We gaze at the delightful dancing lights as we sit before the menorah and
sing the traditional songs associated with the festival. Many observe a
special ritual of lingering in the delicate radiance of the menorah lights
while reflecting on their sublime message. But what precisely is that
message? What insights are the tiny flames meant to trigger?
Perhaps the very word "reflect" serves as a signpost on our journey toward
internalizing Chanukah's spiritual treasure. To reflect does not simply mean
to contemplate or ponder. It also means to mirror, or to reverberate. When
we gaze deep into the menorah lights, what we should see is a genuine
reflection of our true selves.
The concept of facing the deeper truth about one' true self comes to the
fore in this week's Torah portion, as well. This concept is embedded in two
words that are seemingly out of place with the flow of the narrative.
Yaakov's sons face Yosef, the Eygptian viceroy, who treats them with
unreasonable hostility. He accuses them of being spies and throws them into
prison, allowing only one of the brothers to return home and prove their
collective innocence by bringing back Binyomin.
Yosef unexpectedly relents a few days later and announces that the brothers
can all return home, except for Shimon who will be detained until their return.
The Torah records the brothers' response to Yosef's surprising change of
heart and generous gesture, as "Vayaasu kein," and they did so. The verse
gives no further explanation about what the brothers actually did. Instead
the Torah continues to tell us that the brothers immediately examined their
past behavior and severely reproached themselves for not being sensitive to
Yosef's distress when they sold him into slavery. They now assumed that
their present misfortune was a direct result of their past callous behavior.
The commentaries explain that Vayaasu kein - 'they did so' indicates that
Yosef's brothers followed Yosef's lead in reevaluating the truth of their
own personal conduct.
As viceroy, Yosef ruled Egypt with complete, undisputed authority. He was a
powerful unchallenged leader who could do whatever he pleased. From the
pedestal of absolute power he decreed that all the brothers would be
imprisoned until proven innocent. Yet, without explanation he backed down.
What was behind this sudden reversal?
Great people recognize that everything that transpires in life is a message
from Heaven that needs to be carefully appraised. The brothers saw Yosef's
about-face as a clear message from Hashem. If the all-powerful viceroy could
have a change of heart and mind, they too should reexamine their
convictions, especially their firm belief in their innocence.
Even if it involved an ego-bruising realization, it was an exercise they
needed to engage in. "Vayaasu kein" .... Like Yosef, the brothers pondered
their conduct and motives and found them wanting.
The word 'kein' means authentic and genuine - a state of existence in which
the external is a perfect reflection of the internal.
When gazing at the light of the menorah we are looking at a reflection of
our inner self and beyond, to our very soul and the G-dliness within us.
Removing the obfuscating presence of our ego and negative character traits
enables the inner glow of the neshama to radiate through the body and light
up its surroundings.
When we gaze at the menorah lights, we are internalizing the message of
Chanukah-to bring the awareness of G-d's loving hand directing all aspects
of our existence. Hopefully that will lead to take a more inspired role in
our daily lives. All too often, we are too invested in our professed
opinions and public persona to acknowledge our shortcomings. By letting go
of self-justification as did Yosef's brothers, and being emotionally honest
with ourselves, we will be connecting to the message of the Chanukah lights,
ensuring that they genuinely reflect our deepest self.
When that self is aligned with the awareness of G-d's loving presence in all
of life's dimensions, the Chanukah message will burst forth and illuminate
all the inner and outer shadows of our existence.
Wishing you a delightful and Freilichen Shabbos Chanukah.