The Tabernacle Times
November 2013                                  Cheshvan - Kislev 5774                              Volume 8 Issue 11


Rabbi & Brenda
by Rabbi Jeremy
& Brenda Storch
  Why talk about Hanukkah in November?  Well, this year the first light is lit on the earliest date possible, November 27th - the night before Thanksgiving!  Oy vay!

Hanukkah, alternately called the “Feast of Dedication” and the “Festival of Lights”, is at once the best know and least known of the Jewish holidays.  Yeshua (Jesus) Himself celebrated Hanukkah as told in John 10:22-23.  Tradition demands that we recount the story of the menorah at the Holy Temple, how is stayed lit for eight days with only one day’s supply of oil.  Unfortunately, the events leading up to this miracle are often forgotten.

Hanukkah is not mentioned in the bible as we know it, but is in the apocryphal books of the Macabees.

The story begins in 336 BC when Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, which included Judea (Israel).  The Jews and Alexander had a good association; Alexander allowed and encouraged Judaism to flourish, even sponsoring many sacrifices in the Temple. 

After the death of Alexander, Judea fell under the rule of the Ptolemies of Alexandria.  The Jewish people were heavily influenced by the Hellenistic culture of the day and began to assimilate into the Greek society.  Forsaking the ways of their fathers, they adopted the Greek fashion of dress, language and philosophies.  It was during this time that an unstable madman named Antiochus Epiphanes came into power. 

In 168 BC, while claiming that he came to Jerusalem in peace, Epiphanes plundered the money of the Holy Temple, pillaged the city, and took 10,000 captives to be sold into slavery.  His soldiers burned, looted, and killed anyone who might oppose them.  On the 25th of Kislev, 168 BC, Epiphanes committed the greatest insult to the Jewish people by erecting a statue of Zeus Olympus on the altar in the Temple of Jerusalem and sacrificed a swine upon it.  He then splattered the blood into the Holy of Holies.  The goal was to break the Jews of their “backward” religion.

Antiochus enacted a number of anti-Jewish decrees including prohibiting Temple worship, forced desecration of the Sabbath, and the outlawing of
  the battle just finished, they rose to the challenge by removing the defiled altar and replacing it, scrubbing the floors and walls, and putting everything in place in preparation for a holy sacrifice.  On the 25th of Kislev in 165 BC, exactly three years after it had been defiled by Antiochus Epipanes, it was finished. 

When the time came to relight the menorah only one jar of pure, undefiled holy oil could be found; it would take eight days for more oil to be obtained.  The High Priest, determined to rededicate the Temple, lit the menorah even if it was to last only one day.  Miraculously the menorah remained lit for the entire eight days until a new supply of holy oil arrived.  The people of the city rejoiced, thanking God for His favor.  It was declared that every year on the 25th of Kislev, Hanukkah (which means “dedication”) was to be celebrated to commemorate the victory in battle.  The menorah is lit for eight days to recollect the miracle of the oil.

A variety of other traditions surround the festival of Hanukkah; a main theme is the same as almost all of the other Jewish Holidays - They tried to kill us!  We won!  Let’s eat!  Hanukkah would not be complete without potato latkes (pancakes) and soofganiyot (jelly donuts) – why do we eat them?  Because the oil they are fried in reminds us of the oil in the menorah. 
circumcision.  These decrees brought great anguish for the Jews and although some complied, many others refused.  Tensions mounted.  In a small town outside of Jerusalem, an elderly priest named Mattathias witnessed a pig being sacrificed on the altar in the village square.  Enraged, he killed the man with a quick thrust of his dagger and cried “Whoever is for God and His Law, follow me!”  He, along with his five sons and a small group of rebels, fled to the hills.  The   Yad   The dreidel (the 4-sided top commonly seen at Hanukkah) and gelt (gold covered chocolate pieces) are reminders that
revolution had begun.

This ragtag group of villagers elected Judah, Mattathias’ eldest son to lead the battle that would soon be coming.  Judah Macabee was known as “the Hammer”; the rebels, “the Macabees”.  They did not have to wait long before Antiochus, who hearing of the revolt, mobilized his troop and attacked the little group.  Miraculously the little band of warriors prevailed and defeated the mighty Greek army. 

Now free of Greek domination, the Jews began the enormous undertaking of repairing the damage that had been done to their Holy Temple.  As in

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  during those dark days in Judea, reading Torah was forbidden.  Jews gathered together secretly to study the Word of God.  If they were discovered, they pretended that they were gambling with a dreidel and coins and would thereby escape arrest.  In more recent times the exchanging of gifts has become a tradition in America, as well as in Israel.  One present is exchanged each night for the eight nights of Hanukkah. 

Many people attempt to associate Hanukkah with Christmas, but truly it is more like a 4th of July celebration, celebrating freedom from tyranny, rededication of the House of God, and most of all – miracles!

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