HANUKKAH IN HEBREW MEANS: Dedication
Hanukkah, also known as the “Festival of Lights” is an eight-day Jewish Holiday which commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, in the Second Century B.C.
The History: The history of the Temple re-dedication took place at a time when Israel suffered extreme oppression and possible extinction by the Syrian government. It is believed that after a victorious revolt against this tyrannical monarchy, and the reclaiming of the Temple as their most holy sight, the tiny, yet victorious Maccabean Jewish Community could find very little pure olive oil to light the Temple Menorah or Lampstand. Only enough oil for one day was found, as the oil lighting the Temple Menorah had to be the purest, first press of the olive. However, miraculously this oil lasted for eight full days, which was long enough to purify more oil to keep the Temple Lampstand burning!
The Tradition: Jewish people light a candle on each of the eight evenings in remembrance of God’s provision of holy oil for His temple re-dedication. They also play games, exchange gifts, have family dinners and attend plays and concerts at synagogues and schools.
The lighting of the Hanukkah lamp takes place at sunset. The lamp should be placed outside the entrance of the house. If a person lives in an upper story, it should be set on the window nearest the street. This placement it to publicly affirm the Hanukkah Miracle.
The Scriptures: The entire recitation is read from Psalms 113 ~ 118, on each of the eight evenings along with the reading of the Parashah or Portion of the Torah describing the sacrifices brought by the princes at the dedication of the Temple, and the rekindling of the Menorah from Numbers 7:1 ~ 8:4.
The Hanukkah Menorah: The eight cups holding the Hanukkah candles are arranged in a row, one for each night of the holiday. Every menorah has one additional cup, a ninth cup, which is located in the center, or to one side, and is usually slightly elevated.
The Shamash was a foreshadow of the Lord Jesus, Yeshua!
The ninth candle is called “the shammash” or “one who serves.” Jewish tradition says the purpose of the shammash is that “Judaism gives light to the world.” In our walk with Jesus, we know He called Himself, The Light of the World! At Hanukkah we light an additional candle on each day. We use the shammash to light the other candles until all the candles give off their light. The appropriate number of candles is placed in the Menorah from right to left, yet they are lit from left to right. With the light of Messiah in our heart, we are a City on a Hill, giving off light for others!
The Joy of a Toy: The Israelites were not allowed to worship during the Maccabean struggle for freedom to serve YHWH. If their oppressors saw them studying the Torah or praying, they would face execution. The Jewish people devised a way to ensure their daily prayers and Torah study. With their Holy books, they stored the fun spinning tops called dreidels. If an oppressor walked near, they quickly put away their books and became engrossed in playing the dreidel game. The dreidel saved many lives as it became a diversion from the true worship of the Jews.
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top made of wood, clay or plastic. Hebrew letters are written on each of its four sides. The four letters on the dreidel represent the Hebrew phrase, “A Great Miracle Happened There”, (“Nes Gadol Hayah Sham”) but Dreidels in Israel change one letter to read, “A Great Miracle Happened Here” (“Nes Gadol Hayah Poh”).
The Maccabees: God raised up a band of Jewish guerrilla fighters led by Judah Maccabee. Even though they were completely outnumbered, this tiny band of men fought victoriously against at least 65,000 warriors. The Maccabees, armed only with pitchforks and swords, attacked at night repeatedly, until God enabled them to defeat the overwhelming armies of Antiochus whose soldiers were the best-fed and best-trained troops in the East. Since the Maccabees were outnumbered and under-supplied, they turned to more creative devices and relied on their knowledge of the hill country, employing guerrilla warfare tactics.
The Miracles: Within three years the Syrian invaders were driven from the land of Israel, and the cleansing of the Temple began as a national endeavor. There were four major battles against the Syrians before the Temple was reclaimed by the Maccabees. On the 25th day of Kislev (November ~ December) in 165 B.C., three years to the day after its desecration, the Temple and the altar were rededicated. Judah commanded that the pagan altar be utterly destroyed and YHVH’s altar be rebuilt. (1 Macc 4:26-61).
Should Christians Observe Hanukkah? Hanukkah and Christmas BOTH originated in the land of Israel (Eretz Isra’el) by the same people, the Jews! Both commemorate historical events which were overshadowed by miracles from God!
“The Servant” is the prominent promise for both holidays!
In Israel today, Hanukkah symbolizes the victory of the few over the many! Historically, God has magnified Himself in behalf of Israel! He will continue to impact the future of His chosen land and people, until the complete restoration of ALL THINGS has taken place in the end of days, or the Alcharit Hayamim. God has promised to bless all those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel. (Genesis 12)
By joining with Israel to honor the miracle of the Maccabees victory over oppressive evil, and their re-dedication of the Temple of God, we lend our hands and our hearts, and our participation becomes like the SHAMMASH candle, like a servant who brings light into what was NOT on Holy Fire!
May the Holy Fire of Christmas light our hearts, as we celebrate the birth of Messiah, the Light of the World who came to serve and to save!
Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas!
Sydney Hewitt, 2021