On the one hand, we all believe that we are unique and special. On the other hand, we sometimes struggle to experience our individuality, feeling almost lost in the crowd. If you’ve ever walked the streets of a crowded city, surrounded by thousands of people walking in different directions, you may have felt almost invisible. We live on a planet with over seven billion people; planet Earth itself is a speck in the universe. If our planet is so infinitesimally small – relative to the universe – and within our planet, each of us is only one of more than seven billion people, how are we supposed to feel special and unique?

With great responsibility comes great power.

The drama continues. A disguised Yosef is keeping Shimon locked up and threatening to deny any more food to Yaakov’s family until the youngest is brought down to Egypt. Desperate and starving, the brothers beg their father to entrust them with precious Binyamin, but Yaakov is unwilling and refuses to be persuaded.

Does the Torah know how to count?

It might not seem so, as Parshas VaYigash lists the 69 people in Yaakov’s family who came down to Egypt and then refers to them as “the 70 people” (B’reishis 46:27). Rashi (v. 15) explains that the 70th person in Yaakov’s family was Levi’s daughter Yocheved, future mother of Moshe Rabbeinu. She is not listed by name among the other 69 travelers, as she was not yet born when Yaakov began the journey down south(west). It was only as they passed through the gates of Egypt that Yocheved was born, bringing the grand total to 70 people.

Parshas MiKeitz and the story of Yosef always fall out around Chanukah. This is not coincidental; the commentators discuss Yosef’s connection to Chanukah at great length. An obvious connection between Yosef and the Greeks is their association with beauty. Yosef is the only male in the Torah who is referred to as “beautiful” (B’reishis 39:6), and the Greeks originate from Yefes, whose name literally means “beauty.” In a similar vein, the Gemara (Megillah 9b) states that despite the general prohibition of translating the Torah into other languages, it is permissible to translate the Torah into Greek, due to the beauty of the language. What is the meaning behind this connection of Yosef and the Greeks?

In Parshas VaYigash, Yaakov is finally reunited with Yosef after 22 years of separation. In what can only be imagined as an intensely emotional scene, Yaakov embraces Yosef, sobbing on his neck (B’reishis 46:29). Rashi, quoting the midrash, explains that as Yaakov embraced Yosef for the first time in 22 years, he was saying k’rias Sh’ma. What is the meaning of this? Why not wait until after this joyful and emotional reunion with his long-lost son to pray? The answer often given is that Yaakov was overcome by intense emotion and wanted to channel this emotion towards Hashem through reciting k’rias Sh’ma. However, there may be a deeper layer here, as well.

Who would you expect  to win in a battle of good vs. evil?

Based on childhoods of reading fairy tales and watching Disney movies, we would like to believe that the “good guys” are supposed to come out on top. And yet, in Al HaNisim we thank Hashem for all the miracles and wonders – including the victory of the heroes – as if it was unnatural! Certainly, rabim b’yad m’atim (the many in the hands of the few) is miraculous, as the larger army would figure to have a major advantage. But why is r’sha’im b’yad tzadikim (the wicked in the hands of the righteous) so surprising? Would we have expected evil to have the upper hand?