Who would you expect to win in a battle of good vs. evil?
Based on childhoods of reading fairy tales and watching Disney movies, we would like to believe that the “good guys” are supposed to come out on top. And yet, in Al HaNisim we thank Hashem for all the miracles and wonders – including the victory of the heroes – as if it was unnatural! Certainly, rabim b’yad m’atim (the many in the hands of the few) is miraculous, as the larger army would figure to have a major advantage. But why is r’sha’im b’yad tzadikim (the wicked in the hands of the righteous) so surprising? Would we have expected evil to have the upper hand?
Rav Elchonon Wasserman Hy”d answered quite simply: Yes. By the laws of nature, the “bad guys” have a significant advantage. When a nation has no moral limitations and can use any means necessary to win, they should naturally dominate and prevail over an army that demands adherence to ethical principles. Parshas Shoftim delineates the strict religious standards of the Jewish army, including accepting only God-fearing soldiers and prohibiting the elimination of an enemy’s food supply by destroying its fruit trees (see D’varim, ch. 20). Given these restrictions, it is indeed a miracle and a wonder that the Jewish army could ever be victorious over a nation that is free to employ all of the soldiers and military strategies in its arsenal!
Rav Elchonon – who would tragically meet his own demise at the hands of the evil Nazis – concluded: Just as it is unnatural that the Jewish army succeeds despite its small number of soldiers, it is equally miraculous that it triumphs in the face of its religious limitations. Of course, it is not just a handicap to overcome. The Jewish nation has been, and continues to be, victorious specifically because of its de-emphasis on military might and its steadfast reliance on Hashem. “They put their trust in chariots and horses, while we invoke the name of Hashem” (T’hilim 20:8).
It was true in the days of Moshe Rabbeinu, and it was true in the days of the Chashmona’im. It was evident in the wars for Israel’s independence and survival, and it remains apparent to this day. In every generation, the Jewish people seem to be outnumbered by enemies ready to employ even the most unconscionable tactics to win. The fact that we continue to emerge victorious is a great cause to sing Al HaNisim and thank Hashem for the ongoing miracles.
Ba’yamim ha’heim, ba’zman ha’zeh!