Word for the Week ... Mikeitz
Rabbi Simche Sherer

Not everyone is lucky enough to get a wake-up call in life. Some people get theirs just in time. Others get it but donít hear it. Still others hear it loud and clear but refuse to take any notice.

Pharaoh got his in this weekís Parsha, Mikeitz, when Joseph interpreted his dreams and advised him to appoint a wise and discerning man who would oversee a macro economic plan for the country. Joseph explained to the King of Egypt that because he experienced two dreams and woke up in between, it was a sign from heaven to wake up and act immediately as the matter was of the utmost urgency. Pharaoh took the message to heart and the rest is history.

On the health and well being level, cholesterol, climbing blood pressure or recurring bronchitis might be the not so subtle signs that itís time for a change of lifestyle. These are the medical wake up calls we receive in life. Do we really have to wait for a heart attack, G-d forbid, to stop smoking, or start eating less and exercising more? Thatís what wake-up calls are for, to help us get the message before itís too late.

Then there are the spiritual signs. I will never forget a colleague who shared the story of his own red lights flashing and how a changed spiritual lifestyle literally saved his life. He was a workaholic driving himself to the brink. Had he carried on indefinitely he simply would not have survived. Then he decided to give Shabbes a try. What he had never previously appreciated about Shabbes was that it is a spiritually invigorating day of rest and spiritual serenity. And in discovering Shabbes, he rediscovered his humanity. (He also discovered he could play golf on Sundays instead of Saturdays.)

A short trigger film a friend once used on a Shabbaton program depicted a series of professionals and artisans at work. As they became engrossed and immersed in their respective roles they each became so identified with their work that they lost their own identities. Monday through Friday, the carpenterís face dissolved into a hammer, the doctor took on the face of a stethoscope and the accountantís head started looking exactly like a calculator. Then on Shabbes as they closed their offices and came home to celebrate the day of rest with their families, slowly but surely, their faces were reshaped and remolded from their professions to their personalities. Total immersion in their work had dehumanized them. They had become machines. Now, thanks to Shabbes, they were human once again. The short video left a lasting impression.

Itís not easy to change ingrained habits. But Chanukah, which falls during this weekís Parsha, carries with it a relevant message in this regard. Take one day at a time. One doesnít have to do it all at once. One light at a time is all it takes. On the first night we kindle a single Chanukah light, on the second night two and on the third night three. We add a little light each day and before long the Menorah is complete and all eight Chanukah lights are burning bright.

Itís ok to take one day at a time. Itís not ok to go back to sleep after you get a wake up call. Whether itís your medical well being or your spiritual health, the occasional wake up call is a valuable sign from Above that it may be time to adjust attitudes, lifestyles or priorities. Please G-d, each of us in our own lives should hear the call and act on the alarm bells with alacrity.