The man was well intentioned, simple, always trying to be helpful, so was shocked and frightened as he read the headlines, "Joseph Missing, Presumed Dead, Police Investigate." He may have been the last person to see Joseph before his disappearance: "A man discovered him, and behold, he was blundering in the field. The man asked him, 'What do you seek?' And he said, 'My brothers do I seek; tell me, please where they are pasturing.' The man said, 'They have journeyed from here, for I heard them say, 'Let us go to Dotan' (Genesis 37:15-17)." When the news reported that Joseph's coat was found torn and bloodied, he was torn between his fear of the powerful family, the police interrogating him as a potential witness, and his desire to be the one who helped solve the case.
He decided to forget all about the case until he read that Rashi insisted that "the man" who spoke with Joseph was the Angel, Gabriel. He complained to his wife, "They are writing me out of history," but his wife reassured him that it was safer for him to remain anonymous. He scoured all the newspapers he could find for more than two decades because he wanted to believe that, even if deleted from the history books, what he had done was significant. Jacob was mourning a son he believed dead, but this anonymous man was desperate to believe that he had helped Joseph.
Twenty-two years later, when all discovered that Joseph was the viceroy of Egypt, the man began waiting for a thank you note from Joseph. Perhaps he is still waiting.
When Studs Terkel spoke at the Story Corps studio dedication, he said, "We're in Grand Central Terminal. We know there was an architect, but who hung the iron? Who were the brick masons? Who swept the floors? Those are the non-celebrated people of our country. In this kiosk, the non-celebrated will speak of their lives (Dave Isay, 'Ties That Bind,' Introduction)!"
When the rabbinic authorities instituted Chanukah, a year after the miracle with the Temple Menorah, they thought of this man of our story, another one of the non-celebrated people of the Bible. The few people who witnessed the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days were the warriors, the leaders of the people - the celebrated. A year later, the rabbis observed how the non-celebrated people in the marketplace kept the spirit of those special eight days alive, so they instituted that every home be celebrated. The future of the nation lay in the minds and spirits of the non-celebrated, the people who most deserved to be celebrated for keeping the light burning. Chanukah was instituted to celebrate those who previously were the non-celebrated.
There are many who celebrate the wise men, the righteous heroes, and the mystics, and they forget that we must also celebrate the typically non-celebrated, the people who keep the spirit alive, the very spirit that nurtures the more celebrated.
Please allow me to use this as an opportunity, in the Chanukah spirit, to celebrate you, who regularly study, seek to find joy and meaning in everything, determined to celebrate the opportunity to add your different sized flames of light to the beautiful torch that moves us toward a miraculous future.
Shabbat Shalom, and an Illuminating Chanukah
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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