Thursday, December 29, 2011

PARSHAS VAYIGASH 5772

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Vayigash

4 Teves 5772/December 30, 2011

Jeff had always wanted to be an army-pilot and now his dream was finally becoming a reality. In another week he would set off to the army base to begin the exciting new stage of his life. Although he didn’t want to admit it Jeff was very nervous. The prospect of entering hostile enemy territory and engaging in constant combat was daunting to say the least. He knew there would be dark and lonely days ahead. Still Jeff was confident that his years of training and ongoing support from his generals and fellow soldiers would give him the encouragement to stay the course.

During the week before his departure, friends and family members gathered around him to toast him, wish him well, and tell him how proud they were of him. Most precious of all was the advice and encouragement from Uncle Barry. A former general, Barry had proven himself to be an adroit soldier. Uncle Barry spoke to Jeff about his own experiences. He told Barry that it was inevitable that he would make mistakes, which at times could even be costly. But a real soldier doesn’t allow himself to wallow in self pity. Most importantly he told Jeff that he had to learn to trust himself and believe that he had the tools necessary to succeed. Even in the bleakest situations he had to trust the monitors and gauges before him. He had all the tools he needed; the test would be whether he could access those tools in moments of need.

The conclusion of Chanukah is always somewhat bittersweet. For eight nights we gather together with our families to reflect upon the blessings G-d endows us. We sing in the glow of the dancing flames which remind us that throughout our history our flame continues to burn, despite the storms and tempests that tried to extinguish it. The beautiful customs and unique foods endemic to Chanukah add to the spirit of the holiday.

When Chanukah ends it not only marks the conclusion of this most beautiful holiday, but it also ushers in the darkest and coldest stretch of winter. Within a week of Chanukah’s conclusion is the eighth of Teves, that day the Septuagint was written. It is a day when the Gemara says darkness descended into the world for three days. Chanukah generally ends during the Christian holiday season or prior, which historically is a difficult period for Jews. The Septuagint also has much to do with the eventual writing of the New Testament, the foundation of their religion. Two days later we fast to commemorate the beginning of the siege of Nebuchadnezzar around Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the first Bais Hamikdash. The weeks of Shovavim, a period of repentance and introspection (during the weeks of the reading of the first six parshios (in a leap year eight parshios) of Chumash Shemos), also begin within two weeks of Chanukah.

These events do not abruptly and rapidly eradicate all traces of the joy of Chanukah. In fact the opposite is true. The holiday of Chanukah provides us with encouragement and spiritual warmth to weather the challenges of the upcoming weeks. The Yom Tov grants us the tools to find fulfillment even in darkness.

The Yom Tov of Chanukah cannot end when the Menorah is placed back on the shelf. We must continue to hear its message, feel its warmth, and see its light throughout the winter. The Menorah and the eight days of hallel and hoda’ah have given us the tools we need to plunge ahead into the months of Teves and Shevat. The only question is if we can access those tools in our moments of need.

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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