Be awake and aware
Torah Portion: Mikketz (And Then It Came to Pass) B’resheet/Genesis 41:1-44:17
Haftorah Reading: I Kings 3:15-4:1
Tonight, we celebrate the 7th night of Chanukah as well as study our Torah portion called Mikketz. I think as we go through this we will see some connections between the two subjects. After our study we will do Havdalah to mark the end of the Sabbath and then light the 7th candle of the holiday.
First let’s look at Chanukah and see what spiritual insight we gain from this holiday. To begin, let’s look at a little history about this holiday. The setting is Israel about 2200 years ago. Israel at the time was under the rule of the Greek Empire. Alexander the Great had conquered the known world years before. As a result, Greek culture was introduced across the known world. Part of the Greek culture was to introduce their own religious faith and life, both centered on the worship of the physical body and philosophy. The Greek system of religion was basically based on the worship of mankind and this was the focus of their culture. They promoted intellect and the beauty of the human body as ideals to be held up for admiration and even worship.
This system stood in direct opposition to Judaism and the worship of the one true G-d, and the importance of a person’s relationship with the Divine. The Greek’s spread out over the land, building gymnasiums and theaters throughout the land. This approach proved highly successful with many Jews, who became involved and eventually left their faith. The Greeks went so far as to order everyone to abandon Judaism and forced the population to worship Greek gods. One part of their tactics was to offer a pig on the altar of the Temple and erect a statue of Zeus.
Then they fanned out across the country, going from town to town, forcing the local people to do the same. However, when they came to the town of Modi’in, near Jerusalem, the local priest and his sons refused, rose up and expelled the Greeks from the town. From this began the revolt that ended with the expulsion of the Greeks and the rededication of the Temple. This holiday is only mentioned in one place in scripture. In John 10:22 we read where Yeshua was going to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.
However, we do see the hold-over of the Greek influence in the Messianic scripture, mainly in the people taking on Greek names. We can read of Timothy, Peter and Paul to only name a few. Over the pages of history, we can read about similar events such as this. The one we would be most familiar with would be communism. This started with the introduction of a system that held great appeal to the poor and down trodden of Europe. It promised an equal sharing of everything. Each person would get what they needed to live, but wealth would no longer be held by just a few.
This dream deteriorated into exactly the opposite. This happens when human nature is devoid of any faith in G-d. Like the Greeks, Communism became a copy of what it had replaced. Eventually, people of faith in G-d were punished and eventually the system fell. Judaism was specifically singled out.
My point in this long explanation is to help us understand how important it is for each of us to be aware and on guard for any moment our system tries to replace our faith in G-d with faith in some new thing, be it money, freedom to do anything we want with no boundaries.
In the time of Yeshua we see a somewhat similar situation. Rome was the final authority on what could and could not be done. However, in verses like Phil. 2:10-11 and Matt. 10:28 we read of specific warnings in scripture about allowing anything to replace our faith in G-d. Any political party, social movement or even religious movement that negates our faith in G-d must be resisted and called out for what it is.
Now, to our Torah portion of the evening. This portion begins with Joseph being freed from prison and rising to become the second most powerful man in the world. We read of his reunion with his brothers, who did not recognize before whom they bowed. I’m sure Joseph remembered his dreams as a boy about this happening.
I want us to think for a bit about Joseph and the events in our portion and over the rest of the book of Genesis. Compare Joseph’s dreams with the dream of his father Ya’akov. What are the differences? Joseph’s dreams centered mainly on his rise to power and being held in high regard by both his siblings and father. What was the focus of his dreams? Joseph was the focus of his own dreams. As we go through his life in later chapters we will see where Joseph used his position to concentrate everything in Egypt, people, possessions and land, into the hands of the Pharaoh. We do not read in scripture where Joseph asked G-d for direction in his new job. He only did what would benefit Pharaoh. Now, this was certainly used by G-d to bless Israel later when they came to live in Egypt and lived in the best area of Egypt – the land of Goshen. Also, we see in the end of his life Joseph wanted his body returned to Israel for burial indicating he still had some appreciation for the holiness of the land G-d promised the children of Israel.
However, as time went on, a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph came to power and used these systems that had been set in place by Joseph, to brutally repress the Egyptians and also Israel. My point in all this is, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There are always unforeseen consequences when politics are used by people of faith like Joseph did in these verses. He never meant to enslave the people but once the ground work was laid it was an easy step for someone who did not know Joseph, to use the power for evil, whether it is political, societal or religious. This is the connection between Chanukah and this week’s Torah portion. The Greeks imposed their culture and religion on Israel and many Jews fell in line with what they were told to do. Not thinking of the consequences. We must always be spiritually aware of what is being ask of us and what is happening around us.