Hanukkah, the ‘Feast of Dedication’ (also known as Chanukah or the ‘Festival of Lights’), is celebrated each year for eight days and nights starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, which is November-December on the modern calendar. This year the celebration begins at sunset on December 20th and continues through sunset December 28th. In Hebrew, the word Hanukkah means "dedication." The holiday commemorates the cleansing and re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 165 B.C. after a great victory by a Jewish rebel army led by the Maccabees over the Syrians. At this time, restoration of the tabernacle began. This is a time of restoration! It also remembers the miracle of one day’s oil lasting eight days! Expect the miraculous! It is celebrated around the world with eight nights of merriment and traditions including the lighting of the menorah, exchanging gifts, family games and enjoying special treats cooked in oil. This is a time for us to allow the Lord to cleanse out of us any defilement and dedicate ourselves fresh and new to the Lord. Hanukkah is one of the most historically documented of all of the Jewish holidays. It stands as a heroic reminder of courageous and enduring faith in God and uncompromising devotion to Him despite great personal risk, qualities God is looking for and the Body of Christ is in great need of today. In John 10:22 we read that Jesus went to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Dedication which was Hanukkah! Jesus celebrated the Feasts too!
The principle ceremony of Hanukkah is the lighting of candles each evening in the home. The Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles, one for each of the eight nights and one additional candle (in the center and elevated) called the shammash or servant candle which is used to light the other candles. In a Messianic Jewish sense, the servant candle points to Christ as the light of the world that lights every other light! Candles are lit each evening corresponding to the number day of Hanukkah, e.g. day one 1 candle, day 2 two candles. Candles are added to the menorah each day from right to left (like Hebrew writing). Each night the number of candles is lit from left to right (using the servant candle which is lit first) until all eight are lit on the eighth night (44 in total). Candles are allowed to burn out each night on their own and the menorah is traditionally placed where it can be viewed from outside the front of each house so that all who pass by may see the lights and be reminded of the meaning of Hanukkah. A blessing is spoken before the candles are lit each night:
English: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
Sfaradi/Modern Israeli: Barukh Atta Adonay Eloheynu Melekh Ha-olam Asher Kiddeshanu Be-mitsvotav Ve-tsivanu Lehadlik Ner Shel khanuka .
Personally, our family has benefitted greatly from observing the Feasts –in our own way- and developing our own traditions. Traditions are a good thing. They help to instill values into our children. They also bond families together. We plan something special each night for 8 nights. We have a special meal each night WITH DESSERT! The first night Brick will tell the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil. One night we will play games, one night gifts, and we try and get together with family and friends as much as we can. Movies are something we really enjoy. Braveheart is a good movie this time of year because of it’s similarities with the story of the Maccabees. One night we will make and decorate homemade doughnuts! A popular game for children in Hebrew culture was dreidel, a four-sided top with Hebrew letters on each side. The letters are the first letters of the words in the phrase Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened here.” Hanukkah is a time of gifts. Early tradition involved the custom of giving Hanukkah gelt (Yiddish for “money”) in which parents and grandparents gather the children on the fifth night and give them coins. In North America the exchange of gifts has become a regular part of twentieth century Hanukkah observance, and a modern form of gelt now is foil-covered chocolate coins. During this celebration it was customary to eat foods fried in oil as a reminder of the oil-cruse tradition. Traditional foods included potato cakes fried in oil called latkes or homemade deep-fried jelly filled doughnuts sprinkled with sugar called sufganiyot. Hanukkah was also a time of much singing in celebration. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights commemorating the miracle of the candle as well as the relighting of the fire on the purified altar. As a result there is an emphasis upon light in this celebration.
The history of Hanukkah is as follows:
In 332 B.C. the Greek empire rose to power led by Alexander the Great. They ruled the world from Europe and Egypt to India imposing on everyone Greek culture and religion known as Hellenism. This was the time period just prior to the Roman Empire and is represented in the Bible as the time between the Book of Malachi and the arrival of John the Baptist in the Gospels. After the death of Alexander, Antiochus rose as the Greek King of Syria. He was an evil tyrant who was cruel, harsh and savage. It was his desire to ‘hellenize’ or impose Greek language, thought and religion upon all his subjects to have complete control. Hellenism was more than a political structure and philosophy. It was built around the Greek religion which defiled nature, created a pantheon of mythological gods and promoted widespread immorality in the worship of those gods and Israel now found itself under his rule. Two groups then developed within Israel: those who completely opposed the Greeks and their culture and those that saw political, social and economic advantage in embracing it. As the Roman Empire began to rise in power Antiochus became enraged and vented the full heat of his wrath and frustration on the Jewish people. Suddenly and without warning he ordered the destruction of Jerusalem. Houses were burned, the walls of the City were breached and tens of thousands were killed or sold into slavery. In 168 B.C. his soldiers attacked the Temple on Mount Zion smashing its porches and gates and stripping it of its golden vessels and treasures. Antiochus then erected an idol of Zeus, the supreme deity of the Greek pantheon, on the holy altar. Then, on the birthday of Zeus (Kislev/December 25), he offered a pig on the altar, sprinkled its blood on the Holy of Holies and pour its broth on the Holy Scrolls before he cut them to pieces and burned them. Many Jews were forced to eat the meat from the pigs that were sacrificed. Jewish rituals were outlawed and the Jews were ordered to worship Greek gods on pain of torture and death which became widespread. If any Jewish customs were followed, whole families were put to death. Babies were hung around their mothers’ necks and women were thrown from the walls of the cities. The line had been drawn – assimilate or be annihilated!
The Miracle of the Re-dedication
Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the Holy Temple, and were saddened that many things were missing or broken. They tore down the idol to Zeus and began to repair the Temple. They rebuilt the holy altar and on Kislev 25, 165 B.C., exactly 3 years to the day from its defilement, they rededicated the altar to the Lord! Oil consecrated by the priest was then needed for the temple lamptstand but only one small cruse of unpolluted oil could be found which still bore the unbroken seal of the priests. It was only enough oil for one day but miraculously it burned for eight days until a new supply of oil could be consecrated!! Bless you and may you have a very Happy Hanukkah!
Brick & Leann Wall
Rising Eagles Ministries
Texas Apostolic Prayer Network
Gulf Bend Regional Coordinators