When times are difficult, we tend to focus on the negative. Now, unfortunately, is one of those times.  As we concern ourselves about the security of Israel and rise of antisemitism worldwide, we may be inclined to believe we have no friends or allies, that no one wants to help us…   

This week we learn in Parshat Veyeishev the important middah of ‘Remembering those who have helped you.’ This middah stems from the time when Yosef was trapped in the dungeons of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Among his fellow prisoners was Pharaoh’s wine-steward, whom Yosef rescued from despair by interpreting his dream and predicting his eventual freedom and restoration to his honoured position. Yosef asked the steward to remember him languishing in prison, but upon release, the steward forgot about Yosef. Later regretting having forgotten, the steward told Pharaoh how Yosef helped him. 

The recent rally in Ottawa in support of Israel reminded me that there are people ready to stand up and help us in our time of despair. In Ottawa, a multitude of Jewish voices resonated, sharing stories such as a family of a young man killed by Hamas and another grappling with a loved one still held hostage. We also heard the challenges facing Jewish students on Canadian campuses, and the horror a Holocaust survivor felt by the events of October 7th. Though these messages were difficult to hear, their importance was undeniable. Alongside these, we were uplifted by heartfelt, strong, and courageous messages of support from diverse speakers from beyond the Jewish community: an Indigenous woman who dispelled the notion of Israeli “colonialism,” a member of the LGBTQ+ community from Lebanon, a Christian minister, and various Canadian leaders and journalists. 

Among the many things that weigh heavily on my mind as a parent and an educator is that our children do not absorb the message that the Jewish people are just hated and alone. Yes, antisemitism is a real and virulent plague. Yes, we must remain vigilant and open-eyed, but we must also remember that we do have friends and we do have support.  

As the small candles of the Chanukkiah pierce the darkness of the winter night, let us allow warm flames of gratitude in our hearts for those who have helped us, and will continue to do so.  

Shabbat Shalom Vechanukkah Sameach, 

Moreh Greg 

Mitzvah Day 2024