Blog Post


Parshat Vayeshev: Chanukah and Gaza – A War on Two Fronts

We are in the midst of the holiday of Chanukah. On Chanukah we celebrate our historical victory over the powerful Syrian-Greek Empire that led to Jewish independence under the Hasmonean Dynasty for over 100 years until the Romans arrived on the scene. 

Chanukah is more than a commemoration of a military victory. It was a war on two fronts – both physically and spiritually. Prior to the Hasmonean uprising, the Greek Empire wanted Judaism to disappear. They wanted everyone to assimilate into Greek culture, and they were getting a lot of help from Jews who were all too happy to shed their traditions for the attractive Greek lifestyle. 

We Jewish people have faced many adversaries in the last 2000-plus years and thankfully we have always prevailed. And now here we are again in yet another conflict, another war, another enemy who wishes to wipe us out.

And just as with the Greeks, this war has two fronts – the physical and the spiritual. Make no mistake, this is more than a war with Hamas who is a relatively small and weak power. We know that Hezbollah is waiting in the wings and behind them the evil Iranian Mullahs. But there is another battle going on beyond our physical survival. And that is the war for the hearts and minds of the world at large who would be all too happy to see Jews and Judaism disappear just like the Greeks wanted.  

We are witnessing this battle on the campuses of Ivy League universities and elsewhere whose generals are leftist fools led by Academia who are so bright and intelligent that they have trouble saying that the call for genocide of Jews violates their policies against bullying and harassment. It’s all about the context, after all. (Please share with us the “context” where it’s ok to call for the genocide of Jews, or anyone else for that matter.)

The morally bankrupt warriors of this PR battle are something I have written about before and it was recently eloquently mentioned by a reader in a letter to The Wall Street Journal.

Student and public demonstrations condemning Israel’s reaction to the barbarism Hamas inflicted on Oct. 7 raises questions of selective outrage. The intense critique of Israel’s actions has an air of hypocrisy. What explains the absence of public outrage to the 500,000 killed and millions displaced by Syria’s Assad regime, the 300,000 murdered and starved in Ethiopia’s Tigray war, the nearly 400,000 Yemenis dead in that civil conflict and so on? 

Selective Outrage – that term sums it all up. Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder of Aish, used to talk about “counterfeit morality”. By that he meant that, on the one hand, there are people who truly strive to do good, act moral and seek justice in their personal lives and for the lives of everyone. And then there are people who are obsessed with virtue signaling. They don’t really want to put in the time, effort, intellectual honesty and humility to really do good for society, yet they want others to think they are doing it nevertheless. They are not interested in improving our world but moreso in making themselves feel good by doing token acts of alleged goodness and expressions of outrage so that others will think they are good. It’s all about how they feel about themselves rather than truly helping the unfortunate. Outrage and rage at Israel is their new cause. 

The Chanukah war had these two battles. On the one hand there was the military conflict against a power that wanted to eliminate us. And on the other there was the more subtle war against the Hellenization of Jewish society which was an attempt at having Jews disappear among Greek culture. If Jews as a distinct nation and religion would just go away, all would be good in our world. It’s not too dissimilar to the propaganda war that Israel faces by leaders of the Arab world and followed mindlessly by college students – that our history began in 1948 as a colonial power that pushed out the oppressed indigenous Palestinians. Their myopic narrative completely wipes away thousands of years of undeniable Jewish history, conveniently erasing it since it doesn’t jive with their fiction of Israel and Jews as colonialist oppressors.  

So we have a war on two fronts. Israel is fighting the military battle against those who wish to destroy her. And we are all soldiers in the larger PR war where factions seek to wipe Jews and Judaism from history and from our world as they march to the anthem of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.” 

On Chanukah we recall that God helped us overcome both the military and the spiritual threats that our nation faced at that time. And so too today, God guides and helps us to victory on both fronts this time as well. So as we light the Chanukah candles to publicize the miracles that God wrought for us thousands of years ago, we pray that their light and warmth of Goodness and Truth extends to our time as well.  May the Chanukah lights continue to shine Goodness, Truth, Peace and Prosperity to the IDF and to every caring Jew who fights for our people, whereever he or she may be.

You (God) in your enormous mercy
Stood up for them in their time of great need 
Upheld their cause 
Judged their case 
And avenged their oppressors
You delivered the mighty into the hands of the week 
The many into the hands of the few… 
The wicked into the hands of the righteous
-Al HaNissim Prayer said on Chanukah

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