Parshat Mikeitz is nearly always read on Shabbat Chanukah, and Chazal identified many connections between the parsha and the festival. For example, the first pasuk states:
“And it was at the end of two full years (shnatayim)…” (Breishit 41:1)
The word shnatayimis an acronym of “Smol Neirot Tadlik, Yamin Mezuzah” (loosely, “on the left, candles you shall light; on the right, the mezuzah”). In addition, we see many parallels between Yosef’s confrontation with the Egyptians and the Jews’ confrontation with Greek culture.
Paroh asks his chartumim (necromancers) to interpret his dreams:
“And it was in the morning, and his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called all the necromancers of Egypt and all its wise men; and Paroh related his dream to them, but no one interpreted them for Paroh.” (Breishit 41:8)
“They did interpret them, but not ‘for Paroh,’ for their voice did not reach his ears, and he did not have peace of mind from their interpretation, for they would say, ‘Seven daughters shall you beget, and seven daughters shall you bury.'”
How can it be that not one of Paroh’s sages was able to find a solution which satisfied him? What prevented them from successfully solving Paroh’s dreams?
The mighty Egyptians could not imagine a scenario where the weaker side could beat the braver side – a situation where weaker, thinner cows would devour healthy cows and scorched stalks would devour full ones. However, due to our Jewish faith inHaKadosh Baruch Hu, we can envision such a scenario. A man of faith believes that it is possible for the small and weak to emerge victorious over the great and powerful. After all, HaKadosh Baruch Hu controls everything. Thus, only a person who truly believes that HaKadosh Baruch Hu is the Source of both our misfortunes and our salvation can solve Paroh’s dream. Only a man of faith can envision both the looming troubles as well as their solutions.
In “Olat HaRa’ayah”, Rav Kook wonders why the blessing recited over the Chanukah candles includes the words, “to kindle the Chanukah light,” rather than “to kindle the Chanukah lights?” Of course, a simple answer is that we are commanded to light one candle each day, and therefore, the blessing reflects this idea. But another explanation is that although we light more than one candle, we must focus on the unity which the candles represent. By lighting the menorah, we publicize HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s miracles – the discovery of the pach shemen (small jug of oil); the fact that it lasted for eight days; and most of all, the military victory of the few over the many. Only faith in HaKadosh Baruch Hu allows one to see the big picture – although we are numerically inferior and currently losing the battle, we must continue to fight, and with Hashem’s help, we will win the war.
Similarly, Yosef is the only person who can correctly solve Paroh’s dreams. Furthermore, Yosef’s recommendations are immediately put into effect to prevent a famine in Egypt. This is the Chanukah candles’ great secret – faith allows a person to look past the current circumstances, to continue fighting, and to believe that any crisis can be overcome with Hashem’s help.
In general, there are two main reasons for lighting candles: as a way of showing respect and honor (as in a shul) or in order to illuminate. However, neither of these reasons applies to the Chanukah candles, because the mitzvah is fulfilled by the act of lighting itself. Moreover, one is halachically obligated to recite the blessings over the Chanukah candles – even if the candles will not be seen by anyone. In other words, the goal of lighting the Chanukah candles is not only pirsumei nissa (publicizing the miracle). Rather, by lighting the Chanukah candles, we demonstrate our connection to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
The Greeks were not concerned with the Jews’ mitzvah-observance per se. Instead, they issued their decrees in order to prevent the Jews from defining themselves as Jewish men of faith.
Although the Jews’ decision to fight against the mighty Greeks was irrational, it was a perfect manifestation of our connection toHaKadosh Baruch Hu. This connection is dependent on irrational and illogical moves – such as heading out to seemingly-unbeatable wars like this one. In addition, the miracle transcended the bounds of nature, and therefore, one must recite the blessings even when the candles will not be seen. For by lighting the Chanukah candles, we demonstrate our connection and faith in the Creator of the Universe. We display our recognition that even when the situation seems hopeless (e.g. the weak against the powerful), our faith in HaKadosh Baruch Hu will lead to victory.