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ב"ה

The End or The Beginning?

Friday, 18 December, 2020 - 9:01 am

A friend from Montana once commented to me that it’s interesting that a map of Idaho also seems to depict the famous ‘face’ of Montana. I smiled.

Idaho and Montana share a border. So, obviously, the same image can be ‘seen’ on either map.

The border can either be the beginning of Montana or the end of Idaho. Which is it?

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Today, Chanukah draws to a close.

It’s also about a year since the word coronavirus entered our collective psyche. We pray that very soon the pandemic will end and life will return to normal – or at least the new normal.

As we assess these endings, we are left to wonder, are we at the end of an era or process, or are we at the beginning of a new period?

Of course, you might answer, it’s both! When I graduate from school, it’s called commencement exercises because it reflects the beginning of a new, advanced chapter in my life.

But, this week’s parsha has some deeper insight into this question.

The name of the parsha is Miketz. Miketz means at the end. The opening verse reads: “It came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh was dreaming, and behold, he was standing by the Nile.”

The parsha goes on to tell about Yosef (Joseph) being taken out of prison, interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, and subsequently becoming viceroy of Egypt. Later, his brothers – who had sold him into slavery in Egypt – would come to Egypt and, in a fascinating turn of events, be reunited with Yosef. Soon thereafter, their father Yaakov would arrive with the entire family.

This story is the cause of the Jewish people relocating to Egypt, eventually becoming slaves.

The portion is referred to as The End, due to the end of the final two years of Yosef’s imprisonment. However, in reality it was a turning point in which Yosef’s assumption of power began. It also was the catalyst of the Jewish exile in Egypt. So, why call it an end when you can call it a beginning?

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If COVID-19 were to linger on, we can not truly move on. If the lights of Chanukah are still shining, the festivities are still alive. If I have not yet graduated 8th grade, I can’t enter 9th grade.

Real beginnings require a conclusion to the previous phase. If we want to truly move forward, we need to reach the maximum of our previous potential.  And, we need to rid ourselves of the baggage to which we have been clinging.

Yosef needed to rid himself of his struggles and begin a new phase of leadership.

After kindling the entire eight lights of the menorah, we are infused with the light to brighten the world. We are ready for a new beginning.

The Torah chooses to characterize our beginnings as ends. This teaches us that we ought to build upon the past, but make a clear line in the sand to introduce a fresh start.

Enjoy your final day of Chanukah! It’s a critical component to build a fresh start tomorrow!

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