Do our small – often unnoticed – acts make a difference?
Last week a man met his death on a New York subway platform while a crowd of by-standers watched, one even taking the time to photograph the victim as he desperately tried to scramble to safety. Perhaps the others were frozen in shock, perhaps events moved too fast. None of us were there, so we don’t know. And if we had been there, it is hard to know how anyone of us would have reacted. We’d all like to think that we’d have the courage to step up to the plate and be a hero. But we never truly know until we are tested. Truth be told, most of the tests we face do not come amid such dramatic events such as an imminent death on a subway platform. Most of the tests we face do not make the front page. Often, no one else even knows about them. More often than not, it is the small things that matter most. This is the lesson we take away from a rich mosaic of stories which culminate in this week’s Torah reading, which just happens to dovetail with the events of Chanukah.
In this sermon, we examine the story of the small jar of oil … which Jacob found on Mount Moriah as he was making his escape from his brother Esau … and which the Maccabees found on Mount Moriah when they re-captured the Temple … a small jar containing enough oil for one day but which kept the menorah lit for eight days.
This small jar was something that Jacob could not bear to leave behind. As a result of his attempt to retrieve it, he was accosted by a stranger in the middle of the night, wrestled with him and was injured by having his hip dislocated. It is this wound that Joseph later sought to repair as he reconciled with his brothers.
We thus see how seemingly unrelated events transpiring in different times and places come together in a fascinating mosaic. And this mosaic – when it is revealed before our eyes – teaches us how we can transcend our own wounds, and pass the tests that come our way.