This week, Joseph goes off in search of his brothers and loses his way until he stumbles upon a mysterious person. The Torah refers to this person simply as “ish / man,” and yet we must not confuse his anonymity with his importance. At a period of great physical and spiritual changes, this man/angel asks Joseph a simple, yet profound question “Mah Tevakesh / What are you seeking?”
Yes, Joseph has lost his way on the path, but he has also lost his way with his family. As the Kotzker rebbe interprets this verse, “when one makes a wrong turn in life, at a time of confusion or dismay, one must first clarify to oneself: What am I seeking? To what am I aspiring?”
Once we ask ourselves those difficult questions, we will find pathways, previously closed, open up. We will find relationships, previously stifled, blossom. After all, we cannot find that which we seek alone. As that “ish” was with Joseph, so too are we messengers for each other. This poem, by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, encapsulates this idea beautifully:
Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.
Some seem to be born with nearly a completed puzzle.
And so it goes. Souls going this way and that
Trying to assemble the myriad parts.
But know this. No one has within themselves All the pieces to their puzzle.
Like before the days when they used to seal
jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that
all the pieces were there.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
Many pieces to someone else’s puzzle.
Sometimes they know it. Sometimes they don’t.
And when you present your piece
Which is worthless to you,
To another, whether you know it or not,
Whether they know it or not,
You are a messenger from the Most High.
I cannot wait to celebrate Hanukkah with y’all soon. May you all have a miraculous Hanukkah full of light and love, and a Shabbat Shalom,