Downs and Ups – Time to elevate to Hanukkah

“Fall down 7 times Get up 8” is the title of an inspiring bestseller. A young man living with autism draws inspiration from his Hindu faith. The book’s universal language of resiliency is found in the dialects of all religious faiths.

A Jewish accent of ‘redemptive recovery’ is set in motion in this week’s portion of Torah.  It contains various forms of the word ‘descend’.   Joseph and Judah – two of the central children of Israel –  each descend (Gen. 38:1, 39:1).  Judah will be taught of righteousness and recovery by Tamar in the aftermath of his moral descent.  While Joseph will will be brought down to Egypt — in association with several low points like the pit and jail cell into which he will be thrown.

This is particularly interesting, given the arrival of Hanukkah this Sunday evening,  because the Torah’s favorite verb associated with the Menorah is ‘ascend’ (B’ha’alotcha) (Num. 8:2).  That which goes down can indeed go up.  What becomes true for the lives of Joseph and Judah becomes the norm for the Children of Israel throughout history.

Hanukkah holds many lessons.  In Israel its heroes are the Maccabees.  In houses of learning, the Festival’s name is synonymous with education.  And in the realm of the spirit, Hanukkah’s increasing light – night after night – runs counter to the darkness.  Is Hanukkah a festival of might, of rededication, or of hope?  Why not all three.  And more, like freedom and miracles.

All around us today we see ‘descent’ taking hold.  Ominous threats to Jewish safety are becoming too ordinary.  And an inability to learn from each other debilitates our natural capacities for growth and recovery.

From and for such times, this season’s Festival now rises.  Hanukkah defies physics.  This is because it is ultimately about metaphysics.  Energy increases over time, rather than following the path of entropy.  May gravity’s pull be surmounted by our embrace of Hanukkah’s elevating light.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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