Turn the Page and Rise Above

Julie Hauser December 12, 2023

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The fact that you’re reading this article on a website called Kosher.com calls to mind so many miracles.

After thousands of years of being haunted and taunted by so many nations (physically and/or spiritually), we are still here, keeping Hashem’s mitzvot like kashrut, looking for suitable recipes (and stumbling into inspiration articles).

We cannot, will not, and do not give up. While we know ein od milvado (there is nothing besides Hashem), this journey sure seems never-ending right now.

The Chazon Ish said the hardest thing about every difficulty is not the difficulty itself; it is the not knowing it will end, or not knowing when it will end, especially when you do not know if there is an end…

Chanukah usually straddles the time when we read the parashot in the Torah discussing Yosef Hatzaddik (Joseph) — his ordeals, his wait, and the darkness he experienced. We also learn about his strength, his encouragement of others, and his wise strategies and success.

At the end of Parashat Vayeshev, which is full of waiting (Yaakov, Tamar, and Yosef all very much waiting in different forms), the last word seems quite discouraging. It says, “He [Yosef] was forgotten.”

As Rabbi Wallerstein, zt”l, says, “Don’t get stuck on ‘the page’! Turn the ‘page’!” Because in the next parasha, Parashat Miketz, Yosef’s redemption begins to materialize.

Just when we think we are in the thickest darkness is when the redemption can come. We are all waiting for something, longing for something while it feels so dark. We await personal salvations, among communal and national salvations(!).

As I quote Rabbi Wallerstein, zt”l, in my book, Making It Mine:
You just have to hold on, until the page turns. The Torah is our lives, too. You don’t always get to see the end of the page.

We in galut (exile) are going through such a hard time. Do not get stuck on the page, everybody. It is a very hard time. It seems like we are forgotten. Turn the page, there will be a Miketz. There will be an end to this galut. We will sit by the King, like Yosef Hatzaddik did; we will make a kiddush Hashem for the rest of the world. Don’t get stuck on the page of galut. Daven to Hashem and unconditionally love your fellow Jew.”

What did Yosef Hatzaddik do during the wait? He encouraged others! He is the one who said to the baker and the cupbearer, “Why do you appear downcast today?” (Bereishis 40:7). With his interest, they felt encouraged to bear their troubles and share their dreams, which he interpreted.

[I can attest to the positive power of a small gesture of encouragement. Just last week, someone cheerfully asked me, in passing, “Are you writing any new books?” Though I fumbled an answer, Debbie’s genuine curiosity sparked me to begin working on a project I had in mind for a long while!]

It seemed Yosef’s action “was forgotten.” Later, when Pharoah heard about it, he called Yosef to interpret Pharoah’s own dreams, which earned Yosef his ticket out of jail.

Yaakov Avinu, Yosef’s father, was also waiting, wondering if he would ever see his son Yosef again. In Parashat Miketz, when he heard that his son, Binyamin, was now being forced to go down to Mitzrayim, Yaakov Avinu said, “Alai hayu chulanah,” Upon me have befallen all of them (i.e., all the pain/difficulties) (Bereishis 42:36).

The Baal HaTurim says this is one of only two places in Tanach where that word “chulana” is used. The second place is in Mishlei, in the passage known as Eishet Chayil, which Shlomo Hamelech sings in praise of the “woman of valor:” V’at alit al kulanah (Mishlei 31:29). “And you have the capacity to rise above all.”

We, Jewish souls, and Jewish women particularly, have the ability to rise above the pain and darkness that surrounds us, and know there is something beneath the surface, even when it seems we are stuck.

In our physical lives, particularly in our mitzvot as women, we have practice in nurturing the hidden. We keep on dreaming, extracting lessons from darkness, rising above, protecting what’s precious, and pleading to Hashem.

I heard many explanations this year highlighting the section in al hanissim which describes how the Kohanim went and “cleaned the House” before they went to light the menorah. Consistently, the message rings: improve ourselves in spiritual matters, particularly ones that are the most private and hidden.

Rabbi Wallerstein put it simply. He said, first, the Kohanim had to clean out the “shmutz.” They didn’t just run up there and light the menorah the second the war was won.

He said, every person has a “Chanukah moment,” meaning, a time when they see through the darkness, and then take the opportunity to rise above it. Sometimes first we have to clean ourselves up, in a spiritual way (he was referring to practical things to take care of that are not befitting oneself/one’s home). Even with just a little spark.

We have the capacity to rise above all, like the oil that rises above water. While deepening our emunah in these dark days, we can deepen our chesed, encourage others in our midst, and rise above with specific, personal actions. Reach Up, reach out, and turn the page!

A freilichen Chanukah!

Julie is an occupational therapist, photographer, and author of several books including her newest, titled Making It Mine. You may recognize her as the author of Pesach While You Sleep, or one of her other titles available here. Julie lives with her husband and children (who wonder which occupation is her ‘real job’) in Detroit, Michigan.
Learn more about the author: https://juliehauser.my.canva.site/
View the book trailer for her latest book full of inspiration and practical interviews that bring it all home: https://tinyurl.com/MakingItMineh20