Rabbi Michael Bernstein is the spiritual leader of Congregation Gesher L’Torah in Alpharetta, Ga. Michael received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1999 and is an alumni of the Rabbis Without Borders second cohort.
This week on the Jewish calendar both great darkness and great light intersect as we read in the Torah the story of Joseph being subjected by his brothers to the bottom of a pit, and prepare to once more kindle the lights of Chanukah. In the Talmud, there are two different teachings by Rabbi Tanhum that are presented one after the other, even though they seem to have little to do with each other. The first is the law that the Chanukah candles must not be placed so high that a passerby's eyes would not naturally be able to see them. The second deals with Joseph and the fact that the pit into which he is tossed is described as being "empty and having no water." It had no water, but, according to this teaching, the pit did have snakes and scorpions!