What does the word Hanuakkah mean? This word means "dedication." The root of the word is "education" (Strong's Concordance Number 1456). This is a festival that educates or teaches about dedicating your "temple" or "life" to God. We all want to learn about the preparation of our "temples" where Yeshua haMashiach ( Jesus the Messiah) lives. Our living "temples" are just as important to God today, as His Holy Temple that once stood in Jerusalem.Historical Background
Primary Source Material The book of First Maccabees - particularly Chapters 1 - 4
The story of Hanukkah goes back to a time after Alexander the Great had conquered most of the known world. When he died at a very young age, his four generals divided the conquered territories between themselves. The Ptolemies took the area around Egypt, and the Seleucids took the area that is today Syria. Judea was almost a no-man's land between them, fought over by both sides. Eventually the Seleucids under Antiochus IV gained power and control over Judea. In order to secure his position, Antiochus required all the captured people to adopt the Greek way of life called Hellenism. This was not a problem in most areas because the Greek culture was very respected in those times and many of the Jews adopted it and gave up the Law and teachings of the prophets. There were, however, many die hard rebels who could not give up their worship of the one true God and this angered Antiochus.
When control seemed to be slipping, he commanded that everyone give up dietary laws, the sabbath, circumcision and any reference to the one true God. Michael Detwiler in an article on the internet entitled: The Story of the First Hanukkah says that five areas of assimilation were particularly targeted:
To make his point, he took over the Temple in Jerusalem, desecrated all of the fixtures in the Holy of Holies, set up a statue to the Greek god, Zeus, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. To add insult to injury, he insisted that he be called Epiphanes (God Manifest). The devout Jews, however, used a play on words and called him Epimanes (Crazy Man).
1. Observance of the Sabbath - On the Sabbath day, Jews recall that the world was created in six days and on the seventh day God rested. The premise of this belief is that God exists above nature, and this was abhorrent to the Greeks. "They [the Greeks] wanted Israel to act only in accord with natural laws; to honor the strong, to shame the weak, to negate themselves before the many, to disregard the few." ("The Book of Our Heritage," page 292.)
2. Observance of Rosh Chodesh (the new month) - The Jewish lunar calendar is the basis of setting dates for all of our Holy Days. During Rosh Chodesh and the Holy Days, as well as the Sabbath, Jews remember that there is a spiritual dimension in time. This was an affront to the Greek view of time as the ceaseless pursuit of material wealth and pleasures.
3. Circumcision - The physical mark on a Jewish male's body reminds him that he is a servant of God, and not his own master and, therefore, that the body must be used with restraint. This was directly in contradiction to the Greek view of the body as something that was meant only for pleasure, accomplishment, and beauty.
4. The Study of Torah- This was perhaps the most critical area that the Greeks attempted to ban from the Jewish culture. History demonstrates that the society or religious system that has failed to teach Torah to its followers has assimilated to the worldly system, and, become corrupted with fleshly and idolatrous acts, and without fail, has gradually walked away from the true God. The Torah is the bridge that connects man and God, across which they interact and communicate, and by it, God is able to fulfill His covenants and His will to man, in order to sustain and protect them. To live without it is like living without water. The Torah is the essence of true believers, it is life to our soul, and without it we have no meaningful existence. The study of Torah is one of the very first things that the Greeks attempted to remove from the Jewish people, in order to assimilate them into their humanistic and idolatrous worship of creation. "To teach others to do so" is to remove them from their life source.
5. "Nashim" - Jewish Brides - One of the evil Greek decrees was that every Jewish bride, before her wedding, was to spend one night with the Greek general. This was particularly insidious, for the Greeks understood that the foundation of Jewish life is a sound and stable family. At the root of this stability is the sanctity of the relationship between husband and wife. The bond between a husband and wife is analogous to the bond between the true Believer and the Messiah. This is why, when it comes to protecting the sanctity of married life, we cannot be too careful. And it is this very point that the Greeks sought to uproot.
He began to spread this edict out into the countryside, forcing each village to destroy their synagogues and take part in a celebration to Zeus with a feast of pork. When they came to the town of Modi'in, they came up against an old devout priest named Mattathias and his five sons. When commanded to take part in the celebration and feast, Mattathias and his sons killed the Greek soldiers and started a revolt. His son, Judah, nicknamed Maccabee (The Hammer), quickly rose to leadership of the rebels.
Facing unbelievable odds they used guerilla tactics in their home hill country, and time after time suprised and defeated the Syrian armies sent to bring their revolt to an end. Convinced that God was true and faithful, the rebels pushed on to Jerusalem, drove out the Syrians, and on the 25th day of Kislev, recaptured the Temple. As they began to clean up and restore the temple compound, they found the golden candlestick or menorah, which to them symbolized the light of God. It had been badly damaged during the occupation, but they repaired it and looked for some of the special oil in order to light it. In one of the storerooms they found a single bottle but it was only enough to burn for one day and the procedure for making more oil took eight days. They were faced with the decision of whether to make more oil and wait eight days to light the menorah, thus giving the Syrians time to regroup and attack them, or to light it immediately and hope that the people would see that the light of God was once again in the Holy of Holies and perhaps join their fight.
The ner talmid ("eternal light") was relit. But there was only enough consecrated oil to keep it burning for one day. It would take a week to prepare more. By a miracle of God reported in the book of II Maccabees the light burned for eight days. By which time a new supply had been prepared
By that time, local sentiment had grown to the point that the Syrians could no longer retake Jerusalem.
Much of this story was predicted in Daniel 8:21-25. Chanukah is only mentioned in the Bible in the New Covenant book of John 10:22-23, when Yeshua visited the temple during the "Feast of Dedication."
We as believers in Messiah Yeshua share this story of Jewish history and the miracle it involved but we also see it as God's hand preparing the temple for His Son Who would worship and teach there only 160 years later.
A Day Prepared for Inauguration and Greatness
The very day of the 25th of Kislev which received the 'crown of inauguration' during the days of the Hasmoneans had already been prepared for its greatness from the days of Moshe Rabenu - and had been reconfirmed in its special glory during the days of the prophet Hagai. But it was the merit of the Hasmoneans that the redemptive light of the day should be fully revealed in their days. And thus did the Sages say:
'Rabi Chanina said: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev the work of the Mishkan was concluded but it was kept folded till the first of Nisan, as it is written: 'On the day of the first month, on the first of the month, you shall erect the Mishkan of the tent of meeting.'And Israel murmured against Moshe saying: Why was it not erected immediately ? Did some blemish affect it? God, however, intended to merge the rejoicing over the Mishkan into the month in which Itzchak was born (Nisan) ... Kislev therefore missed the inauguration though the work had been concluded therein. God therefore said: It is for me to make restitution. How did God repay Kislev? With the Chanukah of the Hasmoneans' (Yalkut Melachim 184).
When the returnees from the Babylonian Exile began to rebuild the Temple, their work was interrupted for twenty two years because of enemy intrigue and opposition. When their work of rebuilding was resumed, they erected the foundation of the Sanctuary on the 24th day of Kislev. During the following night - the night of the 25th of Kislev - they celebrated the foundation laying.
Allusions To Chanukah in the Torah
In Emor the Torah recounts all the festivals of the year: Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The account of the festivals is followed by the commandment to maintain an eternal light in the Sanctuary. It has been suggested that the proximity between the two passages - that of the Eternal Light and that of the Festivals - anticipates a future day when the kindling of the Eternal Light would become a yearly Festival - a festival directly following Sukkot, which is listed among the Torah-ordained holidays.
There is a similar allusion to Chanukah in the proximity between the passage on the offerings of the Nesiim (when the altar was dedicated), and the directly following passage on the Menorah. The Ramban writes in his commentary to the Torah (Beha'alotecha) : 'In the Megilat Setarim of Rabenu Nisim, I found the following statement: 'I saw in the Midrash that when the twelve tribes had each brought their offerings to the dedication of the altar, and the tribe of Levi had not been included in the altar offerings, God said to Moshe: Speak to Aharon and tell him that one day there will be another inauguration (Chanukah) with kindling of lights. Through your sons I will perform miracles and bring deliverance for Israel. I will give them another Chanukah to be called by their name: the Chanukah of the Hasmoneans.' For this reason the present passage was placed in proximity to that of the altar dedication.
The Midrash Yelamdenu, as well as in Midrash Raba relate: "God said to Moshe: 'Go and say to Aharon: Have no fear. You are ordained for something greater than this. The altar offerings are only brought while the Sanctuary stands. The lights however will burn forever.. . and all the blessings which I gave you, that you might bestow them upon my children, will never cease.' We know, however, that in the absence of the Temple, and after the cessation of sacrificial offerings, the Menorah is likewise no longer lit. The reference of the Sages is accordingly, to the lamps of the Hasmonean Chanukah whose lighting remains binding even after the destruction of the Temple."
Still other allusions to Chanukah in the Torah:
The most graphic way to celebrate is to light the Hanukkah Menorah which has nine candleholders instead of the normal seven. This holder can be purchased from a synagogue gift shop, or simply made from a block of wood with nine holes drilled for small candles. The "Shamash" or "Servant" candle is usually set off to one side, or elevated slightly in the middle. The first night, a candle is placed in the shamash position and one candle on the end. Then we light the shamash with a match or lighter, then take the shamash from its holder and light the other candle(s). The second night, we would place the shamash and two candles, etc.
In an article on the internet by the Orthodox Union we find the following explanation regarding the lighting of the candles:
"Actually, the question of whether to begin the lighting with one flame and proceed, adding one each night, to eight on the final, the eighth, night of Chanukah or do just the opposite, begin with eight and end with one, was a matter of dispute. In fact, it was one of the famous "machlokot," or disagreements, between two of the greatest wise men of Israel, Hillel and Shammai, as recorded in the Talmud, in Masechet Shabbat 21b.During this lighting, the family would recite the following blessing:
Hillel said that on the first night we light one, on the second, two, and so on, till eight on the eighth night. Shammai held the reverse opinion; namely, on the first night, light eight lights, and proceed, diminishing the number of lights by one each night, to just one light on the final night of Chanukah.
In the democratic spirit of the Talmud, the question was voted upon by the colleagues of Hillel and Shammai, and Hillel's opinion prevailed; thereby establishing our present practice of lighting, from one to eight."
The Dreydel is a four sided top - each face or side has a letter on it (Nun) (Gimel) (Hey) (Shin). These stand for the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham ("A Great Miracle Happened There")
"It is said that the Jewish children of Judea during the Maccabean period wanted to study Torah, but the anti-Semitic policies of the Syrians made this difficult. They came up with a creative answer: they would study the scrolls in the streets until a foreign soldier came. Then they would quickly hide the scroll, bring out the dreydels and pretend to be engrossed in a game of tops! When the soldier left, the Torah study would begin again" -( God's Appointed Times, Barney Kasdan p.112 )
Some rabbis say that the dreidel points a deeper spiritual meaning, that the dreidel contains the story of the Jewish People; the history of the whole world...see the article: The Secret of the Dreidel for more on this.
In playing the game, each letter stands for an action: Gimel - take all Hay - take half Shin - add 1 to the pot Nun - take nothingThe Food
While there's only one traditional food for Chanukkah (potato latkes) most pastry cooked in oil is welcome. Fruits and honey are always a favorite and you just have to forget about your diet at this time of the year.
Key Images of the Messiah
In the Menorah
The central candle - The Shamash - The Servant - Reminds us of Yeshua in that He said of Himself -"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...(Mat 20:28).
As the Shamash is the only true source of light for all the candles so to is Yeshua the only true source of light in our lives
As we see in John 1:9 "There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man."
For Messianic Believers the imagery is rich: Yeshua, the "light of the world" (Jn 8:12), came as a servant (Mk 10:45) to give light to everyone (Jn 1:4-5), so that we might become lights to others (Mt 5:14).
In the Gospel of John
From John 10:22-23 we see that the Messiah Himself celebrated Hanukkah.
During both the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) it was customary for the whole temple to be illuminated with bright illuminations, and with just such a background Yeshua would say; "I am the light of the world; he that follows Me will not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life."
The key historical point as it relates to Messianic fulfillment is that Hanukkah is a celebration of deliverance,
it has to the Jewish community become a time to express Messianic hope.
One Jewish publication says;
"Then, the light is kindled to give inspiration, for the light of Messiah must burn brightly in our hearts" (Chanukah, Mesorah Publications)The Modern Hanukkah Revolution
D. Thomas Lancaster writes:"The significance for believers is profound. When we celebrate Hanukkah, we are not just celebrating a victory that happened in the past, but one that happens in the future, and one that is also happening right now. The story of Hanukkah is the story of light growing in the darkness. Wherever there are people of Torah, there is also darkness trying to snuff them out. History proves it over and over. But the miracle of Hanukkah is that the light is not diminished. Instead, the light grows. The story of Hanukkah is the story of a war between two world views, that of Hellenism and that of Torah. Hellenism is the language of humanism, philosophical theology, and relativism. Torah is the language of theism, mitzvot, deeds, and revelation. There is a battle going on today. As far as the Body of Messiah goes, the Hanukkah revolution has just begun. The return to Torah is not a fad. It is not an American or Israeli phenomenon. It is international. It is spreading everywhere, to every people, and it is unstoppable because it is biblical. It is a sweeping Hanukkah (rededication) of the Body of Messiah. And that is what we need.
He will speak against the Most High and oppress His righteous ones and try to change the set times and the laws. (Daniel 7:25 NIV)
The Body of Messiah is likened unto a Temple. Individually and corporately, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Like the Holy Temple of Jerusalem in the days of the Maccabees, we have been defiled as well. Even in the days of Paul, the “Mystery of Torah-lessness” was at work among the believers. Paul himself said so, and he referred to Anti- Christ as “the Man of Torah-lessness.” If the “Man of No-Torah” was at work among the believers even in the first century, how much more so now!
Consider the statutes Antiochus decreed for Israel. Look at his laws!
For many centuries, Christianity has been following these laws of Antiochus—the laws of the abomination of desolation—instead of the Torah of God by requiring Jewish believers to forsake Torah when they become believers. Only in recent years have Torah-oriented communities of believers been allowed to exist. Two hundred and fifty to three hundred years ago in Europe, a community of Torah-keeping believers would not have survived long because of pressure from the church. Nor would it have fared well in America two-hundred years ago. The Hanukkah revolution has only just begun.
As one studies the history of religion and the world, a disturbing pattern emerges. In every generation, there is a systematic assault on the Torah, and on the people who choose to live by it. Thus it says in the Passover Haggadah, “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us!” It is true, and never has it been more true than in our own generations which have seen the events of the Holocaust. Our days are certainly no exception to the rule."
Michael Detwiler in an article on the internet entitled: The Story of the First Hanukkah comments:
But perhaps the greater miracle is that the small relatively weak group of Jews defeated the vast, strong forces of Antiochus. As Jonathan (Yonatan), the son of King Saul said many years before, "Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). It seems that the theme of miracles was on Yeshua's mind during Hanukkah, because it was at this time he said,
Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know that the Father is in me and I am in the Father (John 10:37,38). Yeshua encouraged the people of his day to take notice of his miracles and believe in him as a result. His miracles point to his divine and messianic identity. In this way Yeshua personifies the message of Hanukkah: God actively involved in the affairs of his people.
While there were those in Yeshua's day (as well as today) who seek miraculous signs for wrong reasons, Yeshua's miracles were part of the revelation of himself. Consider, for example, when Yonatan the Immerser (John the Baptist) was in prison and sent his disciples to inquire whether or not Yeshua was, in fact, the Messiah. Yeshua said to them, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good new is preached to the poor" (Matthew 11:4,5).
Hanukkah reminds us that God is a God of miracles, not just of concept and religious ideals. He has broken through into human history and continues to do so today. All of us who know Yeshua can speak of God's working in our lives. As we light the Hanukkah lights this year, may they proclaim to all who see that the Light of the World has come and is at work in our lives--not just in times long ago, but today as well.
For Believers today, the story is one of assimilation. The religious systems that have evolved since the earliest Church have effectively incorporated the Greek mindset within the redeemed community. Today, as in the times of the Maccabees, the Torah has been removed, virtue stolen, the Shabbat desecrated, and the ordinances of the God of our Fathers removed. We who have been redeemed by our Messiah Yeshua must return to the Faith of our Fathers. The practice of Hanukkah may begin the abandonment of the Greek mind and a return to the Hebrew mind of our Faith. It is a visible statement that we will not compromise further.
From a historical perspective - if Antiochus had succeeded in his campaign of anti-Semitism and destruction, there would have been no Jews by the time of Yeshua. The miracle of the "Christmas" event (ie. The Incarnation) could only take place because of the miracle of Hanukkah!
Again D. Thomas Lancaster writes:
"Perhaps now that we have reviewed the significance of the Hanukkah story, we are better prepared to understand why Yeshua walked in Solomon’s Colonnade during the Feast of Hanukkah and why the celebration of Hanukkah matters to us. Yeshua was anticipating the rededication of the Temple. He was anticipating the Living Temple of believers that would one day congregate there. In addition, Yeshua foresaw that many of His followers would turn from the Torah. He knew full well that His Ecclesia would one day be in need of Hanukkah.
• Hanukkah is a festival commemorating the fight against Hellenization and assimilation.
• Hanukkah is a festival reminding us to purify our own bodies (Temples of the Holy Spirit) and rededicate ourselves to God. We present our bodies as “living sacrifices holy and pleasing unto God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1–2)
• Hanukkah reminds us that we are locked in a struggle with the powers of darkness that seek to snuff out the light of Torah. Yet each night of the festival, our light grows brighter and brighter.The Master said,
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works (mitzvot), and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
The celebration of Hanukkah is relevant and important for all believers. It is the story of who we are. Even so, come quickly Lord.