For the week of December 11, 2004 / 28 Kislev 5765
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:30-41
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7
The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. (Bereshit / Genesis 41:53,54)
The Festival of Hanukkah begins this week, running from Wednesday, December 8 through to Wednesday, December 15. Since the Jewish day begins at sundown, the festival actual starts the evening of Tuesday, December 7. Hanukkah is a joyous celebration, marked by family and communal gatherings, singing, games, special foods, and the lighting of candles. TorahBytes features a special Hanukkah section that can be found here, where you will find background information, a children's story, and activities.
Perhaps the most important theme of Hanukkah has to do with the need for God's people to resist the forces of compromise. In the case of the Jewish people of those days, a small group of faithful followers of God, called the Maccabees, resisted the attempt on the part of foreign oppressors to force the Jews to conform to their religion and culture.
Those who knew God's ways understood that they could not go along with this attempt to force Israel to conform. To do so would be to turn from God and to risk losing his blessing.
Many in our day seem to think that we can embrace the ways of the prevailing society while not losing touch with God. It seems that we don't understand how incompatible the world is with God and his ways.
This week's Torah portion tells the story of how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. Through Joseph God foretold the coming years of plenty and famine. Because the Egyptians listened to God's word through Joseph they were able to flourish in the midst of great famine.
In order to experience God's blessing, it was necessary for the Egyptians to follow God's words precisely. Neglecting to do so would have meant disaster not only for Egypt, but also for the people of Israel and many other nations.
The Maccabees understood this. They knew that for them do what many of their fellow Israelites were doing in engaging in Greek practices was to compromise God's word. They knew to remain faithful to God meant to resist even at the cost of their very lives.
It is no different for us today as the prevailing culture incessantly pressures us to compromise. There is little tolerance for those who resist. Yet what choice do we have but to resist? Do we think we can appease the assimilation forces? Do we think that we can bow to both the God of Israel and the gods of materialism and compromise? Who are we trying to please anyway?
Sadly many who claim to be followers of God don't even know that they are compromising. The Egyptians experienced the blessing of God because they knew God's word and did it. The Maccabees resisted the pressure to conform because they knew the Scriptures. We will not be able to resist the ungodly forces of our day unless we too know the Bible and do what God says.
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