Friday, September 22, 2017

Hanukkah

December 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Focus On Israel, Monthly Articles

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is the celebration of a miracle that took place in Israel in the year 165 B.C.E. At that time, the Syrian-Grecian King, Antiochus IV, ruled over the Holy Land. He took the name Epiphanes, (meaning, Select of God), and attempted to destroy all the Jews and their worship of the One True God. Under his reign of terror, he desecrated the Temple by offering a pig on the altar on the 25th day of the month of Kislev.

What Jews tend to pass over are the actual events leading up to the rebellion. Mattathias, an elderly priest at Modi’in was ordered to offer a pig on the Temple altar, but he refused. When an apostate Jew stepped forward to comply, Mattathias stabbed him and the Temple officer, and that set in motion the revolt led by Mattathias and his five sons.

Judah, chosen by his father to lead, was called “Maccabee,” a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim, YHVH, “Who is like You, among the powers, O God.” MKBY

Through a series of military campaigns, the army led by the Maccabees eventually gained control of the temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. They only had enough purified oil to light the menorah for one day, but it burned for eight consecutive days, the time needed to prepare more pure oil. The Jews have commemorated that event, to this day, on the 25th day of Kislev…the equivalent of our month of December.

The significance of this festival to those of us who are Believers, is that Jesus not only celebrated it, He used it to proclaim His ministry to the Jews, when He walked through the temple in the month of Kislev and declared He was the “light of the world.” (John 12:35-36) No doubt the rulers knew exactly what He was referring to, which fueled their hatred of Him. If you think about it, this gives deeper meaning to His statement that we, His followers, are to be lights in this world.

Another interesting point is that Biblical scholars, by studying the time of the conception of John the Baptist in the first chapter of Luke, know he was born on or about Passover in the month of Nisan. In that same passage, we find Mary was six months pregnant with Jesus when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth. This means our Savior, the Light of the World, was conceived in the month of Kislev, possibly around the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights! If you allow for a normal pregnancy of nine months, He would have been born during the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall month of Tishri, the equivalent of our month of October. John alluded to this when he said the Word was made flesh and dwelt, (tabernacled in the Hebrew), among us. (John 1:14)
The festivities of Hanukkah are focused around a time of gathering together with family and friends. The story of the Maccabean victory and the miracle of the oil for the Temple Menorah is recited or enacted. Many families have a special menorah or candelabra with eight branches plus one more. The candles symbolize the eight days of the miracle and are lit by a “servant” candle, one for each day. Here is another allusion to Jesus, who said He came to be a servant.
Hanukkah will fall on December 1st of this year, and will last until nightfall, December 9th. It will be celebrated with foods fried in oil, such as latkes, an onion and potato cake made with matzo meal, and by playing with dreidels. Dreidels are four-sided tops, which can be as simple as a paper one made by children, to an elaborately engraved one of glass, gold or silver. On the four corners are the letters, G for Gimel (Gadol, which means great), N for Nun (Nes, which means miracle) H for Hey (Haya, which means happened) and S for Shin (Sham, which means there, as in Israel or the Temple). “A great miracle happened there.” Since it is a fun game of chance, Jews gamble with candy or small coins. Many American Jews, who have contact with the Christian festival of Christmas, have adopted some of the customs, such as decorating and giving gifts, but usually only to their immediate family.
Although it is not a religious festival, it should be! The real Hanukkah story illustrates the Jewish longing for true worship of Elohim Echad—the One True God. It is the story of good triumphing over evil. Today, it has become as worldly and commercial as our Christmas celebration, and yet, while it is celebrated, my prayer is that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ-Yeshua HaMashiach, will make Himself known as the Light of the World to all those who sit in darkness.

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