It most often happens that parshas Miketz overlaps with Shabbas Chanukah, and while there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with Chanukah, it is interesting to look for a common theme. Chanukah is the holiday of light, of reminding the world of Hashem’s constant presence and the active miracles He did and does for the Jewish people. Parshas Miketz, on the other hand, is not about open miracles or immediate assistance. One might even say that there are no miracles at all in this week’s parsha, and that is the pivotal connection. As Jews, it is incredibly important that we remember “sheh asah nisim lavotenu bayamim hahem bazman hazeh” (who did for our ancestors miracles in their day in this time). The past and the present in this bracha are a beautiful reminder that miracles are always happening.
Chanukah is the holiday of lights, and lights are often used as a metaphor for sudden understanding or new ideas, because those “ah ha” moments are moments when Hashem let’s us see the world from a new perspective. Parshas Miketz might not describe open miracles, but throughout the parsha one can find eight such magnificent moments in which our forefathers had a sudden and new understanding of their lives and their reality, and through that new understanding, they were better able to understand Hashem’s long term plan – which is of course nothing short of miraculous.
Let us note those eight moments.:
1: Bereishis 41: 9 – 13. When, two years after his release, the chief cup bearer finally remembered Yoseph and told Pharaoh about him. If Pharaoh had not asked just about everyone he knew to help him discover the meaning of his dreams, would the butler ever have remembered Yoseph? And even if he had, he would not have brought it up for fear of reminding Pharaoh of his earlier time in jail. But Hashem put him in the right place at the right moment to have this sudden moment of memory so that Yoseph and Pharaoh could meet.
2: Yoseph understood Pharaoh’s dreams. Read the dreams of Pharaoh as if you had never read the parsha before. Really fourteen cows and fourteen stalks of grain mean the harvests will be spectacular for seven years and then there will be a horrific famine? The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams is far from obvious. Yet Yoseph does not appear to hesitate in explaining the dream to Pharaoh. While we understand from early chapters that Yoseph was particularly gifted at interpreting dreams, this understanding of the warning against famine was definitely a moment of incomprehensible understanding.
3: Pharaoh’s understanding that he should appoint Yoseph to undertake the preparations for surviving the upcoming famines is another Divine “ah ha” moment. Let’s be honest, it’s one thing to have a foreign convict interpret one’s dreams, it’s something far different to decide to appoint him as viceroy. But Pharaoh didn’t take weeks and months looking for the right appointee, he immediately thought of and appointed Yoseph to oversee the necessary planning.
4: “When Yaakov saw that there were food rations to be had in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you keep looking at one another?’” (42:1). There are many commentaries on this verse about what Yaakov’s rebuke-filled question meant. The use of vayare (and he saw) is also understood to mean that he perceived something. One could see in this verse that Yaakov had a sudden, clear understanding that there was something in Egypt that they needed, and perhaps his question to his sons was really an expression of his puzzlement that they did not perceive the same thing.
5: Yoseph’s recognition of his brothers is as significant as their not recognizing him. Yoseph saw that he had an unexpected opportunity to see what his brothers were really made of. He understood that his dreams might come true, but just as strongly he understood that he had to see if they were the same jealous brothers who had so callously sold him into slavery.
6: “They said to one another, we are being punished on account of our brother, because we looked on his anguish yet paid no heed as he pleaded with us'” (42:21). This was a moment of partial enlightenment. They were on the right track in there thinking, but isn’t it interesting that even as they actively discussed Yoseph, none of them even had an inkling as to his actual identity. Still and all, this is a significant moment of awareness because it was the first time there is a feeling of guilt among the brothers. (It is necessary to note that Reuvain is not part of this “ah ha” moment. As we learn in verse 42:22, Reuvain immediately set himself apart from his brothers and their deed, which is, perhaps, why he is unable to negotiate a surety for his father for Binyamin).
7: Yehuda has great understanding that he can step up and lead. He heard Reuvain’s offer of his sons’ lives as a surety for Binyamin’s safety and how it was rejected. He witnessed how they all ignored the elephant in the room – the missing Shimon, stuck still in Egypt – and went about their normal lives. One day, as their rations fell short, Yehuda finally realized that he need not wait for his older brothers, that he could take the leap, gain his father’s trust with Binyamin’s life, and help the family. This was an important moment in Yehuda’s path that would ultimately lead him and his descendants to be the recognized leaders of Bnei Yisrael.
8: “And Yoseph saw Binyamin was with them.” Finally, Yoseph is capable of understanding what it has all been about. He saw Binyamin and he knew that his original dreams would come to fruition. There were still measures to take, such as testing the commitment of the brothers to Binyamin’s safety, but when Yoseph saw the brothers enter with Binyamin, he knew that everything would work out as part of Hashem’s plan, because now that he could see some of the bigger picture, he understood why he had had to face so many challenges in his life.
The miracle of Yoseph’s life, the miracle of parshas Miketz, is something most of us experience many times but do not particularly notice or ascribe to miracles. In Miketz we learn to see past the glowing lights of the Menorah and the spark of the Divine intervention our people needed and received against the Syrian-Greeks, but rather to the ultimate miracle of seeing and understanding God’s ultimate control in this world.