Posted by: Elena's Israel Blog | 12/19/2011

FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS, OF MIRACLES!

HANUKKAH –  Kislev 25 – Tevet 3, or Dec. 20 – 28, 2011

The festival of Hanukkah celebrates two miracles: 1- a great and humanly impossible military victory, and 2 – a miraculous supply of oil for the Jewish Temple. Though a very different holiday than Christmas, the two share a common theme – hope for the people of God and rejoicing in the midst of God’s miraculous provision for our needs. Both also celebrate light – for Jews, the light of the menorah, for Christians the Light of the World, Yeshua (Jesus), who came into the world in the fullness of time.

Hanukkah, which means ‘rededication’, is not, however, a holy day. Work is permitted during this 8 day festival. It is not a biblical holiday, the reason being that the events of Hanukkah occurred 300 years after the list of Hebrew Scriptures (canon) was completed. The Hanukkah events occurred in 165 BC, during the ‘400 silent years’ between the writing of Malachi and the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Actually, Yeshua celebrated Hanukkah! And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” John 10:22-23

There are many parallels between what happened to Israel in 165 BC and Israel’s situation today. In 165 BC The Macabees, a band of courageous Jews, defeated a larger Greek-Syrian army, led by king Antiochus Epiphanes, that had invaded Israel. They defiled the Temple and tried to forbid Jewish worship and force Greek culture upon them. Antiochus put restrictions on the Jews’ religious freedom; he placed a pagan altar in the Jerusalem temple for the adoration of Zeus, and offered the flesh of pigs on it – an especially abominable desecration. (A similar defilement is prophesied during the future 7 year Tribulation). He also forbade the covenant sign of circumcision, and prohibited Jews from studying Torah (the Bible). He burned several scrolls. Thousands of Jews were slaughtered for disobeying these rules. Just as today, the survival of Jews and Judaism was at stake. As we know, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and others are intent on wiping out the Jewish people and destroying every vestige of Israel itself. A small band of Jews, led by Mattathias and his five sons, including Judah Macabee, organized into a guerrilla army and revolted. After three years of struggle against a vastly superior and larger army, the Jews miraculously prevailed and restored Jewish rule to Israel. One way to look at this holiday is that the Jewish  ‘Festival of Lights’ was established in opposition to cultural assimilation which is the key to their survival.

The second miracle was the miraculous supply of oil for the Temple. There was an eternal flame that needed to stay lit by oil, signifying God’s constant presence. However, after the their victory, the Jews found only one flask of the pure olive oil – enough for only one day. They could use only the pure oil, not oil that had been touched by the pagans or used for pagan sacrifices. It would take eight days to produce more pure oil. But they lit the flame anyway, sending a message of faith in God to supply. And the lamp stayed lit for eight days! God sent a true miracle in response to their faith.

The most prominent tradition of Hanukkah is the daily lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, the Hanukkiyiah. A hanukkiyah is a candelabrum with eight candleholders in a row and a ninth candleholder set a little above the others. It’s different from a menorah, which has seven branches and was used in the Temple before it was destroyed in 70 AD. A hanukkiyah is nevertheless a kind of menorah. A candle is lit on the on each of the eight days. One candle is lit the first night, two the second, and so on, until the final night when all the candles are lit. Each of the eight candles is lit with a “helper” candle known as the shamash. The shamash is lit first, is used to light the other candles, and then is returned to the ninth candle spot, which is set apart from the others.

Another tradition is the dreidel, a spinning top with Hebrew letters on the four sides. Each side of the dreidel bears a letter of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin), which together form the acronym for “נס גדול היה שם” (Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – “a great miracle happened there“).In Israel, the fourth side of most dreidels is inscribed with the letter פ (Pei), rendering the acronym, נס גדול היה פה, Nes Gadol Hayah Poh—”A great miracle happened here“.

Turn up your speaker and click here for a mini video and song of Hanukkah: Hanukkah Story

To our Jewish friends I say ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to all!

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Responses

  1. The miracle that the oil is such a small part of the holiday, the miracle of defeating a large army and keeping our religion, as you stated is a tremendous miracle!


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