Tonight marks a critical moment in history when the world has taken witness to the preservation of one life for the exchange of mass murderers. We have seen desperate parents fight for their child and the majority of a nation show support to save ONE life despite grave dangers to their own. It is this critical moment on the fifth night of Sukkot that we learn the very fundamental lesson Judaism is based on, that the preservation of life and hope must alter our future for positive change despite the dangers we may face.
Sukkot is the time of year we harness many blessings. We pray for rain and dance with our beloved ancient Torah and we live through deep joy despite any pain or difficulties we may face. This Divine energy is so powerful it awakens the past souls from the Garden of Eden to join us each night in our Sukkah and share in the joy we have the ability to tap into down here in this false temporary world. Tonight is the night Joseph our forefather comes to join in on our energy of the moment. Joseph, a man known for being incarcerated for thirteen years just as unjustly as Gilad Shalit has been, joins us on the very night Gilad is set to be released from prison.
Joseph was a man who had been betrayed by his own family. And after being sold by his brothers out of jealousy to an Egyptian Viceroy, was later on falsely accused of attempted rape by the Viceroy’s wife and incarcerated. He spent every day in a dungeon with no hope for any future. Yet every day he knew he had a mission to fulfill, which is why he responded one lonely day in the dark Egyptian prison to a fellow inmate with famous words that forever altered his future:
It was a dark dreary morning when Joseph faced yet another dispirited day when he noticed two other prisoners facing the same wretched fate, to which Joseph turned to these despondent prisoners and said:
“Why are your faces sad today?”
Really? Why are you guys sad? This is what Joseph worried his mind with? I can think of a few reasons why they were sad. Yet Joseph still took the time to speak with the butler and baker. He got out of his own comfort zone and opened his heart to another in a place that lacked all mercy, benevolence and humanity. In the wretched dungeon where criminals sat for real crimes, Joseph took no pity on his own fate and looked outside of himself to comfort another human being. It was this concern that opened the gates to a more meaningful conversation with the butler and the baker that eventually saved Joseph’s life and released him from prison, taking him to the highest ranks of Civic duty for the largest nation at that time. Because of Joseph’s commitment to preserve hope despite his own unmerited lot, he managed to impress his fellow inmates with interpretations of their dreams that calmed their souls and gave them peace of mind. When Pharaoh himself stirred with unresolved dreams years later, it was these inmates who were on the other end of Joseph’s kindness that recommended Joseph be placed in the King’s quarters to interpret his dreams impressing the King and finally releasing Joseph from unjust incarceration.
The story of Joseph promised us that no matter how desperate the circumstances, it is up to us to care for each person with dignity. It is up to us to light each person with love and humanity. If one soul can create an entire new destiny of change, surely thousands can do even more. It is up to us to see the role we play as human beings in preserving life. It is up to us to savor the hope that we all can have a new dream of peace. For if we are going to be conduits to true blessings as this holiday beholds in it, we must be deserving by honoring it with a preservation of spirit and vitality. As Joseph promised and as Gilad is exemplifying, change begins with a dream, a preservation of hope and a willingness to honor life- even in the darkest moments….one life at a time.
Welcome home Gilad.