Rabbi Becker-270x306
Rabbi Israel Becker

Lighting Up The Darkness

After being framed by the wife of his "owner," Joseph is thrown into prison. One morning he noticed that Pharaoh's former baker and Pharaoh's former butler, who had also been incarcerated, were both unusually depressed. Joseph expressed concern and a desire to help, as the Torah tells us, "He questioned Pharaoh's ministers who were with him in custody in his masters house, saying 'Why are you looking so downcast today?'"

They responded by telling Joseph that they were troubled because of the strange dreams that each of them experienced and "there is no one to interpret them." Joseph accurately interpreted their dreams. The baker was hung and the butler was restored back to his position as Pharaoh's personal butler. Two years later, when Pharaoh himself was troubled by his dreams, the butler told Pharaoh about the Jewish young man who was in prison and had the power to interpret the dreams.

As a result, Joseph was pulled out of prison. He subsequently interpreted Pharaoh's dreams and also advised him regarding proper steps to preserve the Egyptian empire. Impressed with Joseph's wisdom, Pharaoh appointed Joseph as second in power to the king. He was given a wife who bore him two sons, Menashe and Efraim, and he later was able to bring his father Jacob and his brothers down to Egypt and save them from starvation. Years later, Jacob's descendants were the Jewish people who were taken out of Egypt and they witnessed and experienced the splitting of the sea.

Rabbi Mordechai Schwab, of blessed memory, pointed out that the Torah is teaching us a colossal lesson: Look at what happened from one small act of care by behaving like a mensch! Joseph expressed interest and care by asking the butler and baker "What's bothering you? Why are you depressed?" Had Joseph not become involved in their well-being, he never would have known about their dreams and the entire chain of events that changed the course of world history forever would never have happened.
In Ethics the Fathers 4:20 we are taught: "Initiate a greeting to every person." Isn't it ironic that generating good feeling and genuine concern is so easy to do. This "small" gesture is powerful enough to change the world.
The story is told of how a young newcomer came to the well-known Yeshiva Beis HaTalmud in Kelm, Lithuania nearly a century ago. As soon as he reached the building, one of the students came out and said to him with enthusiasm, "Shalom Aleichem! How are you doing? Welcome! It's great to have you! You must be hungry. What would you like to eat?" The newcomer was perplexed and felt uneasy, asking himself "Where do I know this guy from? I don't remember him. I don't remember his name or face, but he must remember me, look how he is extending himself." Try as hard as he could, he could not remember. While he was still digging into his memory bank, another young man emerged who extended his hand, gave him a warm, welcoming greeting and inquired how he was doing. Eventually the new student realized that he arrived at a wonderful place, where everyone, including a stranger, is greeted so warmly.

In an era where the world around us confronts us with increasing darkness, where security guards are needed at synagogues and even at Jewish eateries, we welcome the light of Chanukah, the light that symbolizes all the beautiful teachings that the Torah has brought to mankind, and the light of loving kindness that the Syrian Greeks so brutally sought to extinguish.

May we all be inspired by the teachings of Judaism, and discover the light within ourselves.