Happy Chanukah! (Yes, that’s the spelling I prefer and have always used.)
This year, I have decided to read Maccabees I and II to refresh my memory of the real story and escape from the holiday’s modern day mutation into a pale copy of Christmas, a version emphasizing a legend of a day’s worth of sanctified oil that burned for eight days, a legend inserted by the rabbis who weren’t crazy about a holiday for a military victory and who also weren’t fond the protagonists, the Hasmonean family. I haven’t got very far yet. Had to find our copy of the Apocrypha. When I was a child, we marked Chanukah as the first war fought for religious freedom. But I think most people are not anxious to learn the reality of Chanukah because of painful parallels to today: Many Jews living in Israel have adopted the Hellenistic ways of their ruler and are happy to do so and to assimilate. A small minority of religious zealots essentially hijack Israeli society and start what is not just a revolt against the foreign rulers, but a civil war against their more secular brethren. Yes, the foreign rulers are ousted, but the independent state under the Hasmoneans didn’t last long. About 63 B.C.E. two rival factions among them invited Rome in to intervene. And Rome didn’t leave.
The second scroll reading, for the fourth day of Chanukah, is the donation made by the Reubenites for the dedication of the Tabernacle, an appropriate parallel to the Temple rededication that Chanukah marks. The special haftarah, Zechariah 2:14-4:7, which has a the image of a menorah in a rebuilt and rededicated Temple and includes the famous verse (4:6), “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit—said the LORD of hosts.“
Miketz is a continuation of the Joseph story. Two years have passed. The Pharaoh dreams of seven emaciated cows swallowing seven healthy ones and then has a second dream, in which seven stalks of grain with withered ears swallow seven full and healthy ones. The wine steward tells Pharaoh about the young Hebrew who interpreted his dream in prison. Joseph – shaved, hair cut, nicely dressed (out of respect for Pharaoh, but maybe also for a potential job interview?) – gives his 7 fat years and 7 lean years interpretation, which sounds plausible and better than anything the magicians who come up with. He then describes what Pharaoh should do to minimize harm, namely, store up the excess and appoint a capable person to be in charge of all this. The sages differ as to whether Joseph is simply continuing the dream interpretation or if he is deliberately going beyond it. Also, while this encounter ends well for Joseph personally (he’s appointed viceroy), note how much he brings God into the story, concerning who sent the dreams, who is interpreting them, who is going to send both plenty and famine, until even Pharaoh says the appointee should have the spirit of God in him. Joseph, now Zaphenat-Paneah, settles in Egypt, marries, and has two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. The plenty ends and the famine comes.
Meanwhile, back in Canaan, we see an emotionally stunted family. The 10 older brothers still feel guilty about Joseph. Jacob, well over 100, is still very much in charge of his family. He has to tell them to stop looking at each other and go down to buy food in Egypt (without Benjamin). Joseph recognizes them and decides to test them to see if they have changed. He meets with them, serves dinner, and sends them away with their money returned in the grain bags, but he holds Shimon (why him?) hostage until they return with their youngest brother. After a while, the food runs out, and they are forced to return with Benjamin, who is shortly framed by having Joseph’s diving cup placed in his grain sack, probably doomed to be Joseph’s slave. What do the brothers do? Now that’s a good cliffhanger.
Chanukah sameach, and an early Shabbat shalom,
Top Ten Unpopular Chanukah Gifts: (selections)
9. “Dancing with the Stars Hanukah Special” DVD
8. Parents get you a year’s Jdate Membership! (note: you’re 12)
7. The ShakeWeight Vibrating Dreidel
6. Oil Me Down Elmo
5. Fat Free, Sugar Free, Cholesterol Free Jelly Donuts
2. Herring of the Month club
1. Having to deal with Co-workers wishing you a Happy Chanukah a month after it’s over
Top Ten Signs You’ve Purchased a Lame Menorah
by Weekly Bang Staff Posted: 12-09-2006(Viewed 2956 times)
10. Two words: “Santa Shamesh”
9. Base of Menorah seems to be already covered with authentic chunks of melted colored wax
8. The Preset Oil cups guarantee glass shards in your finger every time
7. Only comes with oil supply for one night worth. Instructions: 1. Light Wick 2. Pray for miracle
6. The dude lighting the menorah on the box looks nothing like Matisyahu
5. One one side of box it says Happy Chanukah, the other side: Happy Kwanza
4. You paid an additional few bucks for “Transfat Free Oil”
3. “Not for Actual Lighting” warning label prominently displayed
2. It’s really just a set of 1973 Manschewitz Yahrtzeit Candles
1. Box says “1 light for all 8 Reindeer”
(OK, I have no idea how seriously to take this item, so I ask the assistance the all you Biblical/archaeological scholars out there for help.)
Egyptian paper: Coins found bearing name of Joseph (excerpt)
Biblical patriarch ID’d in hieroglyphs, depiction of cow linked to pharaoh’s dream
Posted: September 26, 2009
11:30 pm Eastern
© 2011 WND
An image from the Middle East Media Research Institute revealing Egyptian coins tracked to the time of Joseph
Egyptian coins carrying the name of Joseph, the biblical patriarch whose arrival in Egypt as a slave eventually provided salvation for his family during decades of drought across the Middle East, have been discovered in a cache of antique items shelved in boxes in a museum, according to a new report.
The report from the Middle East Media Research Institute said the coins with Joseph’s name and image were found in a pile of unsorted artifacts that had been stored at the Museum of Egypt.
MEMRI, which monitors and translates reports from Middle East publications and broadcasters, said the original report was in Egypt’s Al Ahram newspaper in Cairo.
The newspaper said the discovery countered claims by some historians that coins were not used for trade in Egypt at the time the Bible records Joseph and the Israelites migrated there. (more at the link)
Dream Quotes to Remember
”Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.”
”I dream my paintings and then I paint my dreams.”
Vincent Van Gogh
“I do not understand the capricious lewdness of the sleeping mind.”
“When I dream, I am ageless.”
“Dreaming permits each and everyone of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.”
“I don’t use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough.”
Marie E. Eschenbach