Shaarey Tphiloh Prayers, by Caryl Herzfeld
Shaarey Tphiloh Prayers, by Caryl Herzfeld

Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh

Please join us in our new location

Saturday morning services
9:30 a.m. Room 4A
400 Deering Avenue
Portland, Maine

December 31, 2016 –2 Tevet 5777

Shabbat Miketz
Genesis 41:1-44:17
Maftir: Numbers 7:54-8:4
Haftarah: I Kings 7:40-50

Candle lighting 3:55

Services canceled December 31, 2016

Parashat Miketz

Parashat Miketz continues the narrative of Joseph and his brothers. It describes Joseph’s ascent to power, the trust he earns from Pharaoh and his power as a minister over all of Egypt. It also mentions, in passing, a woman whose life becomes entwined with Joseph’s: Osnat, daughter of the Priest of Ohn. Osnat receives a bare four sentences, and is never again mentioned in the Tanach. Who is she, and what can we learn from her presence in the text? At first glance, she seems heavily disempowered. She is mentioned in the Torah only because Pharaoh gives her as a wife to Joseph. It seems like Osnat is not much more than a possession Pharaoh uses to demonstrate Joseph’s changed status, comparable to jewelry and fine clothing.
When the rabbis explore her background, they paint a picture of a history of further disempowerment. They write that she is not just any Egyptian woman, but related in a tragic way to Jacob himself. According to the rabbis, Osnat is the daughter of Dina, daughter of Jacob. Remember Dina? Her rape at the hands of Shechem, and her brothers’ subsequent violent destruction of the city, represents the essence of total disempowerment.

At second glance, however, there is more to the story. Unlike many female characters in the Bible, Osnat has a name. Being identified by name humanizes her in the text. Osnat’s character becomes yet more rich and complex when we consider another midrash about her in which the rabbis suggest she is more righteous than Joseph. When it comes time for Jacob, the grandfather, to bless Joseph’s sons, according to rabbinic interpretation, he is only convinced to do so by Osnat’s presence. How could Osnat, who began our story in such a disempowered state, become so powerfully righteous? Maybe the rabbis are suggesting that Osnat, having grown up the child of Dina and knowing of Dina’s rape, gained extra resilience in her own life that enabled her to reclaim her humanity. Maybe they mean to imply that Osnat, learning from the past and from her mother’s story, was strong enough to fight against her own disempowerment, strong enough to claim a name for herself. And maybe this strength is what the rabbis notice when they credit her as being even more righteous than Joseph.
In this week’s parashah, Osnat embodies transformation. She moves past the disempowerment of her mother’s violent rape and her own forced marriage to make a name for herself and ensure the blessing of her sons.

Redemption in the Dark Pit

Old pirates, yes, they rob I;
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the ‘and of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
— Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

In his poignant classic on freeing oneself from the chains of physical and mental slavery, Bob Marley begins with an allusion to the story of Joseph. We read this week of his brothers stripping him of his coat, casting him into a pit and selling him as a slave to Midianite merchants.

“Joseph’s” pit, where Marley initially situates us, is a place of darkness where light struggles to get in. We are at a time of year, and a place in time, where one can likewise feel a surrounding darkness. These darkening days have a way of heightening our vulnerabilities and fears about the world around us. The Syrian refugee crisis, the attacks in Paris, events in Israel, and our own role and reactions to not only these crises but more personal challenges, can all feel increasingly daunting in the growing darkness.

The story of Joseph reminds us that the source of our social darkness is most often how we treat our brothers and sisters (both literally, in the case of Jacob’s children, and figuratively). The brothers’ broken relationship, however, also serves as a source of eventual redemption when Joseph’s strength and maturity help to heal the rift later on. Marley tells us, in another possible allusion to Joseph (Jacob’s blessing for him in Gen. 29:44), that despite the tribulations, Joseph’s hand was made strong by God, offering us a message of hope.

At this time of the year, between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, many of us are gathering with friends, family, and community, affording opportunities to heal familial rifts and recommit ourselves to bringing light to a dark word. Whether reaching out to loved ones or holding the shamash candle, may we be strengthened by the hands of Joseph and Bob Marley as we continue the work toward redemption.

– Jason Gitlin, ReFrame: Experiential Education in Congregational Schools

Art and Resolution: 1900 to Today

“Art and Resolution: 1900 to Today” includes work by Israeli photographer Adi Nes, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick.
Call 207 | 725 | 3275 for more information or see


See a dreidel collection at the Maine Jewish Museum generously on loan
courtesy of  Stan and Doris Pollack


Led by volunteers Jeff & Abby Halpern

Temple Beth El Youth Lounge/Library (off of the Social Hall)

Joint Temple Beth El and Shaarey Tphiloh children’s Shabbat services will be held on the first and third Saturday every month through June.

– Tefillat Yeladim (K – 5th grade): Starting around 10:30 am. Kids will be collected from each minyan or the halls. We will finish around 11:30 am.

– Tot Shabbat (Toddler – Pre K): Starting at 11:15 am, parents, please drop off your kids at the Youth Lounge (off of the Social Hall). Kids will be returned in time for Adon Olam at the parents’ minyan.

In all programs, children within the age range are welcome to attend while parents are at either shul. Kids older than the age range are welcome to attend as special helpers. Kids younger than the age range are welcome to attend with parent’s company.

We welcome special guests (including parents or grandparents). Please email Jeff at if you want to be listed as a special guest.

Grades 11-12 Community High School Program

Avis Smith

A community monthly class for students in grades 11 and 12 will be offered on Sundays from 5:00-6:30 PM. Registration is now under way.

Everything You Never Knew about Judaism!
(All the things you would not have learned in Religious School…)

We are excited to offer once again a Jewish studies program that is open to all high school juniors and seniors in Southern Maine. Our hope is that this program will provide an opportunity to get to know other Jewish high school students from the region, and to study and learn in an informal but stimulating environment. Teacher: Avis Smith

The classes will meet once a month, for a total of nine sessions, on Sundays, from 5:00 – 6:30 PM (no dinner, only snacks). This year’s dates are: September 25, October 30, November 20, December 18, January 22, February 12, March 25, April 30, and May 14.

The cost is $100. for the year. Classes will meet at Congregation Bet Ha’am in South Portland. For more information and to register call Louise at 879-0028.

Holocaust Studies with Anna Wrobel

~ Holocaust Cinema: rare and esoteric films, some from the direct postwar period, most of European origin.
Classes will meet from 6:00 to 9:00 pm on Wednesdays – 10/26; 11/30; 12/21; 1/25; 3/1. Films are listed at the JCA link below
~ Primo Levi ‘book club’: one book per month (not provided). Books and ordering information are listed at the JCA link below.
Classes will meet from 6:00-8:00pm on Wednesdays – 11/2; 12/7; 1/4; 2/1; 3/8 $100.
All classes held will be at JCA – 57 Ashmont Street, Portland, Maine

Yahrzeits This Week

3 Tevet Sarah Berenson, Morris Cohen, Sidney Dorfman, Bettina Levine, Max Weissman, Yetta Zimmerman

5 Tevet Sol Branz, Bessie Millman

6 Tevet Benjamin Freedman, Reuben Lerman, Philip Resnick, Rebecca Rice, Michel Schilling, Julia Skalina, Gertrude Sneider

7 Tevet Rachel Berenson, Minniue Cook, Philip Jacobson, Morris Reiner, David Tabor

8 Tevet Fannie Barron, Harry Geller, Lina Goodman, Joseph Modes, Esther Schwey, Jennie Taylor

9 Tevet Simon Levine, Joel Seigal, Mr. Stiman

Shaarey Tphiloh is now celebrating 112 years as a traditional Jewish spiritual home in Maine! 

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