Torah Reading for Week of December 22-28, 2019
“To Run Where the Brave Dare Not Go”
By Rabbi Mindie Snyder, ’15
The views expressed in this drash are those of the author. We welcome Torah insights and teachings from all viewpoints, and encourage dialogue to strengthen the diversity of our academy.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go…
“The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” from the musical, Man of La Mancha
Music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion (1966)
Each year, as Hanukkah approaches, the Torah teaches us about the arc of Joseph’s life. In the previous parsha, Vayeshev, Joseph was depicted as a vulnerable fellow.
He was, at once, vulnerable to his own sense of entitlement as well as the desire for revenge from his brothers. By the time we reach Parshat Miketz, Joseph has transformed his world view into one that discerns how to help others, while conducting his affairs with the precious character trait of humility. Furthermore, we notice between the lines, how the Hand of God has placed him in a critical position to protect and save his family. At the auspicious moment of reuniting, we meet the very men who facilitated Joseph’s sudden and dramatic departure and we experience the ways in which Joseph prevails. He defies gravity in an epic display of forgiveness. Joseph rises up and emerges victorious, rather than victimized.
Although Torah does not speak to us of Hanukkah, it does, through this part of the Joseph narrative, illustrate how a singular human, in partnership with Divine Providence, prevents the destruction of B’nai Yisrael. Indeed, Joseph preserves our people for generations to come.
Like Joseph, Judah Maccabee and his small band of brothers animated their Divine mission, against all odds, and saved Judaism from historic oblivion.
However, just because a person stands in alignment with goals of spirit, they are not assured ease of passage. On any given day, reporting for one’s unique mission may require nothing less than raw courage. Lessons from the lives of our ancestors reveal how calamity almost surely awaits. Working for The Source of All Life, isn’t necessarily an easy job. Follow-through in such instances can mean “to run where the brave dare not go”.
While dreams may be understood as aspirational ideas, they may also be experienced as precious gifts, appearing in the unconscious and mysterious realms of sleep time. Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed, (3:36-8) noted that within dreams the imagination is awakened and this action makes prophesy possible. Rabbinic tradition teaches that dreams are 1/60th of prophesy. In any case, dreams beg to be understood. Dreams and Judaism itself, require interpretation. We, like our ancestor Joseph, are prompted to review and unpack the meanings of our dreams. When we do, we have the opportunity to act upon that information, change our lives and the lives of others, for the better.
An entire adult lifetime ago, I awakened to a series of repetitive dreams instructing me that I was “supposed to be a rabbi.” Women were only beginning to be accepted into rabbinic seminaries at that time and there were no accessible female role models. It was a bit of a shock because I had another vision for my life. In order to answer the questions “Why me?”, “What would I have to offer…?” “How could this work?” I needed to surrender to a paradigm shift that required a very different way of walking in the world . Being faithful to this call, I engaged a conscientious layering of skills in the arts and health care, along with learning much, much more about the tradition of my family, as well as other religious traditions, over many years. The life I imagined was replaced with a series of surprises and ever present confirmation that there was some sort of Divine intervention illuminating a very windy path. Furthermore, this path presented generous angels instructing me at every turn. I am eternally grateful for their presence and presents.
This Hanukkah, as we kindle each light of our Hanukkiyot, we can reflect upon how far we have come, how well we are living our dreams and what we really need to do, now. Inspired by Joseph, Judah and others, we can respond to our respective missions with bravery, integrity and compassion.
In our day, may you and your loved ones be blessed with good dreams, fulfilled to the best of your ability, for a beautiful present and optimal future.