The Rambam concludes the laws of Chanukah with…
“If a poor man needs oil for both Shabbos lights and Chanukah lights…
the Shabbos lights have priority, for the sake
of peace in the household (shalom bayis)…
Great indeed is peace, as the Torah was given to bring peace upon the world,
as it says, “Her ways are the ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace”.
It’s very striking that the Rambam, ends off a halachik discussion in which shalom is a factor, with a poetic declaration of the importance of peace.
And he goes so far as to declare that promoting peace is the very purpose of the Torah itself!
Is there something about Chanukah that prompted him to do this?
I would suggest that the answer is yes.
Because there’s something unique about Chanukah.
It was a time that we were forced to go to war against our fellow Jews.
We needed to fight the Hellenistic Jews who wanted to give up the Torah in order to embrace Greek culture.
The very survival of Judaism was at stake.
Unfortunately, fighting between Jews is not a rare occurrence.
But it is almost never justified.
In most cases, it reflects sinas chinam, baseless hatred.
And it can even include denigrating those who serve Hashem differently than we do.
So on Chanukah we need a strong reminder of the value of peace.
And of the value of appreciating the value of different paths in serving Hashem.
This may also explain why on Chanukah we always read and study the story of Yosef and his brothers.
We need to internalize the tragic consequences of sinas chinam.
The highly respected Holocaust survivor Yosef Freidenson had a brother Shamshon Raphael.
A name not very common among Polish Chassidim!
He explained what prompted his father to name a son after Rav Hirsch ZTL.
“My father would visit Frankfurt on business. There, for the first time in his life, he saw Jewish women who were accomplished doctors and lawyers and, at the same time, were meticulous in the observance of Halacha. He said to himself that if Rav Hirsch could build such a community, he wanted the merit of having a son named after him!”
What he saw in Frankfurt was very different than what he grew up with.
Nevertheless, he was able to be inspired by it and to admire it!
What a lesson in ahavas Yisroel, love of fellow Jews, did he teach his family.
And what a lesson he teaches us!