And Pharaoh removed his ring from his hand and gave it onto Yosefs hand.” (Bereishit 41:42) 

And the king removed his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hamdata the Aggagite, enemy of the Jews.” (Esther 3:10) 

Are Yosef and Haman contrasting characters? To answer this, we would need to examine how each person managed to have the king’s ring passed to them, what their primary mission was when each were made viceroys, and what their primary motivations were. Do they have anything in common? We read Yosef’s story from the Torah this week, which happens to be Chanukah. Is there a connection to the holiday? Haman is the villain in the story we read on Purim. Can we find a connection between this week’s Torah reading, Purim, and Chanukah? What message can we get from a contrast between the characters of Yosef and Haman? 

Yosef was made a viceroy when he was brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. He had no plans to rise to power. It was simply given to him because of his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, and to propose a solution to a coming regional crisis.  

Haman was already one of Achashverosh’s chief courtiers. We hear nothing about his life or his ambitions before his promotion, but there is one verse that hints at his arrogance, and may suggest ambition: “The king said to him What shall be done to the man who the king wishes to honor?’ And Haman said in his heart Who would the king wish to honor more than myself?’” (Esther 6:6) 

Yosef’s primary mission was to save lives and to have people in the region survive a seven-year-long famine. Everything that he did in his capacity as viceroy was done to that end. Everything from the storage and rationing of food, to the acquisition of the people’s land for the Pharaoh was done as part of that mission. Haman’s one mission, in contrast to Yosef’s mission to save lives, was to exterminate the Jewish people, and to stir up hatred of Jews throughout the Persian empire.  

Both characters experience a desire for revenge. Yosef torments his brothers when they come to Egypt for food by accusing them of being spies, by imprisoning them, and by framing them for a theft they did not commit. Haman’s entire mission as viceroy of Persia is borne of a desire for revenge against Mordechai who refused to bow to him. 

Both have a moment during which they fall: Yosef falls on his brother Binyamin’s neck and cries with him after revealing his true identity, and kisses all of his other brothers and cries with them (Bereishit 45:14-15). Haman falls on the queen’s bed to beg for his life (Esther 7:8). 

It is meaningful and fortuitous that Parashat Miketz, when the Pharaoh passes his ring to Yosef, usually is read during Chanukah. It is meaningful partly because of the parallels between our parashah and Purim, as we explored above, and Purim and Chanukah are both the same type of holiday (Yemei HodaahDays of Thanksgiving). It is also because in all three stories, royal power is passed from the head of a regional superpower to a Jewish leader; Mordechai was given the royal signet ring after Haman’s execution, and after the defeat of the Syrian-Greek armies, the Maccabees founded a new dynasty of Jewish kings. In all three stories, the Jewish people are saved from extermination; by famine, by forced assimilation, or by mass-slaughter. All human empires are subject to defeat; none last forever. Spiritual dedication and selfless dedication to saving lives are what help us survive.  

Happy Chanukah! 

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