The Gemara (Me’ilah 17a) cites a story to depict the ongoing confrontations during the period leading up to the Chanukah miracle between the Jews and their oppressors, the Greeks.
Rabi Reuvein Ben Istraboli was going to meet with Greek officials. Prior to the meeting, he had his hair cut in the style of the Greeks, so that he would not appear as a Jew. He began his discussion with them, expressing why the gezeiros they placed on the Jewish people made no sense. He discussed the three main edicts they had established and enforced in a bid to separate the Jews from their religion.
As he brought up each edict and demonstrated how it would not accomplish their goal, and would actually strengthen the Jews, they repealed the gezeirah, until all three gezeiros were rescinded.
Then, somehow, they realized that he was a Jew. When that happened, they reestablished the three harsh edicts.
The obvious question is: If they had been convinced that the effect of their decrees would be contrary to their intentions, why would they reinstate them after learning that the person who had convinced them was Jewish? Did his religion change the facts or the proofs he had cited?
The answer is that this is another manifestation of the hatred the nations of the world have for the Jews. It is not rooted in reality or intellect. Rather, it is an irrational, inbred hatred dating back thousands of years. Even if it is proven to them that they are mistaken in their facts and actions, they will persist in their hatred of us.
Take a look at the present war, in which no rational person can argue that Israel doesn’t have a right to self-defense against a barbaric enemy sworn to its destruction. Yet, all around the world, people are marching against the Jewish genocide, crying, “How dare they defend themselves? How dare they go after a terror group that brutally murdered 1,200 of its citizens, wounded 5,000 of them and took some 250 hostages?
The intelligentsia, the bastions of higher learning and the mainstream media side with the terrorists, doing what they can to foster sympathy and support for the murderers.
Western countries, which are also targets of Islamic terror, support the terrorists and their cause. The United States, the beacon of freedom in this world, works actively to crimp Israel’s ability to realize its stated goal of destroying the terror group and not allowing it to establish bases along Israel’s border. The president and vice president announce publicly and repeatedly that their goal is to establish a Palestinian state in Yehudah, Shomron and Gaza at the war’s end.
There is no logic involved in that pursuit, which has no basis in fact or history, for there never was a Palestinian state and there never was a Palestinian nation prior to the founding of Israel. Any land that Israel has given them in the pursuit of peace has served as a base for attacking Israel and Jews. Yet, the nations of the world meet and plot and discuss how they will force Israel to end the war before it is able to win, and how they will force Israel to agree to the establishment of a state for their enemies on their doorstep as a reward for murdering so many Israelis.
As this war continues to rage, there are flashes of Divine kindness, reminding us that He is in charge and that we all play a role in the war’s success.
This message is inherent to Chanukah, which we begin celebrating this week.
The question is often posed why the Yom Tov of Chanukah was established to commemorate the miracle of the pach shemen. The Jewish people found one small jug of tahor pure olive oil, which was sufficient for one day’s lighting of the menorah. Miraculously, that small jug was used to light the menorah for eight days, until they were able to produce uncontaminated oil.
There were many miracles that took place daily in the Bais Hamikdosh, yet there is no commemoration for them, so why is there one for this miracle?
Furthermore, it would appear that the much greater and impactful miracle was the Jewish people’s ability to overcome the much larger and stronger army of their authoritarian tormentors and achieve victory against those who sought their annihilation. Why wasn’t the Yom Tov established to commemorate the military victory?
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz answered that the miracle of the pach shemen was smaller than winning the war, but it indicated Hashem’s love for His people. When they found that jug and were able to light the menorah for eight days, it was, so to speak, a kiss from Hashem to His beloved. That was the reason why the Yom Tov that celebrates the victory was established as a tribute to the smaller miracle.
In the current war, which was launched in response to a terrible tragedy, Hashem has been exhibiting His love for His people. On Simchas Torah, the terror attack was unleashed for reasons we cannot understand, but we know that it was brought about by Hashem. Everything that happens in this world is Divinely caused, but sometimes knowing that is a matter of faith and other times it is clearly evident.
It is now known that Hamas had been planning the attack for a long time and Israeli intelligence people close to the ground found out about the plans and reported them to their superiors. The intelligence went up the chain of command, until it was negated and ignored. Spotters who sat and watched what was going on near the border on their screens were convinced that something bad was on the way, but the people they reported to told them to stop with their reports; it was impossible that anything was in the offing.
The Israel-Gaza border fence was considered the safest and most sophisticated in the world. But on that tragic day, it failed to keep out the murderers, and its electronic warning systems did not work either. From when the terrorists began their rampage, it took the army seven hours to reach the multiple scenes and begin to battle the savages.
Nobody could have imagined that the attack would have worked out like that. It is obvious that the Yad Hashem was guiding the events.
There were many people who survived the pogrom and went public with their stories. Some said that they repeated Shema Yisroel dozens of times, and as they did so, terrorist bullets flew off of their car, speeding away to escape the carnage. Others told stories of how they spoke to Hashem, begging Him to save them, and they were saved. The variety of stories is amazing and a chizuk in emunah. Even in a time of din, there is rachamim.
As the Soton and his Yishmoeli messengers were slaughtering 1,200 Jews, there were many Heavenly kisses evident that saved many people from certain death.
And even as the battles rage in Gaza, stories are circulating of Divine kisses intervening and saving soldiers from death.
As a result of these signs from Shomayim, untold numbers of Jews are looking to establish a relationship with Hashem and his Torah. We have written about this in the past and the stories are well known. People who never davened or observed mitzvos have accepted upon themselves to wear tefillin daily, to learn Torah, to observe Shabbos, and to bring themselves closer to Yiddishkeit.
Two Fridays ago, a high-ranking army officer arrived at a major yeshiva in Yerushalayim. He came from Gaza to speak to the well-known and respected rosh yeshiva. The rosh yeshiva was not in the yeshiva then and the officer didn’t have time to go to his home, because he had to rush back to Gaza. After all, there is a war going on. And so, he left a voice message with the security officer. This is the message he left for the rosh yeshiva, which I verified, heard and translated for you:
“With deepest respect, I wanted to personally thank you in the name of all the soldiers in my battalion who are serving in Gaza. I meet with soldiers in Gaza and across the border in Israel, and I see with my own eyes the Hashgocha Elokis. It appears as if Hakadosh Boruch Hu Himself is accompanying each and every soldier and is saving their lives.
“What you are doing is simply fascinating. Your tefillos and Torah learning on behalf of the soldiers are protecting them. Thank you from the hearts of all the members of our battalion.
“People tell me personally, ‘We don’t know what is going on here. We have our own personal Hashgocha Elokis. It is impossible that we aren’t getting killed by all the shooting that is directed at us. It makes no sense that we have survived and are alive.’
“I now understand that what you are doing in the yeshiva is holy work and you are a part of this entire war. Thank you. Thank you. I love you.”
Is that not a kiss from Hashem amidst a dreadful war? Should we not be celebrating the miracles that these people are experiencing daily?
That is the message of Chanukah, knowing that even in times of tragedy and suffering, Hashem sends signs from above that He is watching us, looking out for us, and holding our hands. As the posuk states, “Gam ki eileich begei tzalmovess lo ira ra ki Atah imodi – Even when I walk in the valley of death, I fear no evil, because You are with me.”
This was evident at the time of Chanukah and is apparent today.
When things aren’t going the way you want them to – people aren’t behaving properly toward you or you have a health issue, a financial problem, or some other challenge – you must remember that everything that happens to us comes from Hashem and is for our benefit. Sometimes kindness is obvious and other times it is not. When you get a kiss from Above, it is a reminder that He is there, watching over you.
When we celebrate great nissim that occurred in the past and when we read and hear stories of miraculous recoveries and happy endings throughout the ages, in good times and in bad, it should bring us cheer and reason to sing shiros vesishbachos.
Ah freilichen Chanukah.