in his heart, but he appears outwardly like anyone else.
We love the details of the story because we all want to teach our children to do what Joseph did. Hearing Pharaoh’s concerns, Joseph describes the job needed to solve the problem, and then applies for that job.
In fact, everything goes beautifully until his family arrives. Joseph must now find a way to blend his worlds into one identity. Creating an identity that prospers in a dominant culture is challenging enough, but it becomes even more layered when two cultures are vying for our identities.
Chanukah is the holiday that speaks to us of a time when we tried blending cultural identities only to find that the dominant culture around us didn’t want the blend – it wanted assimilation. This week we celebrate recognizing that important difference as we insisted on self-defining. Chanukah marks a time when we encountered identity questions from the outside as well as from the inside. One of the strongest lessons of Chanukah is that we do not live isolated from other cultures, but we do not ever forfeit our Jewish core, or our right to define our own identities.
Eight little candles that remind us of the spiritual strength that lies within each of us as we navigate a complex world of cultural offerings.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.