Mikeitz 5781

parashas Mikeitz 5781

According to the Zohar, for every descent, there is an ascent: apropos to this weeks parashas, we see Joseph, whose feet were placed in fetters, His person was laid in iron; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the L-RD tested him (Psalm 105:19, JPS). Josephs descent to Egypt, and eventually into prison, began with his literal descent into the pit that his brothers callously cast him. He was then sold to Midianite traders, who brought him down to Egypt. He became the servant of Potiphar, who put Joseph in charge of his estate; yet, he was wrongfully accused by Potiphars wife; as a result, he wound up in prison.

Even in prison, Joseph flourished; the L-RD was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison (Genesis 39:21, JPS 1917 Tanach). He gained notoriety as an interpreter of dreams, after correctly interpreting, b’ezrach H’Shem (with the L-RDs help) the dreams of two prisoners who had been in stewardship in Pharaohs court. When the cup bearer, who was restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court, two years later, saw how disconcerted Pharaoh was about his own dreams, he recommended Joseph to Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: Forasmuch as G-d hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou’ (Genesis 41:39, JPS 1917 Tanach). Pharaoh was so impressed with Josephs interpretation, that he elevated him to second in command of Egypt, thereby charging him to care for Egypt during the famine, by developing a means to store food during the seven years of plenty, to be subsequently distributed during the famine that would ensue, according to Pharaohs dream. Thus, Josephs ascent followed his descent, all for the sake of others. Joseph models the qualities of endurance, patience and self-giving.

Chanukah Lights 5781

B”H

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

erev 3 Teves 5781

erev 8th day Chanukah

Each day of the eight days of Chanukah, a candle is lit, successively, so that on the first day – one candle is lit, then two candles on the eve of the second day, and so on. Yet, if you look at a menorah designed for Chanukah, there are nine candle holders. (Unless the menorah uses oil with tiny wicks, then there are nine repositories for the oil). The reason for a total of nine, is to have a place, usually in the center of the menorah, for the shamash (servant) candle, that is used to light all of the other candles. This candle is lit first; then, it shares its light with the other candles.

The tradition is reminiscent of the pasuk (verse), “In Thy light do we see light” (Psalm 36:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). H’Shem is the source of life, that bestows light upon us; we are connected, ever dependent upon Him for every breathe we take. “For Thou dost light my lamp; the L-RD my G-d doth lighten my darkness” (Psalm 18:29, JPS). At the darkest time of the year, may we hope to be enlightened by H’Shem, by way of His emes (truth), and chesed (mercy), two key components of Chanukah; for His truth led us in the darkness against our enemies; and, through His mercy, we were spared from capitulation to the ungodly agenda of the opposing force, that tried to erase our belief and practice.

Humble Mountain

B”H

hod shebbe malchus

(humility within sovereignty)

Humility is a necessary ingredient of character, inasmuch that any attempt to raise oneself above a modest estimation of one’s abilities should be placed in check by a fair analysis of oneself. Lowliness of spirit is a deterrent against pride. Showing deference to others helps to foster a sense of humility.

Ultimate deference must be shown to G-d through obeisance of His commandments, and an acknowledgment of His greater wisdom (Isaiah 55:8-9). The middah (character trait) of Hod is also reckoned as “splendor.” This type of splendor is the resultant state of humbling ourselves before G-d. “Before honor goeth humility” (Proverbs 15:33). When we bow to G-d in our heart, He will bestow his shefa (divine flow) upon us. 

B’nei Yisrael received the Torah at Sinai. Why was Mt. Sinai chosen from all of the other mountains? Because Sinai was not the highest of mountains; this teaches us the importance of humility. Only when we humble ourselves before G-d in full acknowledgment of our limitations, may we receive the Torah anew within the quietude of our hearts.

“The reward of humility is fear of the L-RD” (Proverbs 22:4, JPS 1917 Tanach). When we humble ourselves, we can begin to appreciate our relationship to H’Shem, acknowledging Him with awe, reverence and respect. His sovereignty over our lives becomes easier to accept, when we recognize that we are limited beings, without all of the answers in life.

Omer Day 47

Practical Goals

B”H

Hod shebbe yesod

(humility within foundation)

Humility facilitates the building of a foundation in life, by keeping our ambition in check; any goal in life needs to be practical, that is within the bounds of our abilities. We are finite beings, only capable of what G-d intends for us, through His bestowal of any natural gifts we may claim as part of our character. While it is good to reach beyond our current level of understanding, as well as our talents, we should be circumspect in order to make a modest estimation of our capabilities. Yet, at the same time, building a foundation also requires a healthy acknowledgment and appreciation of our talents, so that we may succeed at achieving our realized dreams. Additionally, we need to acknowledge G-d’s role as the Master Architect, whose blueprint for our lives compels us to keep Him in mind at all times, while we make plans for ourselves. 

Omer

self revelation

B”H

Today is thirty five days, five weeks of the Omer.

The attributes of the day are malchut shebbe hod

(sovereignty within humility)

Malchut represents sovereignty, dignity, and autonomy. We can walk with humility, while still maintaining a sense of dignity. This is because being humble does not mean becoming a doormat for other people to step on with soiled shoes, figuratively speaking. Rather humility permits us to acknowledge our weaknesses without disregarding our strengths. By way of contrast, while pride is an overexaggerated sense of self importance, humility is a fair assessment of ourselves as limited, yet, sufficient human beings.

the Epitome of Humility

B”H

Lag b’Omer

hod shebbe hod

humility within humility

The essence of humility is humility. Profound. Even more profound: at the depths of our humility, the soul is encompassed by splendor. Because hod is sometimes rendered as humility, and other times as splendor, there must be a connection between these two aspects of the middah (character trait). The explanation, in a nutshell, is that by humbling ourselves, we are raised up.

In the eyes of others, those who are sincerely humble, are often overlooked by others; yet, their splendor radiates in unseen realms. On the other hand, those who aggrandise themselves, do so to be seen; yet, they may only be great in their own eyes. The splendor that lasts is conferred by G-d, and G-d alone. His glory outshines ours; however, He may bestow some of His glory upon us, when we humble ourselves before Him.

“For thus saith the High and Lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 59:7, JPS 1917 Tanach).

endurance of humility

B”H

netzach shebbe hod

(endurance within humility)

The opposite of humility is pride. This being so, in focusing on our humility, we should be aware of pride in all of its manifestations, such as arrogance, haughtiness, and self centeredness. I’m sure there are other qualities that may be mentioned; I’ll leave this up to the reader. In diminishing pride, we allow for the presence of humility.

Pride is an overexagerated sense of self importance. Therefore, I would not include self esteem under the general category of pride. On the contrary, I believe that self esteem is both healthy and necessary in a person’s life. Of course, there is a fine line, that needs to be drawn by the individual.

How may the quality of endurance contribute to humility? It is not easy to maintain a modest estimation of oneself and one’s abilities. There is the lure of the secular perspective to aggrandize ourselves, compete against others, and climb up the ladder of egoism towards self glory. However, this is all contrary to humility.

Let me be clear, humility should not lead towards becoming a doormat, for others to wipe their feet upon. Humility should rather help us encounter an accurate understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. To know the truth about oneself, will further guard against narcissism, and the potential to form a false personae.

Ultimately, humility leads to splendor, another aspect of the sefirah “hod.” The two seem contrary to each other; yet, there is an explanation, grounded in the Tree of Life. By humbling ourselves before G-d, we can allow Him to raise us up, to build and rebuild our lives, and to cast His glory [splendor] upon us.

the humility of endurance

B”H

omer Count: 26

hod shebbe netzach

(humility within endurance)

Tenacity, perseverence, and resilience in the face of setbacks, allows us to be persistent in the pursuit of our goals. Yet, humility will keep an overly ambitious nature in check, so that we will not lose sight of our limitations. “Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, 1917 Tanach). Therefore, consider the example of the narrative, concerning the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). Shall we raise ourselves up above G-d in our hubris? (See Genesis 11:4). Rather, instead, we are best served by our own humility, when we are able to adhere to the blueprints of G-d.

humility of harmony

B”H

hod shebbe tiferes

humility within harmony

Humility may serve to temper a false sense of harmony within, by compelling a soul to recognise that any sense of inner peace is often fragile, especially if that peace is not drawn from a higher source. Are we willing to admit to ourselves, that we are dependent on many circumstances, needs, and expectations to maintain our peace? To think otherwise is to lack honesty with ourselves, for the only way to transcend the requirements that we set for ourselves to bring us peace, a fragile peace, is to turn to G-d for our strength.