[This post was from our first Hanukkah 3 years ago]
I know I've been scarce the last couple of months, but I've been under the weather (cold and flu season has been hitting us hard this year ). While many people have begun their celebrations already, since we calculate the appointed times by the sighting of the sliver moon over Jerusalem at the Feast of Trumpets, for us Hanukkah starts tomorrow at sunset. This means I have a couple more days to get over this rotten bug I picked up when we took our youngest to the hospital during our LAST illness (even with bronchitis she was trying to sweet-talk the receptionist into giving her their keyboard and trying to start a wresting match in the waiting room ) before our Hanukkah parties are set to begin!
While illness has prevented me from doing all the decorating, baking, and gift/ craft making that I was hoping to do this year, Hanukkah is so much more than blue streamers and latkes! Many people think Hanukkah is the Jewish equivalent of christmas, but that's not true at all. The story of Hanukkah is long and rich but I will do my best (go easy on me, this IS our first Hanukkah) to condense it and give you the short SHORT version...
Basically, way back in the 2nd century BCE, the Jewish people were under Greek rule. When they refused to assimilate into the pagan culture and worship King Antiochus as deity, he came and slaughtered them by the thousands! The king took over the temple, preventing the Jewish people from worship and sacrificing to YHVH, and defiling it in every way imaginable! Using it as a public toilet, even sacrificing a pig on the alter!
Lead by the Maccabees, the surviving Jews rebelled against the king's forces and took back the temple! As you can imagine, it took a lot of effort to clean up the mess it was in! Now, to rededicate the temple the menorah needed to burn from Shabbat to Shabbat (8 days) however there was a problem. They could only use a very special oil, and they were only able to find enough to last a short while, no longer than a day. However, the menorah miraculously continued to burn for the entire 8 days. The Temple was rededicated and the Jewish people could again come to pray and sacrifice to Elohim.A few more interesting Hanukkah facts:
- Not everyone (referring to non-Jewish Torah keepers here) celebrates Hanukkah as it is not an actual commandment to do so. Unlike the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Shavuot, Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot, which ARE commanded celebrations, Hanukkah and Purim are not. However they are described or at least mentioned in the Bible. Purim is the celebration described in the book of Ester and is a celebration of the survival of the Jewish people when they were persecuted by Haman. Yeshua (Jesus) is recorded in the book of Yochanan (John) as being at the Temple during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). Since Yeshua said nothing against the celebration (and He was never one to shy away from calling out anything going on in the Temple that displeased the Father) we choose to celebrate it.
- Latkes (potato pancakes), jelly donuts, and other fried foods are traditional Hanukkah foods commemorating the miracle of the oil. Not the best thing for the waistline, but the tastebuds sure like it !
- The Menorah was a 7 branched lamp, the traditional one used at Hanukkah (called a Hanukkia) has 9 branches. 1 for each day of the festival and 1 special one used to light the others. Some folks don't use a Hanukkia because they feel that since the commanded Menorah was 7 branched, using a 9 branched one for Hanukkah is adding to the Scriptures and is forbidden. Personally I don't have a problem with it (yet anyway lol. I'm fairly new to this all myself and have a lot more to learn!). I don't t feel the Hanukkia was meant to replace the true Menorah, just to commemorate the 8 days of the celebration. No it's not a Scriptural command, but neither is celebrating Hanukkah at all! I think it's a matter best left to one's own conscience. We don't have one this year (didn't have the funds to get one and feeling too run down physically to make our own) but probably will next year.
- There are many ways to spell it! I spell it Hanukkah but Hannukah, Chanuka, Chanukkah, etc. are all right too!
- Some people give gifts, some don't. Some see it as a pagan practice, some see it too closely resembling christmas for their tastes. Personally, I feel giving gifts is a natural part of any celebration. In fact, it's traditional to give children a small gift every night of Hanukkah! We do presents but we are mindful when wrapping that they don't look "christmasy". We avoid the usual santa, reindeer, candycanes, etc and focus more on simply wintery things like snowflakes, snowmen, and in Hanukkah colours (blue, white, and gold). Like the Hanukkiah, I really feel it's a matter of personal conscience.
- Ever wonder what's up with those little tops children play with on Hanukkah? Well, since learning the Torah was forbidden under Antiochus' rule, they would have to study in secret! If they heard a soldier coming, they would quickly hide the Scriptures and play dreidels! The soldiers would see them, assume they were gambling, and go on their way allowing them to study the Scriptures without them being confiscated!
So then, if it's not a commandment, and I'm not Jewish, why do I celebrate Hanukkah? Well, for one, since the Bible teaches that when we repent and turn to the Father we are "grafted in" and become part of Israel, any victory for one branch of Israel is a victory for the tree! So as with Purim, I want to celebrated the victory of the Jewish people against those that tried to destroy them! Also, as we are supposed to "walk as He [Yeshua] walked" and it seems He celebrated (or at the very least condoned) Hanukkah, that's good enough for me!
But those aren't the main reasons I find Hanukkah so special! What moves me the most about the story of Hanukkah is how it mirrors our story as believers!
Just as the Jewish people lived under a pagan system that demanded their assimilation or destruction so too are we strangers and pilgrims in a world that on the whole is hostile to YHVH and His Word, and if we refuse to assimilate we are going to face persecution (ranging anywhere from unkind words to death, depending on where you find yourself!).
Just as Judah the Maccabee came along to lead the people to raise up against the system and reclaim their Temple and sacrifices, so does Yeshua empower us to stand up against the tide and offer ourselves as living sacrifices.
Just as they found the Temple in defilement and disrepair, so we find the stain of sin in OUR temples. As they worked to clean up and repair the Temple, so too can we do some housekeeping in ours of things that we have allowed to sneak in and defile it!
Just as making the Temple truly clean required more than human effort alone but a miraculous act from YHVH to accomplish so too is OUR temple not able to be perfectly clean by our own efforts (by "cleaning up our lives") but requires the miraculous work of redemption, through Messiah Yeshua.
Just as the Jewish people could rejoice that they were once again able to approach the Father with their atoning sacrifices so do we rejoice that through Yeshua we are able to approach the Father through HIS atoning sacrifice.
Yes, during the Festival of Lights I cannot help but see THE Light! The light of the world, Yeshua the Messiah, who IS the eternal Light, shining in our earthly temples, lighting the way to the Father! There will always be Antiochus' in the world, but in the words of the Master...
"in the world ye shall have tribulation, but take courage--I have overcome the world.'"
So with this let me wish you all a very
May the Light of the World shine upon you this holiday season!