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  • Torah and Jewish Thought
  • Basics of Jewish Faith

Understanding Chanukkah, God's will and man's will


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Kislev 28, 5777
How is the holiday of Chanukah a miracle of G-d but being in the situation that precipitated the miracle not an act of G-d? Similarly the exodus of Egypt and other miracles? Why does it seem that a great outcome is G-d’s doing but it is not G-d’s to be in the situation? Why are not both man’s or G-d’s. Thank you very much. May you have a Light Filled Chanukkah.
You are absolutely correct. Everything, both the challenge, and also the solution, are a complex mixture of God’s will and man’s. Like in a father-son relationship, from a certain age, the father will not spoil or over-protect his son from challenges- but to the contrary; he wants his child to learn independence, which is part of the maturation process. The world is full of challenges, for Jew and gentile alike, and that’s what free-will is about. Just as in the microcosm, so too in the macrocosm, in history, all nations are faced with challenges, but as opposed to other nations who eventually “choose wrong” and leave the “center-stage”, only to the nation of Israel, God promised that even when we choose wrong, we will always survive in the end, in order to be a Light to the Nations, to advance monotheism and morality. In the time of the Bible regarding Pharaoh, for example, as Israel was pretty primitive, God introduced Himself and intervened with super-natural miracles, but already 2,500 years ago, in the story of Purim, God’s intervention was natural, through succeeding Esther and Mordechai’s plan (God’s name doesn’t appear in the entire Megilla), and how much more so 300 years later when the Maccabees took the military initiative, and God gave them success (note, that all of Matityahu’s sons were actually killed in battles, and God’s Hand was very hidden). God actually provided Israel with another important “pointer” through the Tanach, which directs us for example, that in most situations (aside from during exile when we had no army and “didn’t stand an ice-cube’s chance in hell”) the way of Israel is not to “turn the other cheek” to our enemies, but to fight back and deter. The U.N. and Christian Europe would be wise to learn our secret of success in the face of Islamic terror, because otherwise, when one side is violent and the other pacifistic, it’s not difficult to guess who will win! In short, we’ll never know what percent is God, and what percent is man’s will and participation, we just know very well that both factors are necessary to meet the challenges which life, and God, send us, both as individuals and as a nation!
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