Monday, December 22, 2014

Are we to celebrate Hanukkah?

At the time of the writing of this article, it is deep into the Hanukkah celebration. When I logged on to Facebook this morning, which I have not done for a long time, the most talked about topic was about Hanukkah. I mostly saw arguments from Messianics and "Believers" who mostly claimed that Hanukkah is not to be celebrated as it is not found in the Torah or anywhere in the rest of the Scriptures. They even go as far as to say that because it is called a festival of lights, that it is pagan and evil. But is this really the case? Let us have a look at Hanukkah a little through the eyes of a Jew who lives by the Torah and honors the Almighty, blessed be He.

Is Hanukkah not found in Torah?
Yes it is true; we cannot find the celebration of Hanukkah as a mo'ed (appointed time) anywhere in the Torah at all. Does that mean that we may not celebrate it at all? Well, the celebration of Hanukkah (dedication) wholly revolves around the re-capture of Yerushalayim by the Hasmonians (who were Levites and Kohanim (Priests)), from the Greeks, and the re-dedication of the Temple of HaShem, blessed be He. This event happened around 500BCE, which is LONG after Torah had been written and completed. So for this reason, there would be no way that Hanukkah would be found in the Torah. 
None of us as Jews observe Chanukah as if it is compulsory or as if it is a mo-ed declared by torah.
It is purely a cultural celebration, where we celebrate the many wonderful miracles that HaShem, blessed be He, did for the Jews during the re-dedication (Hanukkah) of the kadosh temple,including the events leading up to it.

But then, again, what we look for and how we look will determine either what we will find (or not find). If we really look carefully, then we will find Hanukkah in the Torah. When the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was erected for the first time, it had to be "Hanukkah" (dedicated) first before it came into service. We read about this event in Bamidbar (Numbers) chapter seven. Anything which was to be used for ‘sacred purpose’ had to be dedicated (Hanukkah).

Festival of lights
Yes, Hanukkah is called a festival of lights. Does this automatically mean that it is pagan in nature, just because there are other religions that have their own festivals with the same name? That idea is really an absurdity. If we had to use that same logic, then the term "El," which we use to refer to HaShem, blessed be He, is also pagan because that is also the name of the ancient Cananite deity. The Cananite 'el' was the "father of the gods." But in reality, the Hebrew word 'el' simply means, "mighty one." The Hebrew word 'el' was a fitting name for the deity that the Cananite people created for themselves and for whom they had to find a name. The fact is, that the word "El" long preceded the Ca'ananite deity. Also the term "ba'al" is not pagan at all, but rather the deity which was given that name by its creators is. The term ba'al simply means "master or husband." I am my wife's ba'al.

So just because Hanukkah is referred to as the festival of lights does by no means mean that it is in any way associated with any pagan practice at all or with any other religions festival of lights. Why then is Hanukkah called the festival of lights?

There is a commandment in the Torah that the kohen gadol (high priest) must daily clean and light the Menorah in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) or Beit Mikdash (Temple). See, even lighting candles and even incense, is found in the Torah and is not of pagan origin. Now during the time of the Maccabee's when the temple was abominated by the Greeks slaughtering pigs on the alter and many other abominations, the Hasmonians (Maccabee's) re-captured the city and the Temple too. They then did a full cleans of the temple and then re-dedicated (Hanukkah) it. But during this time, they needed pure oil for the lighting of the menorah. They needed enough oil for at least eight days, but could only find enough for one day. When they used that oil, a miracle happened and it lasted the full eight days long instead of only one day.

That is why we light candles for a period of eight days during Hanukkah in commemoration of the miracle of the oil lasting the full eight days needed during the re-dedication (Hanukkah) of the temple. That is also why we call it the festival of lights which is the celebration of the miracle of the menorah and NOT from pagan origins at all. A Jewish home can be identified during the time of Hanukkah by the sight of lights from the hanukkia (Hanukkah candles) radiating light in the window.

For those who do not wish to celebrate Hanukkah and all the miracles that HaShem, did for His people and His Temple, then don't. This is in any event a Jewish practice and not for people of other religions. For those who belong to the Hebrew faith, we celebrate such amazing miracles that HaShem, blessed be He, did for us as a nation. It is our culture and as a nation, we celebrate it all together, which brings unity among us. Such commemoration also brings hope and strength in times of trouble, hardship and persecution. Such traditions have brought joy in times when it seemed impossible and even gives a reason for living to many. It is safe to say that many Jewish traditions, such as Hanukkah, are the reason that many Jews lived when it was easier to just give up and die. Unity is of the utmost importance to the Hebrew nation, when one Jew hurts, then all Jews hurt together. As the saying, that comes from the movie "The Three Musketeers” says, "All for one and one for all." This is how the Jews have survived throughout history, and this is why we celebrate Hanukkah.

Every single Jew who awaits the coming of the Messiah, looks forward to the one who will bring peace to this world and rebuild the Beit Mikdash (Temple) and then Hanukkah (Dedicate) it. And yes, there will be a festival that day, and yes, there will be lights as there will also be a dedication (Hanukkah).

For those who live a life of Hanukkah, may you be filled with the light and joy of Hanukkah!!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Your Word is a lamp to my feet

It still often amazes me how people can take a verse here and there and use it so out of context that the original writers of the verses would never recognize the way it is being used in today’s times. And then they believe that it is truthful and build an entire teaching that is foreign to the teachings of the Scriptures because the basis of the teachings are way out of context to start off with. But at the same time I know how these people are so deceived, because I too was in my earlier years. It was only when I started noticing contradictions within the churches teachings, that are universal to all the churches that I had attended, that I started doing a lot of reading, studying and research for myself. (This happened many years ago)

What I found is that a lot of what the church teaches is pure superstition based on the incorrect context of many verses in the bible and the opinions of the teachers themselves. This is why there are many thousands of different Church denominations, each teaching their own opinions. In fact, the fundamental church doctrines are not based on the Scriptures but rather upon the anti-Semitic Jew hating early church fathers and their personal teachings. The problem is that the church goers trust the pastors and priests way too much without actually testing any of what they teach. What we land up with is a lot of buzz words and phrases, but do not really have a proper understanding of what they mean.

Psalm 119:105 is one verse that is used a lot within the Christian church and is even one of their favorite hymns to sing. But do they really believe this to be true in the correct context, or is it a superstitious buzz phrase to keep themselves happy and satisfied? Let us then read this verse and understand it in its correct context for once. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The subject of this verse is the Word of the Almighty. King David, the author of this Psalm, is making it clear that what guided his actions and every step he took, was the Word of the Almighty. Can this fact be changed over time? The answer is a definite NO. This man, David, who was called, “a man after My own heart” by the Almighty Himself, authored many Psalms praising the wonderful Word of YHWH.

So what was king David referring to as the Word of YHWH that is a lamp and a light that illuminates his walk? Who better to turn to than the person who was considered to be the wisest of all men, and who was entrusted to build the house for the Shechina (presence of the Almighty), the Temple, and who is the son of the author of Psalm 119. King Sh’lomo wrote the following, “For the command is a lamp, And the Torah a light, And reproofs of discipline a way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). Here Sh’lomo makes it very clear that the Commandments are a lamp and that the Torah is a light. The term, “Commandments” is a simile for the term, “Torah” as it is the Torah that holds all the Commandments. Just as a ‘lamp’ is a simile for ‘light’ as the function of a lamp is to give light.

In the Christian religion, the problem arises when they claim this verse and sing it in hymns etc. but then in the same breath, they reject the Torah and the Commandments. The rejection of the Torah is literally the opposite action to what Psalm 119:105 teaches. If someone proclaims or sings this verse of Psalm 119:105, and then does not walk in the light of the Torah and the Commandments, then that person is a liar. Some people are even fooled into believing that the ‘New Testament’ is the Word of YHWH spoken of in Psalm 119. If you are one of these people, then ask yourself the question, Did the ‘New Testament’ exist at the time when King David wrote this Psalm? Or was David referring to the Torah? If the ‘New Testament’ is being referred to, then it must be the same context and contents as that of the Torah as it never existed at the time of the writing of the Psalms, but the Torah was.

We see the same thing when we read the prophets, “Grass shall wither, the flower shall fade, but the Word of our Elohim stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8). Did the ‘New Testament’ exist when Yeshayahu (Isaiah) wrote this? If the Torah was what Yeshayahu was speaking of, then it is the Torah that stands forever. So is the Word of YHWH that exists today different to that of the Word of YHWH that Yeshayahu knew and wrote about?

The author of Psalm 119:105 (quoted above) also wrote the following: “The Torah of יהוה (YHWH) is perfect, bringing back the being; The witness of יהוה (YHWH) is trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). So if the Torah is perfect and stands forever, then why is it necessary to change or do away with or even need something better? How can anything that is perfect be bettered?

Let us have a look at some references in the ‘New Testament’ regarding this topic. “So that the Torah truly is set-apart, and the command set-apart, and righteous, and good” (Rom 7:12). Sha’ul (Paul, as the Catholic Church calls him) is speaking of the Torah as good and righteous and set-apart, and not as a curse as many Christians claim. He also refers to the Hebrew Tanakh (Old Testament, as the Catholic Church calls it) as Scripture and that we need to use it for teaching, reproof, setting straight and the instruction in righteousness, “All Scripture is breathed by Elohim and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for setting straight, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of Elohim might be fitted, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

It is very clear that the Torah of YHWH is perfect and eternal. No person has the authority to decide otherwise. In fact, not even the Almighty can change His Word, however, this is irrelevant as His Word is already perfect and need not ever be changed. We do not have the choice of how we want to serve YHWH the Almighty. The only choice we do have is between serving Him or not. If we choose to serve YHWH, then we need to do it His way. That is however a good thing as He has given us the manual to do so, the Torah.

May we all study His Word and DO His Word so that we may walk on the derech tzedakah (way of righteousness)