As Israel prepares to cross the sea, Moses cries out to God, who responds, in Exodus 14:15, “Why cry out to Me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.” Rashi reverses the meaning of the verse, suggesting God is saying, “Why cry out? It’s on me — tell the Israelites to go forward.” Rashi lived in an age (1040-1105) when Jews had little power and reliance on God was the only conceivable strategy. He understood the Passover story as one of total dependence, not human initiative.
Chanukah, which we celebrate next month, is a story of human struggle and triumph. Unlike the fleeing Israelites, the Maccabees took up arms and succeeded. Understandably, the modern State of Israel took the Maccabees as their model. In older Haggadot one sometimes finds the wicked child depicted as a soldier. The Passover paradigm is total reliance on God. Chanukah upholds human power alongside Divine encouragement and assurance.
We are blessed to live in a time with a modern State of Israel when Jews can defend themselves. This Chanukah we still cry out to God, but no longer wait to go forward.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).