Chanukah celebrates the military victory of the small and weak band of Maccabees over the large, strong Syrian-Greek regime during the Second Temple period. It is also the story of how the small volume of oil that was found, just enough for one day, defied all odds and stayed alight in the Temple for eight days.
This week in Parshat Miketz we focus on the two dreams dreamt by Pharaoh. The first dream is of seven lean cows swallowing seven fat cows, the second is of seven thin ears of corn swallowing seven healthy ones.
We see in Pharaoh’s dreams, that the weak swallow up the strong. There is a similar idea in the two dreams Yosef had earlier in Bereishit. In his dreams of the corn and the stars, the majority bow to the minority. Again the weak and few win against the strong and the many.
This theme of strength and weakness is something we see not only in the events of Chanukah and this week’s parshah, but also in parenting.
Ross Greene, in his book Raising Human Beings (p.240), writes that “much of human interaction is viewed through the prism of strength versus weakness. Whether it’s sports, business, politics, the legal system or world affairs, “strength” is admired and “weakness” is scorned. Regrettably, parenting is no exception.”
Throughout life we often favour strength over weakness. He continues, “We humans – parents included-do some very counterproductive things when we’re hell-bent on demonstrating how strong we are. Parenting is not a balancing act between strength and weakness. And collaborating with your child on solving the problems that affect his life does not demonstrate weakness. It actually demonstrates strength.”
Greene offers proactive solutions for parents and children. Partnering with kids to solve problems rather than adults telling children what to do and making them do it. But rather than advocating for the “weak” position of collaboration over domination, he is, in fact, redefining strength for us.
Pirkei Avot 4:1 Ben Zoma asks, “Who is strong? One who overcomes his desires.” Just as we saw with Yosef’s challenge with Potiphar’s wife, true strength lies in controlling your impulses. So often in parenting, there are moments that appear weak but in fact, display true strength. The strong parent is not the one who wields power or physical strength and hits back at a child that strikes them or shouts at a child who has upset them. The strong parent clenches their fists if they are tempted to strike their child, remaining silent and biting their tongue when they want to shout at their child. Strength can often appear as weakness because inner strength is not visible to others, it is the difficult discipline of working on ourselves.
All too often we view strength as military might, or the numerous or the side that wields more power. We need to shift our perspective, reframe and remember that strength comes in many forms.
Wishing you a Chanukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom