Turkey did it again. It is of minor comfort to me that the bird and the country are both not renowned for their intellectual acuity. I wonder if it is still P.C. for little boys to call each other "Turkey head" or whether it would be more 21st century Universalist to say, "You think like one of the many species of birds that populate our shared planet". The Prime Minister of Turkey has decided that ISIS will prevail unless Israel finds a way of appeasing the Palestinians. Yes. This is the ONLY issue. When I read this insightful remedy for What Ails Us, I began wondering how today’s media would reports the Yosef story.
They (CNN, BBC, Fox etc.) would no doubt ignore the dreams, and turn the entire early part of the story into a sort of Horatio Alger rags to riches narrative. The part of his resisting Potiphar's wife, and subsequent imprisonment would read, "In spite of legal entanglements stemming from his early allegiance to the traditionalist norms of the tribal society of his early youth, he made his way to the Royal Court by the time he was thirty." It would go from there to describe his mercurial progress in the field of economics. Here too the dreams would be ignored, as would the profound depth of his encounter with his brothers, his returning good for evil and his attributing all of his travail to a Divine Plan. Instead, it would tell us that his economic genius turned Egypt into the most powerful produce broker in the entire world. If any mention of his brothers and father would be considered worthy of recording, it would be a mention of "the complex family entanglements that were forgotten when they all joined him in Egypt, settling Goshen where they joined his efforts in promoting an entirely new branch of economy; sheep raising. This endeavor was another step towards a Greater Egypt." Needleless to say, G-d would not be a player on their field.
How did we get like this? It isn't just the result of 19th century denial of religion.
Ignoring/denying/avoiding are not new. There is a story in Prophets that says it all. Elisha, one of the best-known prophets of the first Temple era, did many miracles. One of them was his turning the bitter waters of a river into sweet drinkable water. You would think that this would give him absolute recognition. This would lead to step two, his having the kind of credibility that he wanted so badly in his efforts to open the hearts of the Jews of his time. Step three would presumably be their abandoning idol worship and returning to Hashem. It didn't happen. A group of young people resented his "interference" in their lives. They made a living transporting water from other areas to the people who lived rear the effected water. They cursed and degraded him, which would have not only been a terrible insult to a prophet of G-d, but would destroy the power of his message by trivializing a miracle.
Hashem "arranged" for them to be attacked and torn apart by bears. The question is asked whether these were "random" bears that "just happened" by, and whether the forest that they emerged from (without which they wouldn't have attacked-bears instinctively attack when they know that they can escape back to their environment), just "happened" to be there. Were there bears but no forest, or a forest but no bears? Were there no bears and no forest until the moment that Hashem wanted them there? Could G-d have had the bears attack without needing a forest to retreat to by changing their instinctive responses? Of course! For that matter, could he have changed the minds of the young people so that they would never have needed this sort of punishment? Again the answer is, "of course". The reality is, however that largely G-d does not force His presence on you to the point that your choices are robotic. You have to look around you, draw conclusions, and not settle for conclusions that fit your pre-existent prejudices.
The reason that I am telling you this story is to open your minds a bit. We are living in remarkable times, times in which experience miracles both vicariously and directly on an almost daily basis. One of the problems is that we have learned to "report" the news in ways that only the most superficial aspects of the news seep in. Still another attack in which the victim survives, the murderer is killed and ho hum nothing much else in the news. The fact the inner dimension is far more "real" than the exterior story.
The message is clear. We will have peace on the outside, only when we stop relying on politicians, economic theories, and each other. Hashem is very much with us, speaking to us about why we view life as precious, and why we revile murder. We have to see a bigger picture, and learn to question what our own roles are in the puzzle. What is the best way to affirm the value of your life? What are the instructions in the only Book that has enduring value?
The message of Chanukah is that there is light in the darkness, all things are possible. Now that the holiday is ending, it's important to let the light, the joy, and the realization of our never being alone touch the rest of our lives, and give us the power to see things as they are.