The Joseph story – sometimes described as a novella – covers thirteen chapters in the book Genesis and spans no fewer than four Parashot. Many will have been exposed to the Joseph story from Torah, yet most, I suspect, will know him best from recent stage and screen portrayals – not to mention his reception in the world of art down through the centuries.
The IJC community reflected this past Shabbat on the seamless yet many-sided character of Joseph (not unlike his Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat): from the arrogant brat who grassed on his brothers and hinted he would one day rule over them (or was he just a typical teenager and a little naïve), to the potential #MeToo victim (or was Potiphar's wife the true victim, nameless, ignored by her husband, mere chattel), to the interpreter of dreams and Pharaoh's second in command (or was he just a young man who knew how to make friends and influence people), to the Joseph who 'never called home' when he found success, and struggled with the desire to get his own back when his brothers were on their knees, yet wept in private - and finally in the open - at the joy of seeing them again, and at the knowledge that their father Jacob/Israel was still alive.
The beauty of reading Torah as Jews is that we get to look at the same story year after year while we adjust our perspectives and read it differently. The Torah stays the same, but we change and our circumstances change. There are many sides to the Torah and each of us contributes to exposing something new when we read it.
Hannukah is here and many of us will be lighting candles and sharing their light with those around us. If you google 'what is the miracle of Hanukkah?' you'll find – unsurprisingly – that there's more than one answer. Is it a military victory? Is it a cruse of oil that burned for eight days instead of the expected one? Or is it the fact that we are still lighting candles in spite of past and present setbacks. They tried to kill us, they failed, let's eat (and light candles)!
Chag Chanukah Sameach.
Brian Doyle is the IJC Rabbinical Intern