Stories are our way to be found. We see ourselves in stories, yes, but if we let them, our stories find us. I never set out to be a rabbi, being a spiritual partner to seekers found me. When my Godmother hired an astrologer to read me when I was 13, and he said I would speak publicly for my profession, awkward, insecure, 13-year-old Kerry said: yeah, right.
Joseph’s story chooses him. Joseph is thrown in a pit by his brothers, eventually sold as a servant into the home of a powerful Egyptian, imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, and raised into Pharaoh’s court second only to Pharaoh himself. This story, unyielding and phenomenal, is not a series of experiences most of us would choose. And rather than become addicted to his suffering, his victimhood, Joseph accepts it. He does not try to control what he cannot control. He does not try to convince his brothers to spare him, he doesn’t try to plead for his freedom from prison, nor does he develop impostor syndrome when Pharaoh gives him enormous and effective power. No matter his circumstances, Joseph is willing.
The miracle is our own willingness to be found.
This is how miracles work. Miracles are not the hand of God reaching down to us to pluck us from slavery or prison to serve in Pharaoh’s court. God is always reaching down – always, as Rabbi Heschel teaches, searching for us. The miracle is our own willingness to be found.
Rather than trying to control the story, as Jacob does when he tricks his brother into giving up his birthright and steals the blessing from his father, Joseph lets his story happen to him. Joseph lets God find him, even in a faraway land, even in prison, and even in Pharaoh’s court, where Pharaoh asks him to interpret his dream, and Joseph replies: “Not I! God will see to Pharaoh’s welfare” (Genesis 41:16). But he doesn’t let God find him all at once.
As a child, when he first interprets dreams, Joseph makes no mention of God. In prison, when he interprets the dreams of the cup-bearer and baker, his fellow prisoners, he says to them: “Surely God can interpret! Tell me [your dreams]” (Genesis 40:8). Only when Joseph seeks to interpret Pharaoh’s dream does he become fully willing to accept that God will determine not only Pharaoh’s welfare, but his own.
When we light Hanukkah candles during these 8 nights, we start with one candle, then two, then three, until we get to eight. Most of us start recovery willing to recover. And if we stick to our programs, we slowly increase that willingness by surrendering to a Higher Truth each and every day. One action at a time, one grain of sand at a time, we surrender to the knowledge that we are not in control. One night of Hanukkah at a time, one light at a time, we become more and more willing to accept Truth beyond ourselves.
That Truth, that story, chooses us, seeks us. The miracle is our increasing willingness to accept it.
Written by Rabbi Kerry Chaplin