“What is Chanukah?"
“Why do we eat Sufganiyot, spin the dreidel and light the chanukiah?”
It all started with a group of people called the Maccabees. During this time Israel descended into deep darkness in second century B.C. under the rule of King Antiochus.
This leader outlawed the Jewish faith and forbid following God’s commandments or reading the Torah. He defiled the temple and forced the Jews to bow down to their Greek gods & to adopt their pagan customs.
Many lost their lives when refusing to eat pork, break Shabbat (The Sabbath day) or worship anyone other than the one true God of Israel.
Click below to watch a video I created telling the true message of Chanukah! Illustrated by: @yasmine.art
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Click here for Hebrew version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8NBaXO-480&t=30s
לחצו כאן לסרטון בעברית
This continued until one day a few brave souls, Judah and his brothers formed a small rebellion to fight against the corrupt government and reclaim the Temple.
Their name, The Maccabees is an acronym standing for מי כמוך באלים יהוה translating to ‘Who is like you Oh God among the Gods.’ They knew that although they may be small, their God was greater than the enemies they faced.
This shows us that no matter how insignificant, small or unequipped we may feel, with God on our side we can face the battles of life with confidence knowing if He is for us who can stand against us.
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Against all odds, the small yet mighty Maccabee army began winning battles and reconquered the temple. A monumental victory for the Jewish people!
Yet legend has it that only a small amount of oil could be found… enough to light the menorah in the temple for just one day.
Despite this God performed a miracle and caused the oil to last for the entire 8 days!
This is significant because the ‘ner tamid’ meaning the eternal flame was always to be kept lit in the temple, symbolizing how the light of God is to be kept burning in our hearts continually.
It shows us that no matter how dark things around us may appear, there is always hope in God. This is why we light our Chanukiahs for 8 nights.
Learn more about Chanukah customs and relevant insight in 'Messiah Revealed in Chanukah book' Available as a hard copy or an e-book.
The story of the Maccabees portrays the same spiritual battle still going on today. We have the choice to conform to outside pressure or pursue God whatever may be the cost.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” Romans 12:2
It may not be easy to stand out and be different while staying true to God's Word and holding fast to our faith, but it is worth it! The world we live in will constantly try to pull us away from the standard God set before us in His Word.
This is the age old lie that Satan has been feeding us since the fall in the garden of Eden
hissing "Did God really say you can't eat that?..." (Genesis 3:1)
The Devil tries to bend Gods Word and blur the lines of truth so that we fall into his trap of compromise and conformity to the ways of the world.
As believers, we are called to be set apart for God. This should reflect in ever aspect of our lives. From what we say and eat to what we wear and think. God tells us in Proverbs 3:6 "...do not lean on your own understanding but acknowledge me in all your ways..."
We cannot trust in ourselves to decide what is right and what is wrong. We need to lean upon the truth of Gods Word to be our guide and honour the commandments he laid out for us. Not out of religious obligation but out of a deep love and desire to obey Him as our Heavenly Father.
Many people think the Torah is 'anti Yeshua' and those who keep it become spiritual pharisees caught up in legalism and religious works.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Psalms 119:1 says "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the Torah of the Lord.... With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments!
Oh how I love your Torah! It is my meditation all the day.
"Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."
This Psalm emphasises how the Torah is a delight and a key element to our faith.
The Maccabees knew that God's Word is a powerful light and by forsaking it they would soon drift into spiritual darkness. In the same way, we need to remember that the Torah is for every single believer in Yeshua and it is the foundation of our faith.
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This past year I had the opportunity to travel to Thessaloniki, Greece to represent Israel at a young adults conference. Greece is a beautiful country and I enjoyed connecting with other believers, hearing their stories and sharing about Israel and Gods heart of the Jewish people.
One of the things penciled into the schedule by the leaders of the conference was to visit a museum nearby. I was looking forward to going out on the excursion and exploring more of Greece.
However when we arrived I realised that the museum was actually an ancient tomb-site. I felt a check in my spirit and was a little apprehensive about entering but shrugged it off and assured myself that this was simply a greek history lesson, nothing more.
The guide lead us around the different tombs and began vividly describing which story matched the ancient paintings on the walls contained within greek mythology.
As she continued to tell us about different false greek gods and their hunger for power, lust and control while surrounded by tombs I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach and starting feeling dizzy. My spiritual antenna was on high alert.
I excused myself from the rest of the group and waited outside, pondering what just happened.
I knew that tomb sites were unclean and forbidden to be visited by Levites and Cohenim in the bible. I also knew that even mentioning the name of false gods is prohibited “Pay close attention to all my instructions. You must not call on the name of any other gods. Do not even speak their names." (Exodus 23:13)
I didn't want any part in glorifying the kingdom of darkness or greek gods. Then I remembered the history of Chanukah.
It was this very same culture and place that attempted to eradicate my people of our faith, strip us of our Jewish identity and force us to adapt to their ungodly, pagan customs.
No wonder I felt uncomfortable and was aware of the atmosphere of spiritual darkness. Because the story of Chanukah isn't over. It's still going on today.
God has called Israel to be a holy, set apart people and a light to the nations. This extends to every believer that has now joined the family of faith through Yeshua.
Yet the fight between staying true to who God has called us to be... or giving into the pressure to conform, still exists today. We need to put our foot down and refuse to adapt our culture, customs and calling when others try to change who we are and rob us of our identity.
It's heart-breaking to me that Yeshua's true identity, as our Jewish Messiah, has been hidden from us. He has instead been turned into a greek, pagan god with blue eyes, blonde hair who eats bacon and celebrates Easter.
Of course Jewish people don't want to follow a pagan god and convert to a different religion! That is often how faith in Yeshua is presented to us.
This is the very reason in fact many Jewish people are so wary of Christians or Messianic believers. In light of history containing years of persecution in the name of 'Jesus' this is understandable and has to be acknowledged.
When we open up the bible we see a Jewish, Israeli Messiah who kept the Torah, and the Mo'adim (appointed times) including Chanukah!
In fact we see in the bible that it was right around the time of Chanukah (Feast of Dedication) that Yeshua declared
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
One chapter later in John 9 as Chanukah was still approaching Yeshua healed a blind man and restored his sight!
This wasn’t a random act. This was a profound statement Yeshua made in correlation with Chanukah! He doesn’t want us to live as the blind, trapped in darkness. He wants to open our eyes and bring us into the kingdom of light and invites us to follow Him.
This is a season where we have opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to God. To choose life over death and light over darkness.
Just like the maccabees had to cleanse the temple from defilement, we can become cleansed from our sin and renew the spark of faith within us.
We were each called to keep the fire of our faith alive. Even when it feels like we're running on empty, or have suffered too many disappointments and defeats... God is faithful to provide the strength and grace we need.
No battle is too great for the miracle working God we serve. Let us reignite our faith to believe that nothing is impossible with God.
In Mathew Matthew 5:14 Yeshua tell us that we are the light of the World and instructs us to let our light shine before others so that when they see our lives it will glorify God.
That is the true heart of Chanukah. That as the darkness gets darker our lights would shine brighter and we would reflect the light of the world, Yeshua our Messiah.
- Liat Nesher
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