Monday, November 18, 2013

Learning from the Pit

Parshat VaYeshev
20 Kislev 5774 / November 22-23, 2013
Bereshit 37:1 – 40:23

Learning from the Pit
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

Yosef, the beloved son of Yaacov hits rock bottom this week. Literally! His dad gives him a beautiful coat which hails tremendous jealousy from his brothers. Not to mention Yosef’s dreams about his brothers and parents worshipping him do not help. His brothers are so fed up with their younger brother’s antics that they toss him into a pit and sell him into slavery.
“When Yosef came up to his brothers, they stripped him of his ornamented cloak and took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Genesis 37:23-24)
Channukah begins next week (Nov. 27) and I am wondering how Yosef’s descent into this empty pit relates to the holiday of lights (Chag Ha’Urim).
One spiritual message of Channukah is that light is to be found even in the darkest night. This can be a metaphor for so many things, including that hope and possibility are always present in the midst of despair and doubt. I think this is what Yosef teaches us. He is in the pit of despair – shunned by his family and stripped of his radiant coat. The world was looking pretty amazing until this moment in his life. And like so many moments that occur, his world and his identity are turned upside down. Who can he trust? Where is he going? How will he survive this very painful moment? Yosef in the pit can represent the curve ball that life throws that we see in death, loss, and doubt.
The message of Channukah is to sit in the pit, because you have no other choice but to accept reality. At first you will look around and say that this moment is empty – I am alone. We see that all the experiences of our life, all the blessings of our life, have not adequately prepared us to deal with this amount of struggle – There is not even water here!
Very slowly though, as we light the first light of Channukah which over time becomes the radiance of eight shining flames, we discover inner and outer resources that we were originally blind to. Yosef discovers his faith and the power of his dreams. For some of us, in difficult times we might encounter a compassionate waiting community or a wellspring of dormant creativity. Our eyes and our lives adjust to the darkness of the pit until we see that there is a whole world to explore. A world that is more radiant with meaning and connection then we could have ever imagined.     
Wishing all of us a Chag Channukah Sameach. A joyous Channukah Celebration!



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