The prophets had a universal message, far beyond the Jewish people. Their calls to aid the poor, widows and orphans, and the promise of the coming of the Messianic age were meant for the whole world. The State of Israel is itself the greatest proof that prophecy is slowly coming alive again. Judaism has been handed an opportunity to restore its full capacity, including its redemptive message, to heal the world and end the amputation of the best part of itself.
In this week’s parashah, Yosef set’s up the ultimate test for his brothers. Will they let their little brother down and not sell him to the enemy or will they fight for him? The answer will show whether they have truly repented of their betrayal of him.
Halacha was meant to rely heavily rely on the prophetic voice to give it its spirit and motivation. Because of the absence of prophecy, this spiritual component is missing or overlooked in our day-to-day experience. It is the absence of this prophetic dimension that underlies the spiritual malaise in which we currently find ourselves.
Judaism suggests that at certain times God sends emanations to this world in order to awaken human beings to act. We see this in the story of Chanukah. God created a notion of revolt within the minds of the Maccabees, whose greatness was manifest in their correct reaction to this heavenly directive.
This week, the festival of Sinterklaas will take place in my birthplace of Holland. This festival made an indelible impression on my childhood, and there is much we can learn from the dilemmas it raised (and still raise) for Jewish educators.