Posts Tagged ‘Chanukah’

Hanukkah Word: Tradition

When I think of the word ‘tradition,’ I immediately hear Tevye’s booming voice singing ‘TRADITION,’ in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Along with singing the word ‘tradition’ over and over, he explains the purpose of traditions:   “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to sleep, how to eat… how to work… how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, “How did this tradition get started?” I’ll tell you! … I don’t know. But it’s a tradition… and because of our traditions… Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

I remember hearing a statement years ago that went something like “It’s not that the Jews keep traditions; it’s that the traditions keep the Jews.” There is truth in that statement because it’s not the only the Jews who have traditions. Some of us macro-tradition and follow the ways of our ancestors in how we carve a turkey, the ethnic meals we make during holidays, or the educational institutions we choose. Some of us micro-tradition with how we wash our clothes, wear our hair, or brush our teeth. Traditions not only help us order our daily lives, but they maintain a sense of family identity throughout the generations.

Tevye doesn’t know ‘where’ he received the traditions of keeping his head covered and his little prayer shawl. He doesn’t know ‘where’ the traditions of how to sleep, eat, work and wear clothes came from either. However, Tevye does know that they are expressions of who he is, who God is, and how he is expected to live in God’s design for life. His traditions bring balance to his life and, from what I can tell, Tevye’s traditions do not break any of God’s commandments. In fact, they are expressions of those commandments in his life.

“He [Yeshua] answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).   “Thus, with your tradition which you had handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And you do other things like this” (Mark 7:13).

Hanukkah and the Temple

In John chapter 10, it is winter and the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah has arrived. Yeshua is walking around in Solomon’s Porch, the covered area on the far eastern side of the Temple. It joined with the Court of the Gentiles where non-Jews would come to the Temple to worship the God of Isra’el as God-fearers. It was in this area that Yeshua’s Jewish brothers surrounded him and demanded that he reveal his identity as Messiah … or not.

This is a dangerous confrontation because they have already seen that Yeshua has no problem rebuking anyone when they are living or speaking contrary to the will of God. He had already chastised some of the Jewish leaders regarding the ceremonial hand washing. He called other Jewish leaders blind fools and white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. He completely discouraged the rich young man who wanted to follow him on his own terms. And, he told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”

If Yeshua believed that Hanukkah was a manmade tradition that nullified the commands of God, he would have spoken up and clarified that point. He would have marched over to the Altar and rebuked the priests. He would have entered the Holy Place and overturned the Temple Menorah. He would have cried out in a loud voice for all of the men and women in the Temple area to hear, charging them with great sin in their idolatry of manmade traditions in the Temple. He would have reprimanded them for commemorating the re-Dedication of His Father’s House when it wasn’t in Torah.

Instead of acting like the anti-Messiah and a lunatic, he speaks to them of sheep hearing his voice, the miracles he has done in his Father’s name, and his Oneness with his Father. Whether he lit a Hanukkiah, played dreidel, or ate latkes, no one knows. But, we do know he did not rebuke anyone for being in the Temple at Hanukkah.

A Jewish Heritage

Yeshua’s own Jewish ancestral history is tied up in the miraculous victory of Judah Maccabee and his small army over the Greeks. His own cultural history included the desecration and restoration of the Temple in which he was now standing! He knew better than anyone that had Antiochus Epiphanes annihilated the Jewish people, he wouldn’t be standing in their presence speaking about his sheep and bringing eternal life.

His Father’s House

Yeshua is the Son of God, the Temple is his Father’s House, the place where he spent time instructing those in Jerusalem who had ears to hear. Had the Maccabees not had victory over the Greeks, the Temple would have remained a desecrated and unholy place. There would be no account of a young Yeshua teaching in the Temple at Passover nor would he have overturned the tables of the money changers. He would never have been able to quote the prophets that his Father’s house is a ‘house of prayer for all nations’ (Isaiah 56:7, Matthew 21:13).

The Altar of Sacrifice

The re-dedication of the Altar had great significance to Isra’el and the Jewish people. Without an Altar there could be no place for the burnt offering, grain offering, guilt offering, fellowship offering or sin offering – all offerings that brought atonement and fellowship with God. And, all of these offerings through the high priests pointed to the coming One, the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah ben Yosef, the suffering servant written about in Isaiah 53. As the ‘Lamb of God,’ Yeshua would one day soon because the ultimate offering for sin and bring fellowship with his Father on his Altar of Sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Menorah Miracle

Yeshua is the Word in the flesh, the Living Torah (John 1:14). According to Psalm 119:105, the Torah is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The Living Torah is the Menorah of Yeshua walking around the Temple in the flesh. Within him dwelt the fullness of God’s Spirit. Whether the story of one flask of oil lasting eight days is true or not, it is recorded that the Menorah stood in the body of Yeshua inside the Court of the Gentiles during the Feast of Dedication and revealed to the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ his identity, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30).

The Voice of God

Yeshua is God’s prophetic voice to Isra’el and the world. He uses the very events of the days of Antiochus and the Maccabean Revolt to give light and understanding for the time of his return and the end of days (Matthew 24:15). He says there will be another ‘abomination of desolation’ in the Holy Place of his Father’s House. According to Yeshua, we need to understand the prophetic vision which comes from knowing the historical events surrounding the days of Judah Maccabee. Without that prophetic knowledge and understanding, the coming darkness can envelope us until we fall into the end times great deception.

Together in Traditions!

According to the actions of Yeshua, the ‘tradition’ of Hanukkah does not nullify the commands of God. Traditions define us as individuals and join us as family. As part of the commonwealth of Isra’el, lighting an eight-branched menorah unifies the family of God as ‘one new man’ as He intended.

We should never forget the power great world leaders have to challenge and even subdue our faith in the God of Isra’el along with our traditions. As we spin the dreidel with its Hebrew letters, remember how many centuries of Jewish men, women, and children lived, fought the forces of evil, and even died so ‘salvation could come from the Jews’ (John 4:22). From their persecutions, many ‘traditions’ have arisen that have kept them alive and united as a nation for millennia.

Yeshua is our Jewish brother, Jewish Savior, Jewish High Priest and Jewish King. He celebrated Hanukkah with his Jewish brothers and sisters. Along with his words in Solomon’s Colonnade, all of the history and traditions around Hanukkah, become part of our spiritual history, journey, and prophetic vision.

Nes Gadol Haya Peh, ‘A Great Miracle Happened Here!’ May these words be our victory cry whenever we are persecuted for our faith in the Jewish Messiah, keeping Jewish traditions, or for standing with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Nes Gado Haya Sham, “A Great Miracle Happened There,’ May these words remind us that Yeshua, the Menorah, revealed himself to be ‘one’ with the Father in the Temple in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication – the greatest miracle of all.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.  

Hanukkah Word: Elephants

Many years ago, I was the turkey mascot for the National Home Brewing Association. One year for a shock effect at their national convention in Denver, I had to ride an elephant into a huge convention center room. Yes, I rode an elephant named Stoney in a turkey costume. According to Chazal, a Tamuldic sage, “When we are lucky enough to see an elephant we should bless God and say, “Blessed is the One who varies the creatures.” I was very blessed to not only see Stoney, but to have the privilege to ride him.

Elephants are really unique creatures. Apart from being massively large and inordinately smart, they are social, gentle, and loyal. Stoney was trained to kneel down almost lying flat on the ground so I could get on him. His gait was gentle as he lumbered slowly from side to side. I grabbed onto him to stay secure and felt the tiny stiff hairs all over his body. And social? He loved the attention he received from the awe-struck crowd. The flashing of cameras didn’t bother him and sometimes he would try to ‘hug’ with his trunk.

Throughout history, elephants were used like military tanks in Asian warfare. Though they were not native to the Middle East, the Seleucids rode elephants to terrify the Jewish fighters during the Maccabean Revolt.

“His [Antiochus’] army numbered a hundred thousand foot soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry, and thirty-two elephants trained for war” (1 Maccabees 6:30).

“Each elephant was outfitted with a strong wooden tower, fastened to it by a harness; each tower held three soldiers who fought from it, besides the Indian driver” (1 Maccabees 6:37).

“All who heard the noise of their numbers, the tramp of their marching, and the clanging of the arms, trembled; for the army was very great and strong” (1 Maccabees 6:41).

At this first encounter, Judah Maccabee and his men defeated 500 men and killed one elephant, but had to retreat. They were not expecting elephants in their battle plans. Perhaps it was at this juncture that the Maccabees began to say “stronger and smarter than an elephant” as they prepared for further military encounters with these massive animals.

Sometime later, “a Greek army of one hundred and ten thousand foot soldiers, fifty-three hundred cavalry, twenty-two elephants, and three hundred chariots armed with scythes” came to the Judean village of Moedin (2 Maccabees 13:2).

At this second encounter Judah left “the outcome to the Creator of the world, and exhort[ed] his followers to fight nobly to death for the laws [Torah], the temple, the city, the country, and the government…. Giving his troops the battle cry “God’s Victory,” he made a night attack on the king’s pavilion with a picked force of the bravest young men and killed about two thousand in the camp. He also stabbed the lead elephant and its rider. Finally they withdrew in triumph, having filled the camp with terror and confusion. Day was just breaking when this was accomplished with the help and protection of the LORD” (2 Maccabees 13:14-17).

There are those who say these elephant stories never happened or were embellished. Others say they were a metaphor for God’s Hand in the battles. Whatever is the truth, there is always that ‘elephant in the room’ that needs to be addressed – its loud voice.  Let’s see what the Hebrew word pictures say.

In Hebrew, elephant is Pil פיל. The individual letter pictures symbolize “mouth, finished work, shepherd staff” suggesting that these mighty blessed elephants were God’s trumpeting mouthpiece. They prophesied the complete and miraculous victory through Hand of the Shepherd of Isra’el bringing forth the restoration and re-dedication of His Temple in Jerusalem – Hanukkah.

Bring on the elephants!

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.  

Days of Dedication – Hanukkah

Menorahs and Hanukkiahs for Feast of Dedication

“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers…. We will not obey the king’s word by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left” (Septuagint*, 1 Maccabees 2:19-22).

Most people have heard of the holiday called Hanukkah or Chanukkah. Some believe that it is the Jewish alternative to Christmas.  However, these two celebrations have nothing in common.

In Hebrew, the word chanak means ‘dedicate’ making Hanukkah an an eight-day celebration centering around the days of dedication.  During Hanukkah, a special menorah called a hanukkiah is lit and put in the window of Jewish homes.  It holds nine candles.   Each of the eight nights  of Hanukkah one candle is lit by using the ‘extra helper candle’ or shamash until all eight (nine) candles are burning brightly.

The historical account of Hanukkah is not found in our modern Bibles.  It was removed from the canon of Scriptures by Martin Luther because it conflicted with his anti-semitic theological views.   However, the complete events surrounding the days of dedication are recorded by the historian Josephus and the Septuagint book of Maccabees.  According to both accounts,  the eight days of dedication were to be held every year in memory of the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple and the Altar of Sacrifice.

“So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise.  … Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (1 Maccabees 4:56-59).

“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival” (Josephus 12:5).

A Little History

Hanukkah is the memorial to a period of time beginning in 167 B.C.E. when the Greek Antiochus Epiphanes became king over the Seleucid Empire that included Israel.  His name meant ‘antichrist god incarnate’, and as such, he attacked the God of Israel.  In order to have a one-world religious and cultural system, his goal was to force Hellenistic pagan gods and customs on everyone in his empire including the Jewish people. He wanted to  nullify the Torah, invalidate the Levitical priesthood, cancel dietary laws, outlaw circumcision, and remove  the Sabbath… everything Jewish.

The battle for independence from Syrian Greek rule began when a Levitical priest named Mattathias was commanded by a Greek official to make a sacrifice to a Greek god.  He not only refused, but killed a Jewish man with him who began to do so.  He also killed the official.  When an edict for his arrest was sent out, Mattathias hid in the Judean wilderness with his five sons and called for other Jews to join him.  Many did follow him into the wilderness and with the leadership of his son Judah, a small band of Jewish men began to revolt. 

“Let everyone who has zeal for the Torah and who stands by the covenant follow me!” (Septuagint 1 Maccabees 2:17). 

As the Greek armies went on their conquest,  other Jewish men, women and children succumbed to Antiochus’ commands. Those who didn’t follow his orders were imprisoned or murdered.  The Jewish people feared for their very existence.  Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, this lawless man didn’t succeed with his ultimate plan or there would have been no lineage from which the Messiah could come!

Judah was given the nickname ‘hammer’ or Maccabee, also an acronym for mi komocho ba’alim Hashem, “Who is like you among the powers O God,” – the battle cry of the rag tag Jewish resistance.  The Maccabees who numbered under 12,000 with little to no training or equipment fought courageously against the Syrian armies who were highly trained,  rode elephants and numbered over 40,000.

“But Judas said: “Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven” (1 Maccabees 3:18-19).

After three years of fighting, tearing down pagan altars, circumcising uncircumcised boys, and rescuing Torah scrolls from the hands of the enemies,  Judah Maccabee and his little army miraculously regained control over Jerusalem.  They went to the Temple and saw its defilement.  The courts had bushes and thickets, the gates were burned, and the priests chambers destroyed.  Pigs had been sacrificed on the Altar and their blood sprinkled throughout the Holy Place.  The Temple Menorah was missing, either stolen or melted down for its gold.  A statue of Zeus sat in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant should have been.   They mourned the desecration and tore their clothing.  They blew the shofar and cried out to God. 

“Then said Judas and his brothers, “Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it” (1 Maccabees 4:36).

This is what they did.  Judah chose some men to fight against those remaining in the city.   He chose priests who were devoted to the Torah to clean the Temple.  They removed the defiled stones and replaced them with uncut ones, they tore down the Altar of Sacrifice and built a new one.  They made new holy vessels and brought them into the Temple.  They burned incense on the Altar, put bread on the Table of Presence and lighted the lamps on the Menorah. 

Whether or not it’s a true, a story is told in the Talmud (written down oral tradition) about the Menorah. When the Levitical priests went to light the newly made Menorah in the Most Holy Place, they found only enough pure oil to last one day.  To consecrate more oil would take eight days.  Then, a miracle happened.  The one vial of oil lasted eight days and the Menorah burned brightly and continuously just as God commanded for an eight day dedication.   

“Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year,  they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built.  At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them.  So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise…” (1 Maccabees 4:52-56).

A Gambling Game

During the years of  Greek persecution, unwanted and surprise visits by the Syrian soldiers often came when Jewish men were studying the Torah.  If found, the Torah scroll would be shredded into pieces and those studying would be put to death.  According to tradition, a way of protecting their scrolls and their lives  during an invasion was invented with a gambling game played with a top.  If suddenly disrupted by soldiers, they would hide their Torah scrolls,  pull out their tops and begin gambling.  This tradition is remembered today with a top called a dreidel that has four letters: Nun, Gimel, Hey and Shin.  The letters are symbolic for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham or “A Great Miracle Happened There.”   In Israel, however, the dreidels have one different letter, the Peh, signifying “A Great Miracle Happened HERE.”

Yeshua and Hanukkah

Hanukkah is mentioned in the Gospels in John 10:22-39 as the Feast of Dedication.   It was winter and Yeshua walked in Solomon’s Colonnade or porch.  Though Hanukkah was a celebration about the re-dedication of the Altar in the Temple of Jerusalem,  the focus  of the Jews wasn’t on sacrifices and offerings, but on the miracle of the oil and the light.  Since they are celebrating miracles, they began asking Yeshua if he is the promised  Messiah.   Yeshua reminds them of all the miracles he has done ‘in his Father’s name.’

“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand…” (John 10:25-29).

The greatest miracle stood in front of the Jewish people right there at the Temple.  The golden Menorah that burned brightly had become flesh and blood.  Just as the oil miraculously lit the Menorah, the Spirit of God filled Yeshua and his light illuminated the Temple during the Festival of Lights.  He no longer remained silent about his identity, but answered their question clearly giving them no doubt as to who he was: “I and the Father are one.”  They struggled with this declaration and picked up stones to kill him. 

Hanukkah and Us

“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you” (Romans 11:1).

Paul teaches that because we have been bought with price of Yeshua’s blood, we are to honor God with our bodies because they are the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our temple worship is to offer our lives as a holy sacrifice.  This is the essence of the season of Hanukkah and cleansing the Altar of Sacrifice from everything that contaminated and defiled God’s holy dwelling. On that same altar we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.

“Therefore, my dear friends, since we have these promises [and miracles], let us purify ourselves from everything that can defile either body or spirit, and strive to be completely holy, out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The eight days of Hanukkah are a unique time for believers in Messiah to do some temple house cleaning.  In order to hear the voice of our Shepherd more clearly, like the Jewish people at the Temple, we must turn from spiritual idolatry that perverts a pure worship of God.  We must cleanse everything causes physical contamination in and outside our temples in order to be completely holy and rededicated back to God.

Each night of Hanukkah Yeshua’s light is present in the helper candle, the shamash, that kindles each individual wick on the Hanukkiah.    He is the golden Menorah from where the holy oil of God’s Spirit flows and illuminates those hidden and not so hidden areas of our lives that need to be purged and burnt up on the Altar of Sacrifice.    By the eighth evening of Hanukkah, each heart and mind should be more purified out of reverence for God reflecting each miracle that occurred during the days of Judah Maccabee: the rededication of the Temple, the Altar of Sacrifice, and Holy Oil in the Golden Menorah.

*The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from 2 BCE.  The two books of the Maccabees are found in this translation as well as the Apocrypha.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.