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The Origins of Hannukah Print E-mail
Written by Victoria Radin   

Hanukkah, from the Hebrew word ‘chanak’, means to initiate or begin. It is known as the Season Of Miracles and is the Feast described in John 10:22-38. During this Feast, in the midst of the giant candelabras (menorahs) on Solomon’s porch, Jesus declared that the miracles He performed served as witnesses to His divinity.

“And it was at Jerusalem the Feast Of The Dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.” (John 10:22-23)

Hanukkah is about two ever-present forces in our lives: darkness and light. It is the struggle between two ideologies: serving G-d or being assimilated into the ways of the world. The story of Hanukkah reveals the struggle that Israel endured when the Greek leader, Antiochus Epiphanes, tried to force the Jewish people to abandon the commands of the One true G-d and to assimilate into Greek culture. Today, believers are still being tempted to abandon G-d by adapting to the ways of the world rather than to believe G-d and live by His Spirit. The eight-day festival of Hanukkah commemorates an event in Jewish history that was a foreshadowing of the future coming of the Antichrist in the end-of-the-age as described by Jesus Himself in Matthew 24:15-20.

“When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation....stand in the holy place...Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains:” (Matthew 24:15,16)

In 175 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes IV became the ruler of Syria.  He wanted to rule all the world and be worshipped as a god. Antiochus issued a decree in Israel that all Jews were to stop worshipping in the Temple and cease practicing their religious laws or face death. On the 15th of Kislev, 168 BCE, Antiochus sent his troops to sacrifice a pig on the bronze altar of sacrifice, thus desecrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. He dedicated G-d’s Temple to his gods.

Two years later, Antiochus sent an official to the town of Modi near Jerusalem to be sure his decrees were being carried out. He ordered an elderly priest, Mattathias, to worship at his altar. Mattathias killed the kings emissary and fled with his family to the mountains.

Mattathias and his five sons joined other fugitives and formed a small army that fought against the king’s soldiers. Under the leadership of Mattathias’ son, Judah Maccabee, they battled successfully against Antiochus’ troops in a town named Emmaus. They returned to Jerusalem to begin the enormous task of repurifying the Temple and ridding it of the Syrian idols.

When the priests were preparing for the service of re-dedication, they could only find one small cruse of unprofaned oil which would have been sufficient for only one day. On the 25th day of the month of Kislev three years after it was polluted, Judah Maccabee rededicated the Temple and lit the lamps of the Temple menorah using the unpolluted cruse of oil. The small amount of oil miraculously lasted eight days. 


On an individual level, Hanukkah is seen as a time of personal dedication and renewal––a time to purify ourselves.  Our menorahs have replaced that of the temple and we have replaced the Levites and priests.  We are to be G-d’s priests whose ministry is not restricted to the temple –– generals and leaders in the war for religious freedom.

We are the temple furniture of the Holy Place. The rabbis teach that “On the Feast of Tabernacles we build a dwelling, on Hanukkah we fill it with furniture”:

  • The altar of incense is our prayers.
  • The table of showbread is the labor of our hands and the fruit of our lives.
    • The menorah is our conscience or spirit and is lit and kept burning by G-d Himself.

    The menorah is the key, the light that illuminates the dwelling: our prayers, deeds and the fruit of our lives. The light of the menorah is traditionally supposed to illuminate the world. The giant candelabras in Solomon’s Temple were meant to illuminate the whole world to the knowledge of the one true G-d.  The oil used to light the candelabras had to be the most pure oil. It was to light the dwelling which was then to light the world. The dwelling was to be the source of light, not its container---not to be contained but to be given out.

    The rabbis teach: “The light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return.  It gives of itself and is yet not diminished.”

    It is said, “By lighting the menorah, we ignite the flame in our souls, the spark that cannot be extinguished, that will burn not for eight days but for eternity. Our inner light must shine against the darkness of evil and indifference and must kindle the spirits of our fellow man. The menorah reminds us that no matter how dark life may be, there remains a source of light deep inside us. The light in our souls reflects and refracts the light from the One Who is ‘All Brightness’.  This Light can accompany us on our way and illumine the darkest path. The plague of darkness is all around us, but the Light is there for those who continue to fan it into flame.” 

    Hanukkah and Yeshua

    This year, 5780 on the biblical calendar, Hanukkah begins on the evening of the 22nd of December, which is the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar. It is interesting that much of Christianity will be celebrating the birth of Yeshua during Hanukkah, the first day of which our Savior was actually conceived. It was on the first night of Hanukkah that the "Seed of Light", Yeshua, was placed in Miriam's womb by the Holy Spirit of G-d. The placement of this Seed was the foundation of the L-rd's earthly Temple.

     The Night that Light Came Into The World

    “Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid…from this day I will bless you.” (from Haggai 2:18-19) (i.e. the 25th of Kislev)

    The Hanukkah menorah is sometimes referred to as the Hannukiyah. It is different from the Temple menorah in that it has nine branches instead of seven. The center candle is called the Shammash or Servant Candle. It sits higher than all the others and is lit first. The other eight candles must be lit by the Shammash rather than by a match. The purpose of lighting the candles is to celebrate the eight-day miracle which G-d performed for the Macabees. In the past it was customary to put the Hannukiyah in the window so that passersby could see it and be enlightened.

    Yeshua is the Servant Candle, the Shammash---the Light of the World.  Only He can bring the light of wisdom & understanding to us so that we can bring light to others, making known to the world the miracle of salvation.

    Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but [shall] have the light of life”. (John 8:12)

      The passersby represent the unenlightened world. Our lives, like our menorahs should be visible for the world to see:

      “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

        • We are G-d’s priests whose ministry is not restricted to the temple.

        “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people that you should show forth the praises of Him Who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: (1 Peter 2:9)

        • The oil used to light our menorahs is the most pure oil of the Holy Spirit who ‘lights’ our temples with understanding and wisdom. He is the source of our ‘light’.  He gives ‘light’ to us so that we can give it out.

          After lighting the Hanukkah candles each night, we are ready to re-dedicate our temples, the dwelling place of G-d. We are ready to replace our profaned altars with new stones.

          Barukh HaShem (Blessed is the Name of the L-rd)

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