What DO We Learn from Chanukkah? First, I included a brief speech given by Alan Busch which is insightful and clearly understood…enjoy.
Alan D. Busch The Eve of Chanukkah 5771/2010
What better time than one day before the eve of Chanukkah to share an important lesson of which I was reminded last Sunday morning. In truth, the reminder had begun the day before when I listened to Rabbi Louis’s Shabbos morning speech. Based on the tireless precept that however much we may revel in the glory of Jewish military victory over the Greeks, that victory of physical might is not the central lesson of Chanukkah.
The Greeks forbade the study of Torah, built upon the foundation of Abrahamic monotheism, in pursuit of their objective to erase the Jewish religion from history, as if it had never existed. In response, the Sages shifted focus to the reading of the Hebrew Prophets, choosing from among them themes that mirrored the weekly Torah readings that had been outlawed earlier.
Now the ancient Greeks, for all of their hedonism, did correctly understand that if “the fire” of Judaism were ever extinguished in the Jewish home, Jewish life would then be surely doomed. Toward that odious end, I heard Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik (who teaches a Torah class on most Sundays mornings at Congregation Kesser Maariv, 4341 Golf Rd. Skokie, Il from 9:45-11:00 a.m.) explain that the Greeks went so far as to forbid the Jews from having front doors to their houses. Whether he meant that literally or not, I’m not quite sure, but its symbolic value remains indisputable in either case.
Their objective was not so much to destroy the Jewish body as much as the Jewish soul nourished as it is by Torah study. For the Jew, depriving him of Torah meant starving his Jewish soul, rendering his body useless.
As for the Greeks, they ultimately failed in their objective-as have all of the enemies of the Jewish people, but not before inflicting enormous physical and spiritual damage that we survived and from which we have recovered to a limited extent. The relationship of Chanukah to Jewish religious belief is defined and embodied within a particular prayer which Jews insert into their services at this time of the year. It is called the “al ha nissim” (for the miracles).
Like many other Jewish prayers, “al ha nissim” incorporates elements of both praise and thanksgiving. So what does a Jew of faith believe? It’s a question Jews ought to ask of themselves more often-not only at Chanukah but at any time of the year.
The language of “al ha nissim” is clear: “YOU, YaHoVaH delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.”
The crux of the matter is that the strength needed to achieve victory then, as well as now, resides in and emanates from YaHoVaH. Just as man and woman do not alone create life, it follows that neither do they dig the well of their own strength by themselves. The answer is not to look at or imitate the Greeks admiringly for their hedonism. Rather the psalmist advises us to look up and declare: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come? My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
The Hebraic Roots/Messianic Movement is being established as a legitimate and grafted in branch of the tree of the body of Israel. Many keep the Sabbath, celebrate the feasts, follow the weekly Torah portions and observe the rabbinic calendar. All this is wonderful and in bringing in Y’shua as the one who in great part fulfilled all the feasts it is the way to provoke the Jews to jealousy-I mean let’s face it- we will not do that with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny…However, I feel that because the Pharisees and Rabbinic leaders were renounced by the Lord AND since we know from history that they changed the calendar, we would do well to look into the legitimacy of the calendar brought to light in a great part by Michael Rood.
Please think about the fact that a ministry can have many flaws but be raised up for the purpose of the Lord so, to dismiss the whole thing may make us miss the important facet we need for accuracy and to honor the Lord.
With the help of NASA’s highly sophisticated calculations and abilities to determine the cycles of the moon (and other astronomical bodies) with surprising alacrity, I believe that the research and mathematical conclusions are more closely related to the way YaHoVaH initially set it up for man from the beginning. Is it really imperative? No, but basing a calendar upon the words of God rather than men who changed the times and seasons in order to hide the fact that the Messiah Y’shua fulfilled the feasts in major ways— just sounds better to me.
Hillel II of Tiberias created the current Hebraic Calendar in the year 359 C.E. in order to unify times of worship of Jews who had been scattered around the world. (called the diaspora). The Creator’s Calendar is based on when the barley crop is aviv in Jerusalem. (barley being aviv is the stage of maturation when the barley changes to a green color.) So, while Hillel II gave Jews a unifying tool to celebrate as one accord across the world, we do not need this method any longer and I do not believe we should still use it.
Also, I am very impressed with the way that the calculations also give us clarity to the events of the gospels! Having said all of this I will only continue with this last thing, I would never allow my acceptance of the Creator’s Calendar to cause conflict within the body of believers. It is not so important as that but I do celebrate according to its calculations and determinations.
Back to Chanukkah: a brief description of the history of Chanukkah is that around 200 B.C., Judea came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews who lived there to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion altogether and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.
Antiochus approached Mattathias a Priest who was highly esteemed by the people. He tried to get Mattathias to worship Zeus so the people would be persuaded to follow his example. Antiochus offered him great wealth and lands and other bribes to seduce him. But Mattathias was not moved by these things and he and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus starting with Mattathias killing first a Jew who wanted to comply with Antiochus’s order to sacrifice to Zeus and then a Greek official who was to enforce the government’s behest (1 Mac. 2, 24-25).
In 168 B.C., Antiochus’s soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls.
Now when the Temple and Altar were desecrated there needed to be a process of re-dedicating it for the use of worship to YaHoVaH.
By 165 BC the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. The festival of Chanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event. Judah ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil with the seal of the kohen gadol (high priest) was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night.
The story goes that one flask was found with only enough oil to burn for one day, yet it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. An eight-day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.