With Chanukah beginning immediately following Shabbos, I would like to look past this week’s Parsha of Vayeishev and turn our attention to Chanukah. Chanukah is a most beloved holiday as it celebrates the trust our people placed in HaShem. With the trust that the few Maccabees placed in HaShem they turned a fatal situation into the source from which the Jewish people continue to draw from 2,300 years later.
The conflict between the Jews of 2,300 years ago and the Greeks from which our holiday came was an ideological one. The Greeks believed in Nature and Science as an authority that decided the fate of all matter. We, on the other hand, certainly recognized the reality of nature and science but nevertheless we did not ascribe the authority of a decision maker in their hands. Rather we recognize that HaShem is the only authority and He alone decides and carries out His decisions. While it is true that He uses nature and science but they are only tools in His Hands.
On the surface there is no apparent disagreement. The Greek scientist and his Jewish counterpart will both do the same studies in the lab and come out with the same results. Both will take the same medication for their sickness. Both ascribe importance to nature and science. The difference between them will only be recognized when you see in what or Who they place their trust.
Let us take for example the story of Chanukah when the Jewish people were under the reign of the Syrian Greeks. The Greeks were oppressing us to abandon the belief of our people. A small group of very religious people, the Maccabees, revolted against this oppression and chose to fight the Greeks rather than yielding to them. Their revolt escalated into a full war between these two sides. One side was a well trained, well supplied army with many troops and the other side was a group of religious folks who had no experience fighting with very little supplies and very few fighters. The laws of math and nature would decide the conflict even before it begins in the favor of the former. This was the position and belief of the Greeks. The Jewish position, however, was that although math and nature dictate a victory for the former, nevertheless,they (math and nature) have no authority. All decisions are decided by HaShem. If He wishes the latter to be the victor then nature herself will carry out His Will and by natural means the latter will prevail!
With the long hard fought war and the eventual freedom which the Maccabees accomplished, we achieved a strength that remains with us still today. That is the strength of bitachon, an unwavering trust and reliance upon HaShem that there is no other decision maker in our lives. We have only One Individual upon whom we rely.
When the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) tells us “Blessed is the man who relies upon HaShem, then HaShem will be his support.” he is telling two things. The first is that one who relies upon HaShem is blessed. The second lesson he is teaching us is that HaShem is his support when he relies upon Him. If he will rely upon nature, science and statistics then they will be his support.
For the duration of Chanukah we recite a special prayer in which we state “You (HaShem) in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, You judged their claim and You avenged their wrong.” The implication of this statement is that HaShem fought their battle. Ought we not give some credit to the great Maccabees? Was it not they who undertook the fight? Would it not be more appropriate to say that HaShem assisted them in their fight, or HaShem took their side? But the answer is that the Maccabees placed their entire trust, their entire reliance was upon HaShem. They knew that working within the parameters of statistics they could never attempt such a revolt. Instead they placed their entire hope and destiny in His Hands. It was He, not they who delivered victory to us.
So as we sit back 2,300 years later and that autonomy that they won is barely a memory, we still cherish the enriching strength that we gained from that fight. Still today whether we find ourselves in a difficult financial situation or difficult medical situation or any other impossible situation we never have the need to give up – we always have our Father in heaven upon whom we can rely. He is not subject to statistics. He can use Nature herself to give us the solution. All we need to do is rely upon Him.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a brilliant Chanukah.