This portion Mikketz always falls at Hanukkah. Even we Jews don’t always understand the true message of Hanukkah because we have been lost in its folklore instead of knowing the actual events. It has become a holiday of lighting the lights and eating food fried in oil to remind us of the miracle of the oil however it is so much more. The word Hanukkah itself means to dedicate.
Joseph was taken as a young arrogant youth and forced into the horrors of slavery in Egypt. They tried to make him lose his identity but he never forgot who he was or who His God was. The first thing he said when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him was, “how can I do this to my God or to my lord Potiphar who I am serving”? He always gave the glory to the God of his fathers. Even though his outward appearance changed and his heart needed to be polished, he never lost the connection to his Creator.
Hanukkah is about keeping the essence of who we are and not assimilating to foreign ideas. It is a cry against assimilation. I recommend that you all read the Books of the Maccabees in the Apocryphal writings. They goes hand in hand with the writings of Josephus. The Greek Seleucids had Hellenized all the areas they had conquered. In 1 Maccabees 1:14 we read that the Jewish men built a gymnasium in Jerusalem. In those days the men would exercise naked in these Greek gymnasiums. The Jewish men were embarrassed by their circumcision and would have the surgery to reverse it. Can you imagine the pain and the extent to which they would go to hide the fact and the shame that they were Jews?
That idea is permeating the Jewish community in Israel and around the world at this very time. There is a Jewish group who oppose circumcision stating that it is wrong and barbaric. Israel prefers to be more like the rest of the world than to be Jewish. I can understand the suffering of our forefathers who had to change their names and conform to living in the diaspora however they always kept our identity. Today this is changing. These Jews are completely going against the values of the Torah.
Yeshua our Messiah told us not to be afraid of those who can take our lives rather be afraid of the Bore Olam who can take our eternal life. That is why the story of Joseph is so important. In spite of all he went through, he never was ashamed of telling the Egyptians that he was a Hebrew. He never distanced himself from his brothers once they were reunited. He even travelled with them to bury his father in Canaan.
Joseph had a long time to get to know himself, to search his soul. This is called “cheshbon hanefesh” – to make an account of our soul. What is inside us makes us who we are. Are you upset with the Creator for who you are, what you look like, where you are and your circumstances? The more you accept yourself, the happier you will be. True beauty comes from within and we need to learn to appreciate who we are and to stop comparing ourselves with anyone else. We are unique. The true message of Hanukkah is not to be assimilated, alienated, to be someone else but to give thanks to the Creator for who we are. We light our candles at night when it is dark symbolizing that He does not want us to walk in darkness; He wants us to walk in light. Hanukkah Sameach.