A situation which has occurred many times in the history of the Jewish people: the non-Jewish ruling power appoints a wise Jew to a senior position as advisor or administrator. This week's Torah reading, Mikeitz, tells of the appointment of Joseph as Viceroy of Egypt, in charge of storing and distributing grain.

Later in the Bible, the Book of Daniel1 tells of a plan by the ruler of Babylon to have a group of Jewish children brought up in the palace. His idea was that they would become a group of Jewish advisors helping him to run the country. Daniel himself was the foremost of this group.

Jews often held such positions in medieval Spain. One example among many is "Samuel the Prince," who was aide to the ruler of Granada in the l1th century. Samuel was a general of an army, and also wrote an introduction to the method of the Talmud, which is printed in the standard edition.

Naturally, one challenge for people in this kind of position is the effort to maintain their own level of Jewish observance and life.

Thus, in the case of Daniel we read of his insistence on having kosher food in the Babylonian palace. He refused to eat the meat or drink the wine, and asked for vegetarian food instead. The steward in charge of providing his food was unhappy about this—if Daniel and his friends did not look healthy, the steward himself would be put to death! "Try us out for ten days on a vegetarian diet," asked Daniel. This was successful—Daniel and his friends looked healthier than the other youths, and from then on received only vegetarian meals.

Another challenge is the need to try to elevate the moral and religious standard of the country. There have been attempts in this direction in the past: for example, the rabbis tell us that Joseph sought to introduce belief in one G‑d into polytheistic Egyptian society. However, this had only a limited effect.

It is in our own time, more than ever before, that virtually every Jew has the opportunity to make this attempt and to seek to communicate the "Seven Noahide Laws," the basic universal teachings of Judaism. By accepting this responsibility for wider society we begin to fulfil what the Torah is demanding of us as individual human beings and as Jews, the Chosen People.2

This links with the theme of Chanukah. The Talmud3 tells us that the Chanukah lights should be lit "at the entrance to one's house, on the outside." For various reasons, this is not the general custom today outside Israel. Nonetheless, many people follow the similar custom of placing the Chanukah lamp in the window, and the large public Chanukah Menorah has become a familiar feature in most Jewish communities around the world.

The Chanukah lights are intended to light up the darkness "outside." Inside the home is holy. "Outside" suggests the opposite. In a spiritual way, the Chanukah lights transform the outside and illuminate it. They do this through their constant increase: one light the first night, two the second, and so on. This also expresses the power of the individual Jew to illuminate the world, through his or her own personal advance, step by step.4 Then, ultimately, the darkness itself will shine.