At the beginning of our week's parsha, the pasuk says:

“Miketz shnatayim yamim…”

" At the end of two years "

The Medrash Rabbah relates these words to a pasuk in Iyov ( Job )

“Ketz sam l’choshech…”

" He put an end to the darkness "

G-D decided that after the two year period in which Yosef was to sit in prison, the time had come for his release.

Since the time for Yosef’s release had now arrived, Pharaoh had his dream.

The Beis HaLevi makes a very important point.

We often get confused between cause and effect.

A simple reading of the narrative at the beginning of Parshas Miketz gives us the impression that

the “cause” was

Pharaoh’s dreams and the fact that his advisors could not interpret them to his satisfaction.

The effect was

that Yosef was brought out of jail to interpret the dreams and thereby rose to a position of authority in Egypt.

The Beis HaLevi points out that the Medrash is teaching us that just the reverse is true.

The CAUSE was that it was time for Yosef to be released from prison and take up a leadership position in Egypt.

The EFFECT was that G-d made Pharaoh dream troubling dreams, which his advisors could not interpret.

The world has a Grand Plan. G-d makes things happen in the world so that the plan will be carried out.

G-D calls the shots, not man.

That is the paradox of the human condition as understood by Judaism.

On the one hand we are free.

No religion has so strongly insisted on human freedom and responsibility.

Adam and Eve were free not to sin.

Cain was free not to kill Abel.

We make excuses for our failures – it wasn’t me; it was someone else’s fault.

But these are just that: excuses.

It isn’t so.

We are free and we do bear responsibility.

This is the paradoxical interplay of fate and freewill.

As Rabbi Akiva said in Avot: “All is foreseen yet freedom of choice is given”.

Isaac Bashevis Singer put it cleverly:

“We have to believe in free will:

we have no choice.”

We and God are co-authors of the human story. Without our efforts we can achieve

It is interesting that Shabbat Hanukkah nearly always coincides with Parshat Miketz,

this week’s Torah portion about Joseph and his brothers.  Here is why I find this coincidence so intriguing.

The very first Hanukkah was quite different than our own.

The first Hanukkah was about fighting not to be like others. 

But in our Torah portion Joseph is the first Jew to live in a foreign land. 

He lives among the Egyptians, making a home for himself there and becomes the second in command of all of Egypt. 

It is therefore more than a bit ironic that on the Shabbat when we celebrate Hanukkah and its message of being different than others and more importantly our right to be different,

we read of Joseph taking on an Egyptian name and acting so much like an Egyptian that his brothers don’t even recognize him when they come begging for food. 

Throughout the generations Judaism has gone back and forth between these poles. 

We want to be different. 

We want to be the same. 

Look at the next generation! 

Back and forth with the names we travel, always struggling to live as a Jew while being a part of the world at large. 

We want to be different. 

We want to be the same. 

That is the eternal story of Hanukkah.