Chanukah – The Festival of Lights!

In the “Silent Years”, the 400 years between the old and new covenants, many events occurred which are not recorded in the Holy Book.  Alexander, the Great, came on the scene as the mighty Greek/Syrian conqueror of all the known world. He took everything he wanted and it’s recorded that he cried when he learned there were no lands left to conquer. He died of a broken heart before the age of 33. His empire was divided among four generals, Seleucus and Ptolemy becoming the strongest. The latter went south to headquarter in Egypt and Seleucus took the Syrian or eastern half. These two factions battled continually for supremacy and with tiny unprotected Israel in between, you can imagine the effect the wars had on the country.

About 170 BC, that many years before Y’shua was born, Antiochus IV, a Greek king, attacked Israel killing thousands. He banned all religious activity, especially keeping the Sabbath, the study of Torah and circumcision, the sign of God’s Covenant People. He defiled the Temple on Kislev 25, 168 or 167 BC, (on the Jewish calendar) by bringing in a large sow, slaughtering it upon the altar and pouring broth from it on the Holy Word of God. Antiochus was so vile that he added the name “Epiphanes” to his own – to mean `the visible god’. Anyone found with a new born circumcised baby boy was killed along with the whole family. Many other too-horrible-to-tell events occurred.

The Jews tried to do the best they could to continue to placate the Greeks and yet serve the One God. They invented a little game to play as they taught their children the Hebrew alef-bet. When soldiers came along they said they were just playing a game. It is still played today with a spinning four sided top called a Dreidel – which means “to spin”.

In the little village of Modi’in, just about three miles from Yerushalayim, an old priest named Matityahu lived with his five sons.  He truly loved God with all his heart and did his best to please Him. One day a band of soldiers came and ordered a pig to be sacrificed to Zeus, saying they would kill all who would not obey.  Matityahu refused and killed the first Jew that tried to offer the pig. Then he and his sons killed all the soldiers. It was time to stand for God and country. Many followed the old priest and his sons into the hills where they waged warfare on the Greek rulers. They were so relentless against their enemies that they were nicknamed “the Hammers”, or in the Hebrew “the Maccabees”.  When the old priest died, his son, Yehuda, took over as leader.  After a three year war they actually succeeded in driving out their enemies and taking back the land. This great day was Kislev 25 – again, 165 or 164 BC!  Kislev was a Babylonian name. The Hebrews did not name their months – or the days of the week. Kislev was/is the ninth month.

The Temple was defiled – some of it beyond repair. The old altar was torn down and replaced with new stones. New  vessels were made and all the area was cleansed.  Years before when the Tabernacle was built, God had ordered that the menorah, a seven branched candlestick be fashioned of gold and kept continually burning.  Pure sanctified olive oil was used as the fuel.  At last they were ready to rededicate the Temple for worship to God. All they needed was ritually pure oil!  Legend says only one bottle was to be found with the seal of the high priest still on it.  The people were assembled in victory waiting for the eternal light to blaze forth. It was decided to divide the oil into all the bowls and light them anyway – knowing they could only burn for one night. It would take eight long days to press more olive oil and prepare it for burning. The people did what they could and God took it from there – as He always does! It is said a great miracle occurred! The oil continued to burn for the full eight days. The Sages of that generation decreed that these eight days after the 25th of Kislev should be days of great rejoicing.  God Himself did not order this celebration, but it was done in His honor.   Special menorahs having nine lamps were made and made and everyone was to light their own chanukah menorah (called chanukiah) at sunset on Kislev 25 and for the next seven evenings.  In some families only one is used for everyone. They are placed in the front window for all the world to see.  We should always let every one see and hear of God’s miracles.

The first night the one on the far right is lighted by the shamash or servant candle and both are allowed to burn down (about a half hour). Each night one more candle is lighted until on the eighth night all nine are ablaze.  Special chanukah candles can be purchased in  rainbow colors for the occasion. Blessing are said first each night, thanking God for His mighty miracles.  This is a time to thank the Holy One of Israel  for  ALL  the miracles that He has done for us through the years and in our lives today. Yet to come is another Chanukah when the Temple will again be cleansed from the last Antiochus – the antiChrist – for he will rule for a time there before King Y’shua.

“Chanukah” means dedication.  It is a time to rededicate our lives to Him. This day is also believed to be the day Y’shua was conceived. He is The Light! It is a time to remember that we are to be His light today in a very wicked world.

(By the way, the “Ch” in Hebrew is pronounced
“KHah” with a little clearing of the throat sound…
it is sometimes spelled `Hanukkah’.)

Yochanon, (John) the beloved disciple, tells us in John 10:22 about Y’shua coming to the Temple in winter  (Kislev 25) to celebrate the Feast of Chanukah.  If it was good enough for Y’shua – it’s good enough for me!  If you drive past our house just after dark (and we’re home) any night during Chanukah, you’ll see our chanukiah lights burning in our window. Better yet, come on in and we’ll play dreidel!  We’ll have some potato latkes (fried in oil – to remember the miracle oil…)  some sufganiyot  (Israeli donuts) and praise God together for His great love.

Shalom  Shalom!  See you next time!          Sharaka
December 26, 2005  -   Kislev 25, 5766

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