Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hannukah, the Feast of Dedication {guest post}

Today Jessica is going to explain a holiday that many non-Jews know about but few understand: Hanukkah.

Introduction

Hi, everyone! My name is Jessica, and today, I'd like to tell you about the winter holiday I celebrate, Hanukkah.

Also called "The Festival of Lights", Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday that begins on the 25th of Kislev (usually near the end of December) each year. It is widely celebrated by practicing Jews, but as of late, Christians embracing their Hebrew roots have begun to celebrate it, too. The story of the first Hanukkah is found in the First and Second books of Maccabees. You can read it online for free, but for now, I will just give the basics of the story.

History
                    
In 168 B.C., the people of Israel were under the control of the Syrian government, and they were greatly oppressed. Antiochus, the reigning king, decreed all Jewish practices and traditions illegal. If someone was found reading/teaching the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, they would be killed without question; women were killed for circumcising their sons, and the babies were hung around their dead mothers' necks to be paraded in the streets; circumcised men were executed if they refused to have it reversed; if anyone refused to eat pagan foods, or tried to practice kosher laws, they would be killed. Also, the Holy Temple had been transformed into a pagan temple. Unclean animals, such as pigs, had been sacrificed at the alter, and the holy instruments had been defiled. YHWH (God) was replaced with the false god, Zeus, in the temple.

Some Jews continued to keep the Torah, regardless of the laws. One family was the house of the priest Mattathias. He and his five sons (Judah, John, Simon, Eleazar and Johnathon) refused to give in to Syrian customs. Mattathias and his sons fled the city, heading into the mountains. There, they would be free to worship their God without oppression.

On their way out of the city, Judah turned and cried that if any man be zealous for the Lord, let them follow him and his family. Some followed them that night, but over the next few months, Judah gathered around him a multitude of Jews whose love for the Torah had not died. These men looked to Judah as their leader, and Judah looked to YHWH for direction.

Over the course of the next three years, YHWH led Judah and his small army of men who were zealous for Him against the Syrians. They won countless, miraculous victories, and exactly three years after the Temple had been desecrated, Judah and the other Jews rededicated it to YHWH.
 That is where the holiday gets its name. In english, the word "hanukkah" means "dedication". It is a time of rededicating ourselves to YHWH. I Corinthians 6:19 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." During Hanukkah, we rededicate our 'temples' to the Lord through prayer, and we read the story of when men gave their lives so that YHWH's commandments would not be forgotten or desecrated any further.

Traditions

Every night of the eight nights of Hanukkah, we light the hannukiah, a nine-branched candelabra -- one branch to light for each night of hanukkah, and the one used to light them. In Leviticus 24:4, YHWH told Aaron the priest, "You shall keep in order {keep burning} the lamps on the pure gold lampstand beforeYHWH continually." When Judah and his brothers were rededicating the temple, they only had enough holy, consecrated olive oil to keep the lamp burning for one night, and it would be eight days before new oil could be made. The miracle is that the lamp burned for all eight days, until the new oil was ready, on a supply that would normally only last one night. YHWH supernaturally kept the lamp burning.




Another tradition, (and this one is really fun,) is the game we play with spinning tops, called 'Dreidels.' When the Jews were under oppression, some of them would still do their Torah lessons in secret by hiding in the woods, in alleyways and in caves. But Greek soldiers were on patrol everywhere, and sometimes, they would come across the Jews with their Torah scrolls spread out. The  would quickly turn over the scroll and pull out their dreidels, so that it appeared that they were playing a game on the scroll, betting coins. Today, we play the game with chocolate coins, called 'gelt,' to remember the boldness of the Jews, and to remember that even under pressure, they still stood up for what was right.



Why I Celebrate Hanukkah

Now, people who know me usually ask me, "If you're a Christian, why are you celebrating Hanukkah? It's a Jewish holiday." And usually, when I tell someone I just met that I celebrate Hanukkah, they assume I'm Jewish. I am not technically Jewish through heritage, but I have been grafted into the tree of Israel through the blood of Christ, and so I am a Hebrew. (Romans 11:17)

I celebrate Hanukkah for much the same reason that I celebrate YHWH's appointed feasts (as laid out in Leviticus 23.) Though Hanukkah is not a feast I am commanded to keep, it is a festival celebrated by the people of YHWH, to help us remember to be strong in times of oppression, and to rededicate ourselves to HIS ways. So many things in today's culture can lead us away from God's Word, and so this holiday is just another time set apart for us to remember what's truly important. In celebrating Hanukkah, I am also following Yeshua's example. He was a Jew, and would've celebrated the feast. (John 10:22-23)

I hope you've enjoyed this post. If you would like to learn more about Hanukkah or the other biblical feasts, please check out the resources below. They're really great :)

Thanks for letting me guest-post, Emily!

References: (book) A Light in the Darkness by First Fruits of Zion; 1st and 2nd books of Maccabees; Passion for Truth Ministries

Jessica, formerly known as Cubette [cub-et, not cube-et], is a reader, blogger, music lover, animal lover, and fellow dancer-in-the-rain.  She is also a daughter of the King with a love for truth and her Father.  You can visit her blog here.

6 comments:

  1. I always thought Hanukkah was neat.;)
    lovely guest post

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Marcia! :) Hannukah always fascinated me, too, especially after I watched Daniel Deronda. I forwarded your comment to Jessica.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey, Marcia, thanks! It really is neat.
    And Emily, I like what you did there at the end :D Thanks again for letting me guest-post.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, that was very well explained! I love Hanukkah! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Breanne! I forwarded your comment to Jessica :)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for dropping by! I'd love to have you chime in.

Comments are welcome, but I reserve the right to delete any comments or commentors as I see fit. Bullying or spam in particular will not be tolerated.

You won't see your comment appear right away, as I've recently enabled moderation. This is just to ensure I see comments and can respond, as Blogger no longer sends notifications of new comments to us blog authors. Thank you for your patience with this.