Hanukkah or Chanukah- either or both are correct- is the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of Kislev 25 - celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d. When they sought to light the Temple's menorah, they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity. To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah.
At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled. The candles are usually lit at nightfall but, if it is necessary to wait for family members to gather, any time during the night is fine. The main consideration is to have as many of one’s family, as well as friends, together as possible to enjoy the experience on any given night. Ideally, the candles should burn for 30 minutes; during which time no work should be done – and the TV should be switched off! The blessings are said, songs can be sung, gifts given, food enjoyed and games played. It’s time to remember and celebrate the miracles of our God and to appreciate the miracle of one another.
A major lesson of Hanukkah is one that Yeshua illustrated well in his teaching: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
In Israel, many people light candles outside in special glass boxes built for a hanukkiah. The beautiful one pictured here, in the Old City of Jerusalem, highlights the restored, biblical cities and towns on a map of Israel as “jewels” in the Land. Jerusalem is a diamond, to the left of the flame of the shammash, Hebron is a square ruby south-west of Jerusalem, Tiberias is a sapphire on the left shore of the Sea of Galilee in the north. More often it is lit in a window, and facing a public street if possible. If for some reason the hanukkiah cannot be lit by a window, it may be lit inside the house on a table, where its light shines forth upon the members of the household.
As disciples of Yeshua, it is important for us to remember three things:
1) Yeshua celebrated Chanukah (John 10). By doing so, he affirmed the importance of this history, not only for the people of Israel in the First-century, but for us – because in Him, we are connected to it as well.
2) As a result of the miracle that God accomplished at Chanukah, the Jewish were preserved. That act of mercy made it possible for the true “Light” to be manifest in a body of flesh and blood.
3) Yeshua, the Light of the World, has called us to be lights as well.
Chag Urim Sameach!
Joyous Festival of Lights
The LORD is good, and He has given us light … (Psalm 118:27)