The Feast of Dedication, or The Festival of Lights?
(What's the big deal about Hanukkah?)
There are a lot of questions surrounding Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah). Should believers in Yeshua celebrate the Jewish Holidays? Should Jews celebrate holidays not expressly commanded in Torah? Was "The miracle of the oil", which produced the light in the Temple, real or fiction? If that wasn't the miracle, then what WAS the real, "...great miracle" that "happened there"? Represented on the Dreidel, a game played this time of year, with the Hebrew letters, (nes gadól hayá sham, which mean, "a great miracle happened there"). For what's it worth, here are my answers.
First though, please allow me to offer a bit of a disclaimer: know that I am not a professional scholar, nor yet a fully "Torah Observant" one, though I have been Torah pursuant, most of my life. I am a devoted follower of the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, Also known as "The Word/Torah made flesh...". I have been grafted into HIS Vine, by God's mercy. And as a believer, that is filled with HIS SPIRIT, and intentionally led by Him, I am growing in grace and knowledge of His Truth and Will. So I have come to embrace a biblical form of Judaism, including learning Hebrew and pursuing the Holidays, as we come to understand their meaning to us, and as those truths are revealed. Though I have not, and will not, pursue the Orthodox/Rabbinic form of Judaism, since much of that is man-made legalism, a “form of godliness, which denies the power thereof”. Mainly because, having left the legalism of American Churchianity, (which also falls under that description) I am not now willing to take up the Jewish version of dead religion. So those who remain devotees to either side of that subject might want to stop reading now.... you have been duly warned. ;) With that said, here are my opinions on this subject.
Hanukkah, historically speaking, is the celebration of a great victory in the history of the nation of Israel. Hanukkah means Feast of Dedication. And though it is not mentioned in our "Old Covenant", or Tanakh, to my knowledge, as one of God's Moedim, or set apart times, (which all of HIS PEOPLE were commanded to observe and remember, by the way) it IS mentioned in the "New Covenant", in the book of John, chapter 10, verses 22 & 23. That passage mentions Yeshua being in the Temple, in Solomon's portico, during the festival of dedication. So if it was good enough for HIM to observe, I don't see any reason not to.
The REAL miracle, however, which is, or should be, celebrated on this holiday, was that a band of rag tag, devotees of the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, defeated the Syrian Army, (who were also being assisted by many of their own deluded, cowardly fellow Israelis!). And, after doing so, they then rededicated their defiled place of worship.
But the holiday is also called "The Festival of Lights", and it is said that it is celebrated for eight nights because, when the Priestly line, who had fought for, and won back, the rights to their temple, went to rededicate it to their real GOD, and to cleanse it of the defilement of the enemies of God, they found that they hadn't enough Holy Oil to burn in the Menorah for more than one day. But, not knowing what else to do, they trusted God to provide and they put it to burning anyway. Then they went about the process of purifying more oil for that use. That process of purification took eight days. And the alleged miracle was that the one day's worth of oil burned until the rest was sanctified. A miracle indeed! This explains why the Hanukkiah, a specialized Menorah for this Holiday, has NINE candles (one for each eight nights, plus one called the Shamesh, or Servant Candle ...hmmmm ); instead of the typical seven branch Menorah found in the Temple, which has become one of the distinguishing marks of the Jewish nation of Israel, to this day.
Of course, it is hotly disputed,(since, it has been observed that, "if there are three Rabbis there will be 5 opinions") among the learned Jewish community, as to whether this miracle occurred, or whether some wise Rabbi made it up to cover what was really being celebrated, so as to avoid more persecution!
But either way, to me, Hanukkah is a noteworthy celebration for ALL believers in GOD. Jew or "Christian". For the Jew, because there would have been no Jews to carry on their line, they would have ceased to exist, had the Priestly line, (whose name was The Macabees, Mattathias, the High Priest at that time, and his brave son Judah), and their supporters, failed. And it is significant for Christians because there would have been no Jewish nation from which Our Christ was to have been born! So, No Hanukkah, no "Christmas"!
The fact that Yeshua was most likely born around Yom Teruah, in the Fall season, and not in December (on the birthday of the idolatrous heathen god named Jupiter), is important to know, but not to obsess over. HE WAS BORN. That is the big deal. The fact that, even in getting it wrong, his birth was placed near a holiday which would eventually be known as "The Festival of Lights", when He even referred to Himself as "The Light of the World", to me is not coincidental, nor insignificant.
To me it is an indication of God's infinite mercy, in that, even when we screw it up, out of fear or misinformation, He will bring something redemptive to the deal, if we humble ourselves to attempt to obey Him. He is just good like that.
So, again for what it's worth, that is my take on this wonderful holiday. Has some commercialism crept in over the years? Yeah, ya think?! lol Hey. It is what we humans do! Just consider what we've made out of “Christmas”!
But - is there still value in exploring the depths of how God, once again, delivered His beloved chosen ones in spite of their wayward betrayals? I think so. There are lessons here for us all if we will have them.
And as a wise Messianic Rabbi I know once said, "The Jewish Holidays can be summed up in this statement, 'We were attacked, God saved us, Let's PARTY!' " lol Sounds good to me!
Let's celebrate God's victories in our lives, and not obsess on the battles. Let's leave the dead stuff out on the field, for the clean up team. Let's give GOD the GLORY due to His Name at EVERY opportunity, because He is Good, and His Mercy endures forever! Hanukkah is just another shining example of His mercy for His beloved nation, from which our Savior came. What's not to celebrate?
Chag Urim Sameach! Happy Feast of Dedication. In this season may each of us rededicate OUR TEMPLES to the service of our GOD.
Shabbat Shalom, Haverim!