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Challah for the Soul. Parshat Vayeshev

"b’shuv Hashem es shivas tzion, hayinu k’cholmim” (psalms 126:1) “When Hashem restored us to Zion, we were as those who dreamed” This Friday is the shortest one of the year. We’ve barely managed to get our chicken soup cooked, and our challahs baked, and the sun is already setting, darkness setting in fast. It is at this time of the year precisely that we need our dreams the most. This month’s Torah portions are all about dreams and dreamers. In this week’s portion of Vayeishev, Yosef (Joseph) dreams big dreams about his future. He is mocked and ridiculed by his brother… and what does his father do? ‘…v’Yaakov shamar et hadavar’ Yaakov (Jacob) ‘kept’ this thing. Rashi explains that this means, Yakov waited patiently to see the outcome of these fantastical dreams. And he waited, and waited and waited. There is so much waiting in the Torah. When we read it all at once, it seemed like the narrative occurs quickly.. but in truth, these are stories that took years—generations—to unfold and become. We easily see the blessing in all the darkness that precedes the outcome, as we know how this story will end. But imagine this place of deep concealment that is most of our forefather’s lives. Yaakov lives in grief and disbelief at the loss of his precious son, for almost 2 decades, but still ‘waits and anticipates’ the positive revelation of Yosef’s dreams. We live in an age of immediacy. We want it all, and we want it now. If it doesn’t move fast enough, we throw it out and buy a new one. But the good things in life take time to develop. A child grows slowly, a fruit ripens with time, the finest wines must age over many years, and a good life unfolds, one day at a time. “…v’Yakov shamar et hadavar.” The word shamar is also the hebrew word for Yeast. That magical ingredient that creates the rising, occurs with time, and takes a lot of patience. When I teach women to make challah, this is the part they have the hardest time with. The Rising. Waiting. We know what it means to throw in all the ingredients, to work ourselves hard and expect instant results, but how does one wait?

To wait is to trust. This month of Kislev, in which the darkest day of the year occurs, is all about trust. The word Kislev means trust. To trust means that we see a dark day, and yet we know the light is coming. We lay our heads down to sleep, and we trust that all will be alright in the morning. We see a flat, unmoving challah dough, and we know that if we give it enough time, it will rise. The great miracle of Chanukah occurs ‘in those days, at this time.’ It began with Adam and Eve in the very first winter of all time, as they experience the darkening of days and think the world is coming to an end, until that very first day of ‘a little more light.’ It continues to unfold through the generations, through each of our own little acts of miraculous trust and faith. The 8th light of Chanukah is for the miracle of our seeking out a pure light, in a place that was completely defiled and devoid of light. This was the miracle that went beyond 7, beyond the natural order of things. And it came from us. In the darkest dungeon, in the darkest place, from the depths of a jail in ancient Egypt, Yosef is still able to dream, and to interpret dreams. He knows that to dream is to believe that there is a future. All of us experience moments, perhaps days, even months, G-d forbid, of darkness. But as women, we hold the power of trust and faith deep within ourselves. We are in fact, the bread of faith, the ones who are first to instill trust in our babies, a trust that will translate into every aspect of their lives. We know how to seek the light, how to find it, and hold onto the image of those lights to carry us past the winter solstice and into the time when the world will be ‘all Shabbos’ and all light. When that day comes, we will know that we were all ‘dreamers’, and that the dream is what kept us going, waiting patiently, for the gorgeous future that we know will come.

May our waiting end now and our dreams be fulfilled, and may we light the first light of chanukah this year in the rededicated temple in a whole and healed Jerusalem. Amein.

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