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!!!!

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