“ 'N ot with armies and not with might but with My spirit,’ says Hashem.” (Zecharyah 4:6, Haftarah Shabbos Chanukah)

Mark Twain probably said it best:

“…He [the Jew] has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind… [H]is commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names… are also way out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers…. The Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Persians, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.

“The Jew saw them all, beat them all and is now what he always was…. All things are mortal, but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains.

“What is the secret of his immortality?” Harper’s Magazine, September 1899

The secret lies in Chanukah. (Rav Yaakov S. Weinberg, The Torah Connection)

I made a wrong turn, two blocks too early. Instead of driving into Neve Yaakov to pick up invitations for my son’s bar mitzvah, I found myself driving toward the heart of the Shuafat refugee camp, East Jerusalem.

Cartographically, this isn’t dangerous territory. The neighborhood borders several frum ones and the error shouldn’t have triggered such terror within me. Yet the contrast in scenery was jarring — veiled women, hooded teens, men with mustaches — all eyeing the obviously foreign car.

I was alone, it was dusk, and I was petrified. There wasn’t even a place to make a U-turn; a fence rode down the center of the avenue separating both lanes. After what seemed like miles, but was probably mere meters, I found a break in the fence, drove on the pavement, and headed back toward my side of town.

This is the theme of Maoz Tzur: Pharaoh’s Egypt, Babylonia, Haman’s Persia; “The Jew saw them all, beat them all.”

Chanukah celebrates the last event in our history that we commemorate with a chag. Therefore, the power of this chag accompanies us throughout our long exile.

There are two miracles that we remember on Chanukah. The obvious miracle of a day’s supply of oil burning for eight days, then the hidden miracle of a weak army defeating a strong one. What’s the connection between the two?

An innocuous driving error, but it kept haunting me. Had I really been in danger? It didn’t matter. I’d felt threatened and vulnerable on that road, and the image was hard to shake.

We say in Al Hanissim: “The many in the hands of the few.” The essence of Chanukah is this concept of success via a Heavenly Source as opposed to physical power. It’s the same miracle with the oil — a small amount lasted for a long time. The concept of spiritual power as opposed to physical.

It’s interesting to note that in most years, Shabbos Chanukah falls out on Parshas Mikeitz, recounting Yosef’s rise from prison to majesty. Yosef symbolizes this concept — the powerless, unconnected Jew in prison who suddenly becomes second to the king.

Yirmiyahu writes in Eichah (1:1): “She that was great among the nations, a princess among the provinces, has become tributary.” Says the Gemara (Sanhedrin 104): “Wherever they go in exile, they become the princes of their masters.”

So we answer Mark Twain. How does the Jew, the quintessential outsider, rise to influence and dominance — in country after country, era after era?

“ ‘Only with My spirit,’ says Hashem.”

Several weeks later I stood in shul as my oldest son was called to the Torah for his bar mitzvah aliyah. As he began to lein the familiar words of Haftaras Shabbos Chanukah, my lips moved with him, the tune so familiar from all our hours of practice: “ ‘Not with armies and not with might but with My spirit,’ says Hashem.” One of my favorite pesukim, for decades before my son was born.

The candy bags flew and my thoughts flew with them. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving through a strange neighborhood or a familiar highway. Today my son became a man. Despite generations of persecution, I stand here over the Green Line in Eretz Yisrael and watch my son accept his yoke of mitzvos.

“Only with My spirit.” And my spirits flew upward in a prayer of gratitude. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 571)