Chanukah – Beauty and Joseph

It’s no coincidence that we read the Torah portions that relate the story of Joseph, around the time of Chanukah.

Joseph is described by the Torah as being handsome and good looking. The wife of Potiphar went to great lengths to try and seduce him. The midrash tells us that he might, in his youth, have even been a bit too concerned with his appearance, always looking in the mirror and fiddling with his hair. When Jacob, on his death bed, blesses him, he refers to him as the handsome one. And yet, Joseph is the only biblical figure to be called Tzaddik by the sages. He was able to integrate his beauty with his life of holiness and spirituality.

Greece (Yavan) is the decendant of Yefet, which means beauty. The Greeks were obsessed with physical beauty, and denigrated the spiritual. They wanted to wipe out Judaism, because it highlighted spiritaulity. To the Greeks, it was one or the other: physical beauty or spirituality. Judaism believes in both: beauty and spirituality. Joseph exemplified that ideal, and left us an example to learn from and follow. We can love and appreaciate physical beauty, and incorporate it into our service of God.

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