In Maoz Tzur, we sing a line that starts “Yevanim Nikbetzu Alai”, The Greeks gathered around me. Rabbi Avraham Schorr (Halekach VeHalibuv Chanukah Vol. 3) writes that there are a multitude of points to gain from this verse as it pertains to the very mitzvah of Chanukah.
Yevanim Nikbetzu Alai is a statement of Achdus, of coming together, as it’s written about Yaakov (hikabtzu veshamu bnei yaakov). Rav Schorr writes that Achdus, this kibbutz so to speak, is a special entity that only Klal Yisrael is privy to and not found in regard to the other nations of the world, making the statement of the Greeks banding together as one seemingly confusing. We know that Bnai Yisrael are “Goy Echad Baaretz”, we’re considered as one people, while the rest of the world is spread apart. When the Torah records in reference to Esav of the “nefashos” of his offspring (Breishis 36:6), whereas Yaakov’s children are mentioned in the singular “nefesh” across Chapter 46. Rashi here mentions that Esav had six souls in his family, and they are mentioned in plural form because they worshipped many gods. Yaakov, on the other hand, had 70 souls in his family, yet they were called by a single soul because of their devotion to the Almighty.
Now that we see this concept of connecting as one as relating to Yaakov, how is it possible that the Greeks could’ve stolen away this entity of kibbutz solely destined to the Jewish people? Rav Schorr writes that if we as a nation are divided and apart, this idea of togetherness can be taken captive by the umos haolam, and used against us. He supports this postulation with an idea from the Chiddushei HaRim, who quotes the Sfas Emes. When a new king arose over Egypt and did not know Yosef (Shemos 1:8), it’s commonly explained as this new ruler was either an entirely new king or the very same king as before who, Nischadshu Gezeirosav, just happened to have enacted new decrees. Sfas Emes is puzzled by the ability by the king to enact new gezeiros, as this idea of Nischadshu, was also a trait unique to Bnai Yisrael. Yet, if this trait is squandered or underutilized, it can be taken away by those who seek to destroy us.
If we don’t use our collective prowess for achdus, it can be stolen and used to defeat us.
Rav Schorr continues that this can answer the question of the Pnei Yehoshua as to why the Chashmonaim were so vigilant in their pursuit of Shemen Tahor, pure oil. There exists in Jewish law a halachic position of “tumah hutrah betzibur”, that the ritual impurity of an item is nullified and outweighed by the general communal need for that object. There was a great need to light the Menorah, and there were plenty of other containers of oil that had been defiled. Why couldn’t this idea be put in place here, and the Chashmonaim have used this impure oil for the communal need? Rav Schorr answers sharply and poignantly. If Klal Yisrael was able to shirk their communal achdus, their din of “nikbetzu”, tumah hutrah betzibur would not apply in this instance: there’s no tzibbur, no broader community. If the Jewish people fell so low in our unity that we were able to be attacked by another group gathering together against us, there is indeed no kehillah to speak of.
Rav Schorr writes later in this volume that the words “agudah achas”, like we say in our Yamim Noraim davening, parallels numerically in Gematria to “Mashiach ben David.” This point of “Nikbetzu”, of remaining connected and unified as a people, is not merely a nice idea that has roots in the Torah with Yaakov Avinu: it’s the very key to our ability to bring about the ultimate redemption.