The New Shul

Parshat Vayeshev/Hanukah

In this week’s parashah, Vayeshev, Yosef’s brothers sell him into slavery in Egypt. Shortly afterwards, the Torah tells us, Yosef’s “master saw that God was with him, and that God gave him success in everything he undertook.” According to Rashi, the phrase “God was with him” means that  “the name of heaven was fluent in [Yosef’s] mouth.” Sacred language came easily to him.

Rashi does not tell us which was the cause and which was the effect. Was Yosef fluent in sacred language because he was already close to God? Or was it the opposite? Was Yosef close to God because of the quality of his language?

The latter possiblity presents a spiritual opportunity. Even when we do not feel God’s presence in our hearts, perhaps we can reach God through our  mouths. By practicing the use of sacred language, words of prayer and words of Torah, we can try to pull God into our world. Words have the power to transform our consciousness.

What is true of sacred speech can also be true of public speech. If our civic discourse is debased and hateful, we can blame it on the state of our hearts. Or we can try to change our hearts by changing how we speak to one another. In the public sphere as well, words have the power to transform us from the outside in.

This Hanukah and this Shabbat, may we use words to bring more light into the world.

  • Tonight (Thursday) at nightfall, we light the first candle of Hanukah. We wish you all a light-filled holiday.
  • Due to the Covid pandemic, The New Shul’s Shabbat morning service now takes place outdoors and off-site, on the grounds of the Sandpiper School, 6724 E. Hearn Rd, from 9:30 to 11:30 am on Saturday mornings. Please use the west parking lot and come around the back of the school. Everyone is welcome (for social-distancing purposes, you might want to bring your own chair). Please dress for warmth and comfort. Informal attire is fine.
  • Other than our Shabbat morning service, all other New Shul events continue online. They include: Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoons (4:30 pm this Friday), Havdalah (6:15 pm this Saturday night), daily text study, and weekly classes.
  • This Saturday night, December 12, please join us online for The New Shul’s annual Hanukah coffee house, with lots of live entertainment by our own local talent. Contact us for the Zoom link.