Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Dark Star Crashes, Pouring Its Light Into Ashes (Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia - "Dark Star")

There were two distinct moods in our home this week. One had to do with the joy of Chanukah and everything associated with it: presents, latkes and our family ritual that each person lights their own personal Chanukiyah. This year, we were able to “Facetime” with our two older daughters: one in New York and one in Israel. With the housed darkened and the night settling outside, indeed there is something quite spiritual about seeing the Chanukah lights creating an oasis of light amid the darkness. The second mood was just the opposite albeit a bit more esoteric than the physical light and darkness of the Chanuka lights and physical darkness. During each evening this week, we watched the various ceremonies, rituals, rites, and services took place to honor President George H. W. Bush. Perhaps President Bush’s greatest achievement occurred in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, in the aftermath of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and, presided over the Re-unification of Germany and bringing the light of Democracy to those nations that had been trapped behind the Iron Curtain since the end of WWII.
This morning we read from Parsha Mikeitz. This Parsha is always read during Chanukah. While the Parsha has no explicit relationship to Chanukah, also known as Chag UrimThe Festival of Lights”; the implicit relationship is quite powerful. The Parsha begins with Yosef hurriedly brought from the dungeon to meet Pharaoh after Pharaoh is troubled by two seemingly different dreams. Yosef, he has been told, is able to interpret dreams. So Yosef begins to interpret but not before he credits his gift as coming from Hashem. Yosef not only interprets the dreams he offers solutions for Pharaoh. As a result, Pharaoh appoints Yosef as Viceroy, the second most powerful man in Egypt and perhaps the Second most powerful man in the world. While managing an economic program to ensure Egypt’s survival during the seven years of famine as foretold in Pharaoh’s dream, Yosef made sure to build up storehouses with grain.  However, the famine affected the whole region including Canaan and Yosef’s father, Jacob and Yosef’s brothers. Eventually, Yosef’s brothers head down to Egypt in order to buy food. Joseph recognizes them, but they do not recognize him. Wanting to see his youngest brother Benjamin and his father Yaakov, Joseph arranges for the brothers to return home. One brother must remain in Egypt. Then, in order to redeem their brother, all the brothers including Benjamin must return to Egypt. After that, Joseph frames Benjamin, keeping in Egypt. The Parsha concludes with the brothers returning to their father and conveying what happened to Benjamin.
                We can understand the concept of darkness both figuratively and literally; physically, intellectually or even spiritually. Of course, we can understand the concept of light in the same way. VaYehi VaBoker VaTipaem Rucho – and it was morning; His spirit was agitated, VaYishlach VaYikra et Kol Chartumei Mitzrayim V’Et Kol Chochmehaso he sent and summoned all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men (Gen. 41:8). Pharaoh had the dream about the seven cows and the seven ears of corn. Why do we need to know that it was the morning after his dream? How bad could the dreams have been? Based upon the Torah, Pharaoh slept through the night. Granted he didn’t sleep well. After all, we are told that in the morning, his spirit was agitated. In a sense, his spirit was still “in the dark” even though the morning light was upon him. He brings Yosef out from the dungeon, a place of physical darkness. However, Yosef, because of his relationship to Hashem, embodies a spiritual light. Pharaoh asks the Egyptian Magicians and the Egyptian wise men, symbols of intellectual and spiritual light, to interpret the dream; to cast light upon Pharaoh’s troubled/darkened spirit. They are unable to bring light or to offer a solution. However, Yosef, the embodiment of Hashem’s light, is capable of casting light upon Pharaoh’s darkness. To Pharaoh’s credit; his fear is not directed at Yosef. Instead, Pharaoh’s fear is directed at the ramifications of famine upon Egypt and how a famine would affect his authority.  Even Yosef conceals his identity from his brothers, he remains in the darkness so to speak while his brothers are unable to conceal their identity from him.  Yosef is the embodiment of spiritual and physical light as he always knows what is happening and what will happen.  Despite Yosef being in a pit, and in a dungeon, Yosef is light. He is able to transmit his light, his knowledge, his spiritual strength to those around him without being diminished; much like a candle transmits a flame to another candle.
                So as we continue to light the lights of the Chanukkiyah amid the physical darkness that comes with night; I am struck by the actual transmission of the light from wick to wick. I am also struck by the beautiful light that we create. The transmission of knowledge like a flame doesn’t diminish the source. It only diminishes darkness and ignorance. Yes, I understand people are scared of the rising tide of darkness. We are all a little scared of darkness. However, if we become overwhelmed by the darkness, we will be too scared of the fact that our souls are agitated. We will become paralyzed rather than ask what we can do to eliminate the darkness. Rather than listening to those who would only bring more darkness and more paralysis, we should listen to those who bring light and bring solutions. Nearly thirty years ago, President Bush could have retreated from the impending darkness that was the chaos of the collapsing Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. He could have kept the light of Democracy lit only in the West. He didn’t. He chose to do everything he could to shine a light upon the darkness of those former totalitarian countries and create a possibility for nascent democratic institutions to survive.  It takes great faith and courage to transfer light to darkened places and know that the source of the transferred light will not diminished. Hopefully, as our children grow older they will appreciate Yosef’s role in bringing light to his world and President Bush's courage in bringing light to his world. Hopefully they appreciate the importance of service, of engaging in acts of Kindness. Transferring their light won't diminish their own light, but rather it will increase the possibility for more light to exist amid the darkness.
Rav Yitz

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