BY DEBORAH MILLER, JTS
Can We Grow?
Family relationships are often complicated, but the family of Jacob is a particularly jumbled mess. In this week’s parashah, the story has hints and echoes of a decades-long, tangled skein of family dynamics. We see these in two particularly problematic scenes in this parashah. Both scenes illustrate William Faulkner’s truism that “the past is never dead. It's not even past.” And in this story, we see how the past leaks into the future.
BY ZOHAR ATKINS for JTS
Hearing Our Own Stories
Although we know how it ends, this week’s Torah reading can be, by turns, anxiety-provoking, cathartic, and unsettling. We know a reconciliation between the brothers will take place, but we don’t fully understand how. We know a peace deal will be reached, but we suspect that, like all new agreements, its character will be tenuous, fragile, and ad hoc, its consensus constructed atop a minefield of lingering resentments and fundamentally conflicting narratives.
Miketz - Rosh Chodesh Hanukkah
BY ARNOLD M. EISEN, JTS
Joseph, Hanukkah, and the Dilemmas of Assimilation
Ruminations about assimilation come naturally to Jews in North America during the winter holiday season. How much should a parent insist that Hanukkah is part of public school celebrations that give students a heavy dose of Christmas? How often should one remind store clerks who innocently ask Jewish children which gifts they hope to receive from Santa this year that there are other faiths observed in our communities, and other holidays? Intermarried couples are familiar with conversations about having a Christmas tree at home, or going to midnight mass, or allowing their kids to open gifts Christmas morning under the tree at their cousins’ home. The Hanukkah story is the perfect stimulus for such reflections, especially when read, as some historians do, not as a conflict between Jews and a tyrannical government, but as a dispute among Jews themselves over which Greek customs are acceptable and which cross the line to assimilation or apostasy.