We could go into great detail about how Hanukkah is a holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid (Hellenistic) empire. We could talk about how these Hellenists wanted the Jewish people to submit to the Greek way of life. They wanted total absolute assimilation ~ from giving up the Jewish language, customs and even Jewish religion. Everything had to conform to the Greek way of life. The Jews were not happy … a good number were stubborn and would not convert to the Hellenism way of life. Seeing this as rebellion, the Greeks took steps to force these Jews to convert.
An ultimatum was given, the Jewish community must give up these distinctive customs ( the keeping of the seventh day Shabbat, Kosher laws, the act of circumcision, the worship at the Temple, and all sacrifices).. As a further attempt to eradicate Jewish heritage, the Greeks destroyed the inside of the Temple and everything sacred within it… even going as far as sacrificing a pig on the altar and erecting a statue of their god Zeus.
We could speak about an old Godly priest named Mattathias and his five sons, who led the uprising against the Greeks, taking on their army, the largest army in the known world and defeating them. We can talk about the hard work of cleansing the Temple and restoring the furnishings. But let’s talk about the Menorah. You see, the Menorah was very special, it provided continual light inside the walls of the Temple. The Temple Menorah burned a special kind of olive oil, one that was time consuming to make due to the purity. The Maccabees found that the Greek army had destroyed all vessels of this oil but one. it contained only enough oil to burn for one day. They knew it would take at least eight days to get more. After prayerful discussion, they decided to fill the menorah and light it. It is then that the miracle occurred! The oil burned for eight days!
But that’s not the only miracle in this! What did Adonai provide for us through the five sons of Mattathias? The miracle of freedom! Freedom from the tyranny of an oppressor. These men were brave, men that knew that Adonai would not have them submit to the pagan gods of the Greeks.
So tonight, the fifth night of Hanukkah 5779 I will watch my children and grandchildren light the Menorah, say the prayers, and spin the dreidel! And I will cry tears of joy and happiness that we live in a country that allows us freedom.
I believe Hanukkah was foretold in the book of Daniel 8:21-22. For Christian believers, you can read YahShuah (Jesus) going to the Temple during Hanukkah in the book of John chapter 10:22-23.
I say Happy Hanukkah! Let’s all eat some fried foods and celebrate freedom!
The writer is the pastor at House of Blessed Hope Assembly in Sidney. The church’s website is beitbaruchtikvah.net.