There’s a curious series of events that happen when Moshe and Aaron appear before Pharaoh and begin to display the signs and wonders of Hashem to him and his court. The first thing they do is provide him a sign of their authority from Hashem by turning Aaron’s staff into a serpent. However, Pharaoh’s magicians also turn their staffs into serpents as well. And after Hashem turns the water of Egypt into blood, the magicians of Egypt replicate this miracle as well. It says, “But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts” (Exodus 7:22).
Last week we concluded the book of Genesis and this week we have begun the book of Exodus. Up to this point we have been studying a brief history of the world leading up to the emergence of the Children of Israel. Beginning in the book of Exodus, however, we now begin to learn about how God calls Israel out from among the other nations of the earth to be a bride to himself. From here we will learn about the marriage covenant between God and Israel, and their unique responsibilities in that covenantal relationship.
Ani Yosef—“I am Joseph.” You could have heard a pin drop when Joseph spoke those two Hebrew words to his brothers. Their mouths fell open and their jaws nearly hit the floor. Their eyes bulged as they strained to recognize their younger brother hidden beneath the Egyptian garb. Confusion and despair rushed over them from head to foot in an instant. An icy chill coursed through their veins at the sudden realization that the man who stood in front of them—the second most powerful man in Egypt—was the one they had betrayed over twenty years previously.
Nearly every year Parashat Mikeitz is read in conjunction with the celebration of Hanukkah. Is there any parallel or insight we can find in this week’s Torah portion that relates to Hanukkah? A few of our rabbis (particularly Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg) have brought insight into this correlation. Our parashah tells us:
This week’s parashah covers a lot of territory. We begin reading about Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau after his departure from the house of Laban. From there we read about him wrestling through the night with what appears to be an angel of God. Jacob then encounters Esau and things go much better than expected. Esau is cordial and Jacob doesn’t get killed, so he skirts around his brother’s territory and heads over to Succoth. But after this we read of a sad incident in which his daughter, Dinah, is seduced and defiled by a man named Shechem.
Our parashah begins by telling us, “Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran” (Genesis 28:10). Rashi makes a keen observation on this verse. He asks a question that should be obvious to us: “Why does the Torah mention Jacob’s departure from Beersheba?” If we’ve been paying attention we should remember that the Torah had just mentioned this fact a few verses prior. Verse seven says, “Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram.” Haran is located within the region of Paddan-aram. Therefore, we’ve been told twice within a few sentences that Jacob went toward Haran.
And these were the life of Sarah: one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the years of the life of Sarah. (Genesis 23:1)
What can we learn from Sarah's death?
This week’s Torah portion begins by giving us the lifespan of Sarah. If one is not familiar with the breakdown of the Torah portions we would expect to begin reading more about the life of Sarah, since the portion is entitled Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah.” But the very next words we read are, “And Sarah died.” It’s not quite what we expect of our Torah portion.
The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17–19)