On the streets of Jerusalem and around Israel, Hanukkah menorahs burn brightly on the eighth night! Hanukkah has come and gone in Israel, but the joy remains!
Ok my friends, jump into your Jewish mindset and let’s talk about Hanukkah! It is a very festive occasion which commenced Sunday night at sundown. But exactly what are our Jewish friends celebrating? Perhaps this will help!
Throughout history Satan has tried to destroy God’s plan by destroying God’s people. First, he deceived Eve, resulting in enmity with the one God said would crush his head. Later, horrible Haman concocted a plan to eliminate the Jewish people, but God used Esther to reveal the plan that reversed the fate of Haman. (For the intriguing account, read the book of Esther!) Later, Jews were taken into captivity in attempts to separate them from their land, yet they returned. Hitler and others made attempts in more modern history to eliminate the Jewish people, but they persevered and survived.
Well, another such attempt was made about 165 years before Christ, when Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes tried to squash Judaism by desecrating the Temple, erecting idols and forcing Jews to worship them. When a priest named Mattathias was commanded by Syrian soldiers to sacrifice a pig on the pagan altar, he refused and fled with his 5 sons to the Judean Wilderness. These were the Maccabees who were joined by other Jews in plans to revolt.
Eventually, they did revolt, making their way back to Jerusalem where they dismantled the pagan altars and reclaimed the Temple. When it came time to light the menorah and re-dedicate the Temple, they found only one days worth of oil. How would they accomplish the 8-day celebration? It would take at least that long to get purified olive oil from the Galilee region to keep the menorah lit.
You may be familiar with the miracle of God multiplying 2 fish and 5 loaves on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to feed thousands of people in Jesus’ time. But that wasn’t the first time God multiplied provision! He did so with that single days worth of oil, making it last 8 days!
So, even to this day, the Jews celebrate the same Festival of Dedication those in Jesus’ day celebrated (John 10:22). It is called Hanukkah (Festival of Lights) and always begins on the 25th day of Kislev and lasts for 8 days. The Hebrew calendar is a lunar one, so does not align consistently with our Gregorian calendar. Thus, Hanukkah typically begins in early- to mid-December. This year, it began Sunday night at sundown.
Why not share this simplified account of Hanukkah with your family:
Stay tuned over the next few days for more insight about Hanukkah, as we honor our Jewish friends by understanding their celebratory feasts!
Hanukkah has officially commenced in Israel and when I saw the picture above it brought back such sweet memories.
Three years ago I attended a Christian Leaders Seminar at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem that concluded just before Hanukkah. Needing to take care of other business, and wanting to catch the first few nights of Hanukkah, I extended my stay. I was so glad I did, as Hanukkah (especially the first night) is a very festive occasion, and a great reminder of the joy that Jesus, the Light of the World, gives us as believers! Here is a photo of the same area (from a different angle) that Hanukkah evening in 2015:
Oh, the memories! (While nothing can capture the true experience in being there, I recorded the glorious events of that day in 2015 here: Enjoying Hanukkah in Jerusalem.)
The festivities have begun! חנוכה שמח (Happy Hanukkah!)
The Jewish festival of lights, known as Hanukkah, begins this evening at sundown and lasts for 8 days. I’ll share a bit more about what Hanukkah is all about in the next few days, but today I want to focus on the celebratory nature of our Jewish friends!
I have often mentioned the Jews’ zest for life and their ability to go on enjoying life regardless of what hand they are dealt. For example, even during times of exile and the Holocaust, Jews managed to find ways to sing, dance and find joy amidst the chaos. I find it intriguing and admirable.
Hanukkah is one of the most celebratory occasions on the Jewish calendar, and for 8 days they make the most of it! Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC. Because the Temple was the center of Jewish life, you can imagine the joy of regaining their holy place of worship. Furthermore, Jesus Himself celebrated Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication) with His family, and later asserted His deity during that special celebration (John 10:22). Thus, though it is not one of the 7 major feasts of Israel, we know it was an actual event during Jesus’ day, and that He found it important enough to observe.
So, being the fun-loving people they are, Jews celebrate big! They gather together, light the menorah, cook special foods, eat jelly donuts, sing, dance and make merry! I as blessed to be in Jerusalem during Hanukkah 2015, and made a special trip to the Old City just to catch the celebration there. It was very festive as lights danced on the city walls, festive music blared, a huge menorah was lit, and young people danced the night away!
Jews in the diaspora (living outside of Israel) celebrate as well. A few years ago Daley Plaza in Chicago was the scene of a well-planned flash mob celebrating Hanukkah in a unique way. Enjoy!
PS: Stay tuned…more fun facts about Hanukkah to come in days ahead!