Khanukah is coming! And we have some newer people in our congregation who are leaving behind the ways of this world, and conforming to Messiah Yeshua, who have yet to celebrate a Khanukah. They are here with us, and they are in places abroad, and we want to say Khappy Khanukah!
And, we wanted to give a brief explanation of what it is, what it meant in Yeshua’s day, and why WE celebrate it.
First, Khanukah is the celebration of Light over dark, of triumph over evil, of liberty over oppression. The Maccabees were a family of Jewish farmers living in Israel in about 167 BC, when Antiochus Epiphanese conquered Israel, defiled the temple, and subjugated Jews to Hellenistic oppression, taking away their language, their worship, and their customs. Antiochus had made it illegal to speak Hebrew, to keep the Torah, to study the Torah, to worship יהוה , to circumcise their children, basically depriving Jews of their very Jewishness. Further, he sacrificed a pig on the Altar, erected a statue of Zeus in the Sanctuary, and declared himself to be God. The Maccabees, farmers who rose up in righteous anger, raised a misfit army, and after several battles, finally defeated the mighty Greek army. They began a celebration of that victory by keeping a Sukkot “out of season.” Sukkot is the traditional time for the Dedication of the House. Khanukah actually means “Dedication”, and is seen in Tehillah [Ps] 30, a very Messianic song:
1A Mizmor; a Shir, at the Dedication of HaBa’it; by David. 2I will extol you, O יהוה , for You have raised me up, and have not suffered my enemies to rejoice over me. 3O יהוה my Elohim, I cried unto You, and You did heal me; 4O יהוה , You brought up my soul from She’ol; You did keep me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. 5Sing praise unto יהוה , O you His Khasidim, and give thanks to His Kadosh Name. 6For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a life-time; weeping may tarry for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. 7Now I had said in my security, “I shall never be moved.” 8You had established, O יהוה , in Your favor, my mountain as a stronghold. You did hide Your face; I was terrified. 9Unto You, O יהוה , did I call, and unto יהוה I made supplication: 10“What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise You? Shall it declare Your truth? 11Hear, O יהוה , and be gracious unto me; יהוה , be my helper.” 12You did turn for me my mourning into dancing; You did loose my sackcloth, and gird me with gladness; 13So that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent; O יהוה my Elohim, I will give thanks unto You forever.
That song is clearly alluding to the suffering and VICTORY of Yeshua! And it was written for the “Dedication” of the House. That phrase reads in Hebrew:
חֲנֻכַּת הַבַּיִת / khanukat ha’ba’it
The Maccabees and the Kohanim understood that the Temple was to be dedicated on Sukkot. But, as this was a re-dedication of a standing House, they decided to hold the Eight Day feast of Sukkot “out of season”. There was just enough oil for the Menorah in the Temple to burn for the Eight Nights. After the house was cleaned and ready, the first thing to do, on the 25th day of the ninth Biblical month, was to light the Menorah, and they miraculously found just enough of the very specific oil to burn for those eight nights, and resume the Worship of יהוה in His House. It was a great season of JOY! They had been unable just two months before to keep Sukkot, but now they were doing so out of season. Sukkot is known as “The Season of our Joy,” and is also associated with light. Other than the Menorah, on Sukkot, there were four HUGE poles in the courtyard of the women, and on each was four bowls for lamps. Those 16 lights were lit each of the eight nights of Sukkot, and called “The Light of the World.” The Maccabees did not light these, but I bring it up to point out the fact that it is the only God-given feast that has light commanded in it outside the Sanctuary. Every other feast, the Menorah is lit. The Menorah is lit every DAY, and there is a “Ner Tamid”, the center candle of the Menorah, that is kept perpetually burning. But, Sukkot has lights specified for outside, for eight nights. And so did the new feast, which they began to call “Khanukah”/”Dedication.
This was a time of renewal, in the darkest time of year. The earliest custom, which was practiced in the times of Yeshua, who went to the Temple during Khanukah to speak about false leaders [Antiochus; the coming false Messiah who will do similar], was to light a lamp that had eight wicks, eight separate lights. These were small oil lamps with eight holes for eight wicks, and they have been unearthed in Israel, dating back to Yeshua’s day. So, as Yeshua walked through the city to get to the Temple to preach, He would have seen these lamps in their windows. A lamp is lit, one for each night. In Germany, another, ninth lamp was added, we believe by accident. A smith minted too many lamps on a batch of “Khanukiah” lamps, and it was too late and expensive to correct, so the Jewish community called it a Shammash”, a ‘Servant’ Candle, and began using it to light the other eight lights each night, lighting the servant first, and then the candle for whichever night it was, starting right-to-left to count to the night, then lighting left to right.
Other customs developed around it to commemorate the victory. The dreidel was developed in Germany, and perhaps earlier, to commemorate the fact that Jews found clever ways to teach their children to read Hebrew, which had been done daily before the Greeks invaded in the first public school system ever. The dreidel has four letters on it. נ-ג-ה-ש, nun-gimel-heh-shin [reading the Hebrew right-to-left], standing for “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham”, or “A Great Miracle Happened There.” This commemorates the clever ways Jews hid teaching their children letters behind games. Today, we play a game with Dreidels and “gelt”, which is a fun betting game, where “gelt” is chocolate coins for the winner of each round.
Another custom is eating foods cooked in oil, like latkes. All the food for the eight nights is cooked in oil, to commemorate the miracle of having enough oil to begin to worship God again. There are other traditional foods, too, like eating cheese.
Many people give gifts each night of Khanukah. Some think this is an effort to ‘replace’ or ‘substitute’ for x-mas, and for some it may be. But, the custom of giving gifts to celebrate SALVATION from our enemies goes way back, and it would not be unfitting to do so.
For us who are Messianic, however, Khanukah has even more meaning. Yeshua was born on the first night of Sukkot, in the fall, which is provable by scripture alone, and supported by other information. Khanukah happens to be exactly NINE MONTHS before Sukkot. So, if Yeshua was born on Sukkot, then obviously he was conceived NINE MONTHS before that, which would put the moment of His conception on the 1st night of Khanukah! Khanukah celebrates the MIRACLE of LIGHT for the HOUSE OF GOD, and of VICTORY over the enemy, and FREEDOM to WORSHIP GOD! Nothing could be more MEANINGFUL than that Yeshua, the very SON of GOD, was conceived when Jews were thanking GOD for SAVING ISRAEL and giving them LIGHT for HIS HOUSE and FREEDOM to worship again in TRUTH! And they were remembering the “Season of our Joy”, and “The Light of the World”, which they had gone without for three and a half years. For believers today, who have gone without Sukkot, having Khanukah is a GREAT JOY! And we are given it during the darkest time of the year, during a long season without any of God’s commanded feasts. And we commemorate the CONCEPTION of Yeshua, which is far MORE miraculous than His birth! Today, in a world where babies are not considered babies at CONCEPTION, we JOYFULLY CELEBRATE the conception of Yeshua, KNOWING that it was LIGHT and LIFE that was conceived in Miryam’s womb during this darkest of times. Miryam [Mary] may have went home that very first night of Khanukah after having seen the Messenger of God and then conceiving the very SON OF GOD that night, and saying of her conception to herself, what she declared openly of the boy in her womb to Elizabeth six months later: “My soul magnifies יהוה , and47 my spirit rejoices in Elohim my Savior; 48for He has regarded the meekness of his handmaid; for behold, from henceforth, He will bless me in all generations. 49For He who is mighty has done great things for me; Kadosh is His Name. 50And His mercy is for ages and generations, upon those who reverence Him. 51He has brought victory with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. 52He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and he has lifted up the meek. 53He has filled the hungry with good things; and dismissed the rich empty. 54He has helped His servant Yisra’el, and has remembered His mercy, 55just as He spoke with our forefathers, with Avraham and with his descendants, forever.”
The only sacred writing to speak of Khanukah is the Brit Khadashah/New Covenant scriptures. Yokhanan/John 10 reads,
“22It was Khag Khanukah at Yerushalayim, and it was winter. 23And Yeshua was walking in the Heikhal in Shlomo’s porch [In the HOUSE]. 24Then the Y’hudim surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do you vex our soul with uncertainty? If you are the Mashi’akh, tell us openly.” 25Yeshua answered, saying to them, “I have told you, but you do not trust; yet the works which I do in the name of Avi testify of me. 26But you do not trust, because you are not of my sheep, just as I told you. 27My own sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; 28and I give to them Khayei Olam; and they will never perish, and no man will snatch them from my hands. 29For Avi who gave them to me is greater than all; and no man can snatch anything from my Father’s hand. 30I and Avi are unified.” 31Then the Y’hudim again took up stones to stone Him. 32Yeshua said to them, “I have shown you many good works from Avi; for which one of them do you stone me?” 33The Y’hudim said to Him, “It is not because of the good works that we stone you, but because you blaspheme; for while you are only a man, you make yourself Elohim.” 34Yeshua said to them, “Is it not so written in your Torah, “I said, you are elohim [gods]?” 35If he called them gods because the D’var HaElohim was with them, and the scripture cannot be broken, 36why to the one whom HaAv consecrated and sent to the world, do you say, ‘You blaspheme,’ just because I said to you, ‘I am Ben HaElohim.’ 37If I am not doing the works of Avi, do not believe me. 38But if I am doing them, even though you do not trust in me, trust in the works, so that you may know and believe that Avi is in me, and I am in Avi.” 39And they wanted again to seize Him; but He escaped from their hands.”
Now scroll back up and read Tehillah 30 again. Is there a corollary? I believe there is, and that this is no coincidence, being just three months from His betrayal. What Yeshua spoke on that night are the most controversial words ever, and part of what got Him executed. And He said them during Khanukah, which can be a very controversial custom for a believer to adopt, after having turned away from the other, we believe ‘counterfeit’ holiday that is rooted in pagan rite and that was birthed in debauchery. [Read about the Romans’ ‘twelve days of Saturnalia, that happened at this time]
So, Khanukah is a celebration of VICTORY, of LIGHT OVER DARKNESS, of the TRUE LIGHT, the LIGHT OF THE WORLD, conceived at Khanukah and born on Sukkot!