This coming Shabbat we will still be celebrating the festival of Hanukkah. The parasha of the week is Miketz, which is actually the same parasha we read in most of the Shabbatot within Hanukkah. This is a mere coincidence of the Hebrew calendar, but our sages are always eager to learn something else from these kind apparent coincidences. The question therefore is: Is there a link between parashat Miketz and Hanukkah?
Some attempts have been made to answer this question. The one I like the most is the following explanation: the connection between Hanukkah and Parshat Miketz appears in Pharoh’s dreams. In his first dream, Pharoh saw seven bad looking cows eating seven good looking cows. In the second dream he saw seven good ears of grain getting swallowed up by seven thin ears of grain. Similarly, in the days of Mattathias the Hasmonean and his sons, the people of Yisrael were able to overcome the much stronger nation of Greece because of G-d’s intervention and because the Jewish people’s faith in Him.
What is the message in both stories? You can find it in the “Al Hanisim,” the paragraph we add in the Amidah and in Birkat Hamazon during Hanukkah: “You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.”
We Jews are a strong people not because we are great in number or because we are a rich or mighty group. Our power resides in our spiritual force, in our faith, and in our devotion for our tradition and our Torah. Our people survived the Greek anti-Jewish decrees and oppression during Mattathias’ time because they were proud of their identity and were firmly prepared to defend it. That is how their untrained army was able to defeat the powerful Greek army.
Today the challenges are different, but we still have to fight so that we can continue being Jews. Let us remember always where our strength lies. We have inner strength in our Jewish souls.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach!
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky