The weekly Torah reading of Miketz (Genesis
41:1-44:17), which almost always coincides with Chanukah, tells the
story of the rise of Joseph the son of Jacob from slave to viceroy. And
while Miketz contains no Jewish oppression, no battles, and no
outright miracles, Joseph’s story could well be viewed as a stark
contrast to the story of Chanukah.

The story of Joseph is an
affirmation of how to remain true to one’s faith while still succeeding
in a non-Jewish society. He spoke Egyptian without an accent and
pretended not to understand Hebrew. He dressed in royal robes. The
people called him Tzaphenath Pa’nayach. Joseph was so well disguised by his Egyptian identity that even his own brothers could not recognize him.

Throughout
his stunning career, however, Joseph never forgot who he was. When
Joseph finally revealed himself, he declared: “…for it was to preserve
life that God sent me before you” (Genesis 45:5).

Joseph
recognized that his ability to maintain his faith, while living as an
Egyptian, was beyond most people. That is why, when his entire family
came to settle in Egypt, he asked Pharaoh to allow them to settle in
Goshen as shepherds, separated from the Egyptian people by land and
profession.

Chanukah celebrates Jewish identity and the
determination of the people to fight assimilation. When the
Syrian-Greeks conquered the land of Israel, they presented their
Hellenistic lifestyle as one that was exalted and universal. But as Jews
took on the external affectations of the Greeks–their dress, their
language, their names–they did not have Joseph’s strength to eschew the
heathen practices that were integral to the Hellenistic lifestyle.

Assimilation
into surrounding cultures with a corresponding loss of Jewish identity
has always been a challenge for the Jewish people. Joseph met the
challenge successfully, can we?


 
This Treat was last posted on December 14, 2012.

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