A Drash for VaYeiShev 5770
by Marc Mangel
When I prepared my Torah portion, I was particularly taken by the last part that I read (Ch 39 v21-23): “HaShem was with Joseph, and He endowed him with appeal and He put his favor in the eyes of the prison warden. The prison warden placed all inmates that were in the prison in Joseph’s custody, and everything that was done there, he would do. The prison warden did not scrutinize anything that was in his custody, because HaShem was with Joseph; and whatever Joseph would do HaShem would make successful”
We see that long before Joseph is running things for Pharaoh, he is running the prison.
It is inescapable from those verses that even in the worst place in Egypt, Pharaoh’s prison (and those are still pretty terrible prisons, as Daniel Silva notes in one of his recent books) God is present and active. God is sometimes hidden, some times not hidden, but always present and our job – wherever we are — is to find God’s presence. How do we do that?
Last night, and for the next seven nights, we will light Hannukah candles. There are many things that can be said about the light that comes from the candles, but here’s the one for today: the light coming from the candles is both a wave and a particle. That is, the answer to the question: is light a wave or a particle is: yes. Sometimes it behaves like it is only a particle, sometimes it behaves like it is only a wave. Trippy. Ilan and I will be happy to explore this further with you, but not on Shabbat.
To the question: is Hannukah the remembrance of the victory by a small eastern people over an invading and much more powerful western force or is Hannukah a remembrance of a miracle of rededication of the Temple? The answer is: yes.
To the question: is every Jew a physical being living in a physical reality or a spiritual being connected to another world? The answer is: yes. Sometimes we appear to be only in the physical world and sometimes we appear to be only in the spiritual world (think of Joseph’s dreams).
The last Lubbavitcher Rebbee taught that every time we perform a physical mitzvah – putting on tefillin, lighting Shabbat or Hannukah candles — we connect the physical world to the spiritual world and help make a dwelling for God in our physical world.
It could be said that the only certainty in Judaism is duality. Tonight when you light those Hanukah candles – and remember light that is simultaneously a wave and a particle – also remember that you too are simultaneously in the physical world and the spiritual world and lighting those candles, like every other physical mitzvah, links them.