The slogans “Stronger Together” and “No Hate” have been front and center in our minds in recent weeks as we confronted rising incidents of overt antisemitism. These slogans represent sentiments that we share with all people, Jewish and non-Jewish, who appreciate the blessings of respect and of diversity in our communities and in our nation.
“Stronger Together” and “No Hate” also reflect a special connection between the Joseph story of our weekly Torah portion and the Chanukah story we are celebrating this week.
We often speak of the bravery and determination of the Maccabees who stood up for the right to live full Jewish lives in the face of those outside forces (the Greek Empire) who prohibited Jewish learning and Jewish living in the Land of Israel.
Nevertheless, another view of the Chanukah story asserts that the Greeks that outlawed our religious and spiritual lives in the Land of Israel did so as a direct result of our internal Jewish factionalism, strife and hatred. Jewish groups, acting out of hatred to other Jewish groups, “informed” on one another to outside powers. In fact, Jewish groups fought with one another. The Greeks perceived this internal fighting as a threat against the Greek Empire! It was our Jewish internal factionalism, strife and hatred that led to the restrictions on Jewish religious freedom in the days of the Maccabees! It was that internal strife that led to the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem!
Similarly, the Joseph story, which ultimately led our people into the 400 year enslavement in Egypt, was rooted in the strife and hatred that was generated between Joseph and his brothers!
Ultimately, it all worked out and we were “redeemed.” Ultimately, we have Passover to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt, and Chanukah to celebrate the victory of the Maccabees. But, perhaps we would have been able to avoid some of the pain and destruction that our people endured both in the period of Egyptian enslavement and in the Land of Israel before the Maccabees rose up to defend our Jewish lives, if we, ourselves, had been more willing to live together in peace!
We are indeed “Stronger Together.” We can have a world with less pain if we remember that “No Hate” applies not only to our relations with others, but also to our internal Jewish communal connections as well. We do not have to be identical to one another in order for us to love one another, to respect one another, and to see the image of God in one another!
May we learn from our founding stories and find a path to greater light, to greater peace, and to greater joy today and in all the days to come!
Shabbat Shalom and a very happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Gilah Dror