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Miracles



וַיֹּ֧אמֶר יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶל־יוֹסֵ֖ף אָמ֣וּתָה הַפָּ֑עַם אַחֲרֵי֙ רְאוֹתִ֣י אֶת־פָּנֶ֔יךָ כִּ֥י עוֹדְךָ֖ חָֽי׃

Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now I can die, having seen for myself that you are still alive.”


These are the words that Israel, said to his beloved son, Joseph. For years, Israel, having received Joseph's tunic smeared with blood, had been under the impression that his precious son had been killed one day when out with his brothers. He had grieved his death. He had mourned that loss. Darkness had fallen over his household. He had felt the crushing weight of that loss.


But then, through a complex turn of events involving Joseph's rise to power in Egypt, this precious moment became possible. The father was to be reunited with his son. A miracle!


This season, we celebrate miracles. And, we contemplate the shortsightedness of the human mind. It was perfectly reasonable for Israel to believe that Joseph was dead. His sons told him that was the case. He held his son's precious tunic smeared with blood in his hands. He felt the absence of his son from the table night after night. The evidence was abundant.


And, yet, a miracle! Joseph was alive-- his brothers had deceived their father about his fate. Instead, Joseph had, in fact, risen to great stature in Egypt. The greatest miracle came true for Israel. He lived long enough to be reunited with his beloved son.


This story reminds each of us that, as human beings, we are limited in our perception. The evidence we so fiercely rely on may be incomplete. The stories we learn and tell may be misleading. To humbly acknowledge this idea leaves room for the possibility of miracles in the world.


When the Judah and the Maccabees and Judith and the Hasmoneans sought to fight back against the entire Assyrian army, it seemed like the odds were stacked high against them. But, they decided to act anyway for the cause of justice and right, and in doing so, they left room for the possibility of a miracle. They nurtured the hope in their hearts that their actions would matter. And, indeed, they were able to win back control of the Temple, and rededicate it to God.


This Hanukkah season, we contemplate the values that we hold dear, and we rededicate ourselves to the causes that align with those values, no matter how seemingly far off. We recommit to working for justice and equity in the world no matter how unjust. We dedicate ourselves to pursuing the miracles of science and medicine no matter how seemingly hopeless it is. We recommit to looking for the miracles, big and small in our lives to inspire us to continue.


During this dark season of Hanukkah, kindling the lights is more important than ever. May the story of Joseph's miraculous return to his father Israel ever kindle the flame of hope in our hearts, and may this be a season of miracles for all. Ken Yehi Ratzon.


The above is a reflection by Rabbi Heather Miller on this week's Torah portion, Parashat Miketz, Genesis 41:1-44:17 . Please visit keepingitsacred.com to subscribe and follow on social media.


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