Vayeshev – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis
This week we begin our parasha with the statement that Jacob had settled (vayeshev) in the land where his fathers had sojourned. The story of Joseph and his life then begins. Joseph will go on, through many adventures, to sojourn in Egypt but after his death his remains will be brought back to settle in the land of his fathers. The irony was that Jacob sought to build something permanent in a land where there were no roots. Where we travel in our lives and where we pass the time or sojourn is something that we, as Jews, understand. For us, the question of where our homeland is is always thrown in our faces. For us the question is very ancient and very complicated.
Our lives are a book to be written. Small things can have life changing results. The unnamed man who points Joseph towards his brothers began a chain of events. It would not only lead to exile but to the fulfilment of the prophesy that we would be enslaved for four hundred years.
We may not be totally successful. Reuben wanted to save Joseph from being killed:
וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע רְאוּבֵ֔ן וַיַּצִּלֵ֖הוּ מִיָּדָ֑ם
Reuben heard, and he saved him from their hand[s]
But agreeing to have Joseph put in the pit would also result in events he could not have foreseen.
On Sunday we will be lighting the first Chanukah candle. The tradition is to add a candle each night in the tradition of Hillel. (Shammai wanted to begin with all the candles and then reduce them one by one, a sort of countdown).
Just as we light a new candle each night of Hanukkah, so too did Joseph’s reality gradually get brighter.
We can all make a difference to our world even though we may not recognise it at the time. However long our lives and whatever happens to us we are all able to add light; to our families, to our friends and to the world.