The New Shul

Parshat Vayeshev

This week’s parashah, Vayeshev, begins the story of Yosef and his brothers. It starts by telling us that “Yosef tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper. . .”

The word “helper” in that sentence (“na’ar”) can also mean “child.” Based on that, Rabbi Aharon of Karlin explained that Yosef’s great strength throughout his life was his ability to renew himself, to recover his own childlikeness. No matter how dark his world became, Yosef was always open, like a child, to the possibility of good.

The Yosef whom we meet in this week’s parashah has a lot of growing up to do. And he will grow up. By the end of the story, he will no longer be the immature, naive young man that he is at the beginning. Experience will have turned him into a hardened realist — but one with just enough of his original sincerity left to recognize his brothers’ true repentence. Even at the end, it will be Yosef’s capacity for na’arut — childlike simplicity — that will make reconciliation with his brothers possible.

Living in the world tends to make us cynical. The older we get, the more we learn about how dark reality can be. But if we can just remember what we knew when we were small — that goodness is real too — we can still find the capacity to help to make the world more whole.

That is the message of Hanukah, which begins on Sunday night. When the world is at its darkest, renewal always starts with tiny points of light. It is the very smallness of the Hanukah flames — their simple unpretentiousness — that makes their light so powerfully redemptive. It is the same with us. By making ourselves small, recovering the openness that we once had as children, we become God’s partners in renewing the world.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush this Shabbat, December 1, will be sponsored by Cindy Mann in memory of her mother Arlene Goldstein. The desserts will be sponsored by Yennga Nguyen in honor of her daughter Ohana’s 11th birthday.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to 12 noon.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7 pm.
  • Join us on the seventh night of Hanukah, Saturday December 8 at 7:30 pm, for our annual Hanukah Coffee House, with lots of live music and other entertainment by our own local talent, plus home-made latkes and other refreshments. The cost is $5 per adult at the door.