“What do you want for Hanukkah?” Bubby asked my five-old-son Jeremy.
“The Horton Hears a Who Book,” he answered. “That’s my favorite.”
“But you already have that book.” she replied gently, “You don’t want two copies of the same book. What else do you want for Hannukah?”
“I want to draw. I love drawing.” Jeremy replied, and so Bubby decided to buy him an art set.
Overhearing this conversation, I was struck by the fact that both of Jeremy’s wishes referred to things he already had – his favorite book and the ability to draw. Rather than longing for what he didn’t own, Jeremy wished for what he already possessed.
This week’s Torah portion also speaks of a boy’s wish. In the beginning of the portion (Vayeshev), Joseph is blessed with a carefree childhood, as his father’s favorite son. However, Joseph wanted more. As a teenager, Joseph envisioned grandeur; he dreamt that his brothers and parents would bow down to him – and he told them so!
By the end of the Torah portion, the absolute opposite of Joseph’s wish occurs. He is alone and forgotten in prison. As he languishes in prison, Joseph then longs for what he previously had – freedom, companionship, and family.
Joseph’s story reminds me of a tale I heard Rabbi Jonathan Bernhard tell.
Once there was a king who had a court painter from whom he regularly commissioned royal portraits. After many years, the king grew tired of these paintings and asked the artist instead to paint a picture of love. The court painter had no idea what to do – so he left his home and his family and searched the entire kingdom to find a fitting image. After a year of searching, he returned, having failed to find a picture of love.
When he came home, the painter knocked on the door of his house, and his wife answered. Her face glowed with joy to see her husband again. The painter then realized that he need not have searched the kingdom for a portrait of love. It was before him the whole time.
So often, like the court painter, we search far and wide for what we want and overlook the blessings that we already have.
So this year, like Jeremy, what I want for Hanukkah is Hanukkah with the people I love.
And I wish the same for you.