Claire Segal, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
This week’s parsha is Vayeishev, which means “to dwell.” We, the Jewish people, have been dwelling in Eretz Yisrael since our beginning.
And, since our beginning, we’ve been known for our kindness. Avraham is the paragon of chesed, and he passed this trait on to each one of us. The first time we see that we, the descendants of Avraham, see that we have chesed ingrained in us is in this parsha, where we meet the twelve tribes. The tribes come from four mothers: Leah, Rochel, Bilhah, and Zilpah. Yosef, the favorite son, comes from Rochel, the favorite wife. Bilhah and Zilpah are the wives that used to be maid servants–the, quote unquote, “lower” wives. And so, Leah’s sons hated Yosef and teased the others. Yosef, great-grandson of Avraham, befriended Bilhah’s sons because the older brothers were mean to them. He was the light amongst the brothers, not forgetting about chesed.
We’re spending this Shabbos in Shadmot Mechula. Rav Bramson told us a few weeks ago to find out the history of each place we spend Shabbos in–does anyone know the history of where we are? Mechula is named after the biblical city of Abel Mechula, the birthplace and residence of Elisha HaNavi. The miracles that Elisha performed were all to ease the sufferings of others. He was known as a person who was kind and generous to all, even those that weren’t Jewish.
Yosef and Elisha, the men of both our time and place (the parsha and our location) were men of chesed.
Chesed is what lights up the world. It’s ironic how that’s so fitting–Chanukah starts tomorrow night!! This week is about lighting up the world, both physically and spiritually. Kindness is the ever-enduring quality of the Jewish soul–the spark within each of us that, not only can never be extinguished, but can actually ignite the souls of others.
We should do that every day of the year, but Chanukah serves as an annual reminder that we have been tasked with the important task of keeping the world illuminated.
Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!