Chanukah, What’s it All About, Anyway?

Nobody told us, when we were in the Christian church, about Chanukah.
What is it and what’s it all about, anyway?

There are about 400 years of time between the “Old” and “New” Testaments. Four hundred ’silent’ years when we never heard anything from G-d. This is when the Alexander, the Great, conquered the tiny nation of Israel and marched into Jerusalem. He was friendly to the Jews and respected their beliefs. He conquered the whole known world and it is said he cried when there were no more nations to take over. He died a broken-hearted man at age 33. Having no sons, his top generals divided up his kingdom. Selucis took the northeast (Syria) and Ptolomy took the southwest (Egypt). These two dynasties fought constantly. One would march against the other and rape, rob and pillage little Israel on the way, taking control of its government.. Then when the other got strong enough, they would do the same. And there Israel was, right in the middle of everything. Sounds almost like today’s newspaper!

When the story of Chanukah begins, the northern kingdom of Syria, still Greek run, was “in”. Antiochus IV was the tyrannical leader. He actually gave himself the added name of Epiphanes, which means, “god in the flesh”. Behind his back, he was called Antiochus, Epimanes, (the madman). I think he was the original Borg! He tried to destroy the Nation of Israel – not by death but by assimilation. He wanted to kill their spirits. To do this, he tried to stop their Jewishness. No Torah study; no speaking Hebrew – Greek only; no circumcising or keeping the Sabbath. He had a huge statue of Zeus placed in the Temple and then inscribed his own face onto it. Some scholars say this likeness is what is found on the Shroud of Turin. On Kislev 25, he entered the Temple and had a large sow sacrificed. Broth was prepared from it and poured all over the holy books. He was truly one of the world’s most wicked men.

Greek soldiers were sent all over the land, setting up idols and forcing sacrifices of pigs. One such group entered the small village of Mo’adin, a few miles from Jerusalem and called the people together.
The most respected man in town, an old priest, Matityahu (Matthew in English), was called upon to make the sacrifice. He refused and another Jew stepped forward to do the job. Matityahu killed him with his sword and he and his five sons killed the rest of the soldiers, called the men to follow them into the hills where they could carry out gorilla warfare. Soon a large army gathered and in three years they had driven out the Greeks!

They entered the Temple on Kislev 25 – same date – three years later and began to cleanse it. They threw out all the unclean things, made a new altar and looked for oil with the seal of the high priest on it. Only one small flash could be found with only enough oil to burn in the menorah for one day. The people were rejoicing and waiting to hear the menorah was once again burning. They lit it anyway and it is said the menorah burned for eight days. Long enough for more oil to be prepared. This is the miracle of Chanukah. Some believe it this story was manufactured just to make it sound good. It was not recorded for some two hundred years. G-d certainly COULD have brought this about. Maybe He did – maybe He didn’t. To me, the real miracle is the fact that this small ragtag band of men were able to take over the Temple from mighty Greece! They got their Temple back, their religion back, their language back and their daughters back. This family of priests, the Hasmonean family were godly men above reproach. When Matityahu died, his son Yehudah took over. He was a real Rambo! He was such a good warrior that he was nick-named The Hammer, which is Maccabee in Hebrew. Sad to say, most of the sons were slain in battle and the last one, trusting no one else, made himself king. They were Levites – not from the tribe of Yehudah so this was a definite no-no! It only got worse from then on and by the time the first Herod came in, a hundred or so years later, the people were once again under foreign rule. The Romans this time. This is where the Book of Matityahu – Matthew – begins.

So what does all this mean to us today? A year after the Temple got back into Jewish hands, the sages decreed Kislev 25 to be a grand holy day and a celebration should take place for eight days. Why eight? Some say it was a re-do of Sukkot, because they had not come to Jerusalem to celebrate it properly; some say because circumcision was not allowed to take place on the eighth day, they would celebrate that long because now they were free to put their sons in covenant with G-d again. Who knows? We DO know that this time of Dedication, Y’shua went into the Temple to the Feast. He celebrated the Hasmonean victory. What they won was the right to be a set-apart people. A holy people of G-d who followed His Torah and all His ways. They wanted to remove themselves from the pagan practices around them. It was a bitter fight and many lost their lives. But it was worth it!

It is good to remember what happened back then. But it is good to look into our hearts today and see where we stand. Are WE willing to fight against the surrender of our language? our covenant with G-d? our keeping of the Sabbath? Are we willing to fight against paganism in every way – no matter what the cost? Every generation makes its choice. You can’t do it for your children. You can only teach them all you can and leave them in G-d’s hands.

And what about YOU? If you have never made the decision to follow G-d’s holy ways or asked Y’shua, His Son, to be your Saviour and Redeemer, today is the day! Don’t continue to steep yourself in the ways of the world – but come and join the winning side! I’ve read this whole Book
and G-d is the ultimate Victor! If you are already a Believer – simply rededicate your life to Him.
This can be the best Chanukah of your life! Just do it!

Chanukah 2004 = Eight days beginning Kislev 25
(Sunset December 7th – Sunset December 15th)

(five sons, Yohannan; Shimon; Yehudah, who was called Maccabeus; Eleazar, and Yonatan)

FYI = The word “Chanukah” in Hebrew means Dedication. It starts with the Hebrew letter, “chet”. It is a gutteral sound made in the throat – almost like a gargle. It’s too hard for many English speaking peoples so they have Americanized it by starting the word with an “h” instead, “Hanukkah”. You can’t misspell a Hebrew word in English as they are two different alphabets.
I still say it should be spelled “Chanukah“, and keep the “ch”…………… Let’s do it right!!!!

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