15 December 2017

"Now Yosef Recognized His Brothers”

"Now Yosef Recognized His Brothers”
(Genesis 42:8)
Kislev 27, 5778/December 15, 2017

Over the course of the eight day festival of Chanukah, beginning with one candle on the first night and increasing by one candle each night, we kindle a total of thirty six lights. Our sages teach us that this parallels the thirty six hours that the original light with which G-d illuminated creation shone, before G-d secreted away the light, saving it for the righteous in the world to come. The eight days of Chanuka are a gift from G-d through which He shares with His world once again the beautiful pristine light of creation, through our kindling of the Chanukah lights.

The original light, referred to in Hebrew as ohr ganuz (hidden light), was not constrained by the space-time continuum which defines our world today. Following a beam of light, Adam, who enjoyed the original light, until his own actions caused G-d to hide the light away, could see from one end of creation to the other. All was revealed. Nothing was hidden.

This same primordial (now hidden) light plays a central role in the story of Yosefand his brothers. The primordial light is what illuminates our dreams, for our dreamscapes are also free of the restrictions imposed upon our waking moments by the boundaries of time and space. It is this very freedom from the laws of time and space that make our dreams so unworldly at times and difficult to understand. Yet Yosef, who was blessed with the ability to perceive the hidden light in dreams became a master of dream interpretation, discerning G-d's plan, revealed to him by the original light, hidden to others.

The theme of the original light, both hidden and revealed also sheds light on another seeming conundrum in our story. In this week's parasha, Miketz, when Yosef's brothers go down to Egypt and stand before Yosef, now viceroy to Pharaoh, Yosef immediately recognizes them, but they don't recognize Yosef. Yes, many years have passed, and Yosef, now a man and dressed and coiffed as an Egyptian noble, and bearing an aura of authority, is no longer the beardless, precocious teenager that the brothers threw into a pit and later sold into slavery, but blood is blood and their inability to recognize their own brother standing before them is puzzling.

The brothers could not recognize Yosef because they were not seeing him in the true light, in the original light of creation, now hidden away. His presence before them was not possible because they had done away with him, and the rigid order of space and time as they understood it did not allow for his reappearance in their lives. In our story, the word recognition, used multiple times, is always to be understood as seeing the hidden light, seeing the truth behind the deceptive surface. Yosef immediately recognized his brothers, not because he recognized their faces, per se, but because he recognized G-d's plan for their salvation.

Earlier in our story, when Tamar asked her father-in-law Yehudah, "Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?" (Genesis 38:25) and Yehudah indeed recognized them as belonging to him, he didn't merely recognize the objects before him, he recognized his own past errors, from his sleeping with Tamar, to his refusal to bring his son Shelah to her, and even to his leading role in the selling of Yosef. His heart and his understanding were illuminated with the hidden light of creation, the light that reveals all, the light of truth. This is the light of repentance - teshuvah - which enters our heart and lights the way for our return to ourselves and to our place in G-d's world which he created for us.

This understanding of the word recognition (hakara), as it is used in our story, also sheds great light on the moment when the brothers, after selling Yosef and soaking his cloak in lamb's blood, tell their father, "'We have found this; now recognize whether it is your son's coat or not.' He recognized it, and he said, 'It is my son's coat; a wild beast has devoured him; Yosef has surely been torn up.'" (ibid 37:32-33) This recognition by Yaakov of his son's cloak suggests that, if he is truly seeing the coat before him in the illumination of the hidden light, then he knows full well the real fate of his son Yosef and the great plan that G-d has in store for His people. This is why our sages opine that that Yaakov refused to be consoled. He knew that his son Yosef was alive!

It is no coincidence, of course, that the thirty six lamps which we light over the course of Chanukah are reflective of the thirty six hours in which the original pure light of creation shone before being hidden away by G-d. For the festival of Chanukah is about the liberation of and the repurification and rededication of the Holy Temple. The Holy Temple is the beacon, the entry point in our world through which the hidden light is revealed. The Holy Temple, which brings renewal and rebirth into the world each day exists above the linear restraints of time and space. The Holy Temple radiates the unfiltered light which G-d projected into existence even before the creation of time and space. The victory of the Macabbees was indeed the victory of light over darkness, the true light of creation by which Torah is written and the Holy Temple shines forth. Chanukah sameach.

[Sorry to those who had trouble reading the above. This should be ok now. Let me know otherwise]

The History of the Holy Temple Menorah

The Holy Temple Menorah Today

The menorah which stands today in Jerusalem's old city Jewish Quarter, overlooking the Temple Mount, is the work of the Temple Institute. It was created exclusively to be used in the new Holy Temple. The menorah was painstakingly crafted after years of extensive research by the Temple Institute's full time staff of researchers. The conclusions upon which the construction of the menorah was based took into account archeological evidence and, of course, the halachic (Jewish law) requirements of materials, dimensions, ornamental affects and manner of manufacture as first delineated in the Book of Exodus, and further explicated by Jewish sages throughout the millennia.
The menorah weighs one-half ton. It contains forty five kilograms of twenty four karat gold. Its estimated value is approximately three million dollars. The construction of the menorah was made possible through the generosity of Vadim Rabinovitch, a leader of the Jewish community of Ukraine.

Since the menorah was moved from its former location in the old city's Roman Cardo to its current location alongside the Yehudah HaLevi steps leading down to the Western Wall Plaza and the Temple Mount, it has become a place where thousands of people stop daily, meet friends, learn about the menorah, marvel at its beauty and envision its ultimate standing place in the Kodesh Sanctuary of the rebuilt Holy Temple.


GoldieZP said...

Neshama, 1st a gutten Shabbos and frelichin chanukah. Your font color choice does not show up on mobile phone. I can bbeginn reading at the history of the Holy Temple menorah.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the third and eternal Beit HaMikdash will be a Divine structure. The original Menorah is hidden away until we have our Temple (hopefully, very soon) as are other untensils. The original Menorah was angular (straight) and is how the Rambam describes it, not rounded as is depicted in the Arch of Titus.