Rabbi Steinsaltz’s drash takes up the idea of Divine Providence and predestination. We have free will — and this alters how events occur — but Divine Providence acts through pregnant moments in time. He says that Joseph would have ended up in Egypt, as a high adviser to Pharaoh under many different circumstances: by accidentally falling into a pit, for instance, rather than through his brothers’ conspiracy. His ketz (predestined role) was to have an important position which drew his family to settle in Egypt, although how that occurred was subject to human free will.
Yet the chief cupbearer did not think of Joseph; he forgot him. After two years’ time …
AND HE FORGOT HIM: afterwards. Because Joseph had placed his trust in him that he should remember him he was doomed to remain in prison for two years. So it is said (Psalms 40:5) “Happy is the man how makes the LORD his trust and turns not to the arrogant” — do not trust in the Egyptians who are called arrogant (Genesis Rabbah 89:3).
Midrash Tanchuma Buber, Miketz 3:1
Until the proper time had arrived for him to leave …
Rabbi Yehudah Leib, Alter of Ger
For Joseph’s descent into Egypt was preparation for the exile in Egypt. The purpose of the exile was to prepare for receiving the Torah …
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
Our sages, both in the Talmud and in the Midrash, deal extensively with this subject. The basic assumption is that there is a ketz [fixed or predestined time] to every person’s life, even if certain events or deeds can change its precise duration, shortening or lengthening it. Even when Maimonides (Iggerot HaRamban) discusses the relationship between the events that a person experiences and his predetermined ketz, it is clear that some kind of ketz exists for every person. There is a ketz for a person’s greatness, a ketz for his death, and a ketz for every other significant lifetime event.
What does trusting God mean? What is the role of our actions and free will versus God’s providence?
Sefer Kuzari 2:24
Divine Providence only gives man as much as he is prepared to receive; if his receptive capacity be small, he obtains little, and much if it be great.
For the Torah teaches man how to walk a path of truth: it teaches him how to return to his Master and cancel what is predestined for him….And even if man is shown that what is predestined for him cannot be cancelled, it nonetheless completely cancelled and annulled, then disappears at once and does not prevail over him in this world.
Midrash Tanchuma, Shemot 17:3
Israel was destined to be sold in the days of Haman, but Mordecai was predestined to save them … Israel was destined to descend into servitude in Egypt, but Joseph was predestined to help them … and Moses was predestined to deliver them from bondage …