Imagine you meet someone and immediately notice something peculiar: He incessantly claps his hands. The next day, you realize that once again he is walking around clapping his hands. As this pattern continues for several weeks, you assume that he must have some kind of biological disorder, forcing him to act this way. You begin to get used to the strange behavior, accepting this boy’s nature. One day, as per usual, you see him clapping his hands. Suddenly, the unexplainable happens: The boy stops clapping his hands, looks right, then left, waves at you, and then goes back to clapping his hands again. Your first response is absolute shock; a moment later, you begin to realize the fascinating truth: This boy doesn’t have a disorder, and he isn’t being forced to clap his hands. Every moment, he chooses to clap his hands. Once you witness a brief moment when he chooses not to clap his hands, you know that the clapping has been in his control all along. This connects to a profound idea developed in this week’s parshah, VaEira.

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, fading into the background. 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 less than one in seven billion, how are we supposed to feel? How are we supposed to feel special and unique in such a world?

In this week’s parshah, VaYigash, Yaakov is finally reunited with Yosef after 22 years of separation. In what can only be imagined as an emotionally climactic scene, Yaakov embraces Yosef, sobbing on his neck. Rashi brings down the midrash that, as Yaakov embraced Yosef for the first time in 22 years, he was saying k’rias Sh’ma (B’reishis 46:29). What is the meaning of this? Why not wait until after this joyful and emotional reunion with his long-lost son to pray? The simple answer often mentioned is that Yaakov was overcome by intense emotion and wanted to channel this feeling towards Hashem through reciting k’rias Sh’ma. However, there may be something deeper at play.

There were once two boys who went skating on a frozen lake. As they were enjoying themselves, the ice suddenly cracked, and one of the boys fell through into the icy water. His friend started frantically reaching for him, but he was too late, and the boy got swept underneath the ice. Desperate to save his friend, this scrawny boy quickly looked around, saw a tree in the distance, and rushed over to try to pull off a branch. After tugging for a few seconds, he managed to crack off a huge branch, and he then quickly ran back to his friend. He smashed and thrashed at the thick ice until it finally cracked and he was able to grab onto his friend. He dragged him back to the shore just as the ambulance arrived, and miraculously, they were able to resuscitate him.

Parshas MiKeitz always falls out around Chanukah, and Chazal explain that this is not coincidental. In explanation of this phenomenon, the commentaries discuss how Yosef is connected to Chanukah, and how he symbolizes our victory over the Syrian-Greeks. This begs the obvious question as to what exactly the connection between Yosef and Chanukah is. An obvious connection both Yosef and the Greeks would be the concept of beauty. Yosef is the only male in the Torah who is referred to as “beautiful” (B’reishis 39:6). The Greeks originate from Yefes, a name which literally means “beauty.” In Parshas Noach, Noach blesses his two sons with the following: “Yaft Elokim l’Yefes, v’yishkon b’ohalei Shem–Hashem will grant beauty to Yefes, and he will dwell within the tents of Shem (B’reishis 9:27).” Yefes is the precursor to the Greeks, and Shem to the Jews. This seemingly paints the Greeks in a positive light, as a beautiful nation fitting to dwell within the framework and boundaries of Judaism. In a similar vein, the Gemara (Megillah 9b) states that despite the general prohibition of translating the Torah into different languages, it is permissible to translate the Torah into Greek due to the beauty of the language.