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To be continued...

11/23/2021 03:21:46 PM


I’m conflicted about cliffhangers. On the one hand, when a television show or movie presents me with the ominous words, “to be continued,” I’m full of disappointment, impatience and frustration. I know that the story will be resolved, but I’m just going to have to wait a little longer for any resolutions. However, there is immense possibility when you know that there is more of the story yet to come. I remember the sadness that turned to joy when I discovered that the really good book I had just finished reading was the first book in a long series. Sure I was upset that the story ended there, but there was more story yet to come! In such a way, a cliffhanger is a nexus of mixed emotions. It is a moment pregnant with potential, yet a jolt to anyone expecting someone else will hand over a resolution to the tale on a silver platter. A good cliffhanger gets us thinking, imagining, and wondering what we ought to do with all the drama that has unfolded. 

One of my favorite cliffhangers appears at the end of Parshat VaYeishev. In the portion, we read of all the ups and downs of Joseph’s life and the rollercoaster of a journey he endures. Starting as his father’s favorite son, he quickly falls from grace as his brother throw him into a pit and sell him into slavery. Yet, even as a servant to Potiphar, Joseph rises back to the top and becomes the chief servant of his master’s house. This too doesn’t last long with some accusations from Mrs. Potiphar, and Joseph finds himself back at rock bottom locked away in prison. Though once more, our Torah explains that God was with Joseph and he rises up to be the assistant to the chief jailer himself. With ups and downs, Joseph’s life is filled with successes and pitfalls, accomplishments and dashed dreams, time and time again. And just when things are looking up once more for our young hero, just as the cupbearer’s dream unfolds as predicted by Joseph, our text explains that the newly liberated cupbearer “did not think of Joseph: he forgot him” (Genesis 40:23). [“To be continued.” Queue the credits].

While I know how the biblical story will conclude, this abrupt end to our tale invites us to stretch our imaginations and consider what ought to happen to the now forgotten Joseph who just can’t catch a break. What ought a person do when life hands them successes and stresses, achievements and hurdles time and time again? Considering our own lives, perhaps this question isn’t so hypothetical. There are times when everything is going our way, followed by difficulties and setbacks. And the cycle repeats and it's only a matter of perspective and timing that defines whether we find ourselves as the favorite child, or at the bottom of a pit.  Like Joseph forgotten and abandoned in prison, each setback in our own life brings with it tremendous stress, anxiety, and frustrations. However, what if we were to see these moments not as the end of the stories, but as cliffhangers? What if we were able to see these pitfalls as temporary moments that have the potential to be followed by moments of blessing. As we approach this Thanksgiving holiday this year and reflect on the blessings in our lives, followed by our celebration of Hannukah where we bring light into the darkest nights of the year, perhaps we have the opportunity to recognize the unwritten chapters in our own narratives. Even though we might be on the descent or an upswing, there are many things that we are grateful for, and many opportunities to share our light with a world that walks in darkness. This moment in our lives is a cliffhanger. Luckily, we don’t have to wait long for our story’s continuation. 

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Thankgiving, and Happy Hannukah!

Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784