Jonathan Bernis - Chanukah
Jonathan Bernis: Welcome to Jewish Voice, where we help you to discover the Jewish roots of your Christian faith, Bible prophecy, and why you should stand with Israel. I'm rabbi Jonathan Bernis and I'm joined again today by my co-host, Ezra Benjamin. Now, this week we're looking at Chanukah, which is also known as The Feast of Dedication, or The Festival of Lights. Now, you may have heard that this is the Jewish alternative to Christmas, but it's really so much more. Well, Ezra, we're doing this show before we actually celebrate Chanukah to prepare people that are watching to actually celebrate Chanukah in their homes this year alongside Christmas.
Ezra Benjamin: Not just understanding what your Jewish neighbors at home are doing, but actually being able to participate and engage in the holiday itself.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, because this is an event that applies to every believer in the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.
Jonathan Bernis: And more importantly even, or maybe not more importantly, but another thing I want to mention that's important, is that it also celebrates Yeshua. It celebrates Jesus. There's a direct application to the observance of Chanukah and our relationship with the Messiah of Israel, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, it's so important to understand. Now, Jonathan, I have a question right off the bat. You may be looking in your Bible at home, saying, “i don't see Chanukah in here. It's not one of the biblical feasts.” what's going on with that? Did Jesus celebrate Chanukah? Is it really a biblical holiday?
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, there's a few questions in there that we need to explore. First of all, is Chanukah mentioned, historical Chanukah mentioned in the Old Testament? And the answer is no, because it took place during what we call the intertestamental period. What's the intertestamental period? It's the period between the completion of the Torah, the writings and the prophets, and their canonization. In other words, the decision of what was going to be in the Jewish scriptures, of the New Testament.
Ezra Benjamin: Okay.
Jonathan Bernis: So, the story takes place in actually about, and according to historians, 167 B.C.
Ezra Benjamin: All right.
Jonathan Bernis: So, we're talking about almost 200 years before Jesus comes, about 230 years, 250 years before the New Testament begins to be penned. So, this is the intertestamental period. We do, however, have books that are not part of the canon of the Old Testament, but are included in the Catholic Bible - four books, in fact, known as the books of Maccabee.
Ezra Benjamin: So, these are historic books about that intertestamental period, explaining what was happening with Israel.
Jonathan Bernis: Right. They tell the story of Chanukah and you can find it again in the apocrypha. It's in the apocrypha and it's in many Jewish writings as well.
Ezra Benjamin: Interesting. So, what was happening, Jonathan? What was the first Chanukah like, and how did we get there as a people?
Jonathan Bernis: Well, that's a good question, and let me try but I want to make this statement first: without Chanukah, there's no Christmas. That's, I think, an important point. Without Chanukah, there would be no Christmas.
Ezra Benjamin: What do you mean by that?
Jonathan Bernis: What I mean by that, and now getting into the history, as in 167 B.C., Israel was occupied by Syrian forces, and this was the world power at the time. AsSyria was the world power at the time, and they invaded Israel under the reign of a king named Antiochus Epiphanes. Don't try to say that too many times. Antiochus Epiphanes - in fact, Antiochus Epiphanes iv, who was a type of antichrist. He was in fact an antichrist, and the picture of the antichrist that will come and desecrate the temple during the tribulation period is actually a repeat of what Antiochus Epiphanes iv did during this period.
Ezra Benjamin: So, a type of the antichrist, meaning attempting to destroy the Jewish people and desecrating the temple.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, so he did a few things. One, he erected a statue of Zeus in the temple. Two, he desecrated the holy of holies. This is the place that the high priest would go into where we had the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat, and would make atonement. That was the holy of holies, and he sacrificed a pig in the holy of holies. So, what happened? It desecrated the temple. In other words, temple sacrifice ceased after that.
Ezra Benjamin: Because it was unclean.
Jonathan Bernis: It was unclean. It was unusable. Now, that was an intentional act to eradicate Judaism, what was biblical Judaism at that time. Then, he sent soldiers throughout Israel, what was then Israel, to force people to pledge their allegiance to him, to bow down and worship their Gods, in direct defiance, of course. Jewish people.
Ezra Benjamin: He said don't worship the God of Israel, worship the God of the Assyrians?
Jonathan Bernis: By decree. And so, this of course was a violation of the first commandment, of course, to honor God and not to bow down to other idols. So, of course, many devout Jews could not do that and they were put to death.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: The next part of the story is they're in a village called modI'in, which is actually right next to the modern day ben gurion airport.
Ezra Benjamin: Right, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Jonathan Bernis: Exactly. So when you fly into Israel today, you're actually landing right on the spot where this whole story takes place.
Ezra Benjamin: Sure. Okay, so what happens next, Jonathan?
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, so the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes marched into modI'in. They gather the people together, command them to bow down to other Gods, and one of the families, under a priest named Mattathias, refused to do it and took up arms, and that was the beginning of a revolt, the Maccabean revolt. It all starts there.
Ezra Benjamin: So, the Jews rise up, Jonathan, and take a stand against the oppression.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, and this of course spreads throughout the land, and we have what many historians, military historians, say is the beginning of Guerilla warfare. Because, Ezra, they are vastly outnumbered.
Ezra Benjamin: The Jewish people are outnumbered.
Jonathan Bernis: The Jewish people vastly outnumbered. And this is the history, by the way, of Israel, one kingdom after another coming in and invading the land and subjugating the people.
Ezra Benjamin: Sure.
Jonathan Bernis: So, this is a rallying cry. The family, the Maccabean family, which becomes the priestly family later on because they're heroes now, and one of the sons, Judah, actually Judah the Hammer, becomes the military leader for this revolt. And miraculously, vastly outnumbered, and it's the same story we see over and over again with the state of Israel. 1948, when Israel becomes a state, they're vastly outnumbered, 60 to 1, but they prevail. In 1967, 1973, all miracles. So, this is no exception. This is a four year battle. And in the end, vastly outnumbered, the Maccabees, in this rag-tag military group, defeats the world power, the Assyrians, and they drive them out, and they rededicate the temple in 163 B.C. And again, that's why I say without Chanukah, without this miracle, without that intervention, there would be no second temple, there would be no place for Jesus to come to.
Ezra Benjamin: The Jewish people would have assimilated or been destroyed, frankly.
Jonathan Bernis: Right, so the Messianic line would have been cut off.
Ezra Benjamin: Wow.
Jonathan Bernis: So this was a miracle of God that we celebrate at Chanukah, and yes, it's become sort of a replacement for Christmas. We get gifts, and I used to love Chanukah because, gosh, my friends got gifts one day at Christmas - we got eight days.
Ezra Benjamin: You got eight days.
Jonathan Bernis: Of presents, but it's far more significant than that.
Ezra Benjamin: Right. Now, eight nights of presents, Jonathan, that's pretty awesome, but why was it an eight day celebration? Why is it?
Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, because of what happened following the defeat of the Assyrians. They had to rededicate the temple. Remember, Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple with the sacrifice of a pig. Now they had to rededicate the temple so that they could again begin sacrifices. And the miracle is that the oil that they found for the lampstand lasted for eight days, and it was only enough oil for one. That's the miracle of Chanukah. We have a chanukiah here, but it has nine. It's nine-branched - eight days and then the other one directly connects to Jesus as the Messiah, and that's what I'm going to talk about when we come back. We're going to talk about how Yeshua, how Jesus fulfills the feast of dedication, the feast of lights - Chanukah. So, don't go anywhere. We have to take a quick break, but we'll be right back with more, and again, you'll learn that Chanukah is not just Jewish! It's for you as a believer in Jesus.
Jonathan Bernis: I just want to express my gratitude personally to all of you who have been standing with this ministry. Thank you for your gifts of support. We could not do what we do without you. We just couldn't do it. Well, if you just joined us, I'm talking with Ezra Benjamin about the upcoming festival of lights or feast of dedication, Chanukah, and Ezra, this is important for everyone watching. This is not just some Jewish celebration, this is for every believer.
Ezra Benjamin: It has significance for all believers, Jew and gentile alike.
Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely.
Ezra Benjamin: Now, Jonathan, we talked about the history. We talked about Judas Maccabeus and reconquering the land of Israel what God had given to our people, but I'm still not clear. Why the festival of lights, and why the festival of dedication? Bring that in for us.
Jonathan Bernis: So first of all, to say it again, this happens 200 years before Jesus was born, and unless God intervened, we would have no Christmas. The Messianic line would have been destroyed. The land of Israel would have been destroyed. The temple that Jesus came to worship in would have been destroyed. It had already been desecrated.
Ezra Benjamin: Sure.
Jonathan Bernis: And through this miracle, which took a four year period, Israel prevailed and ultimately the Messiah was able to come. Now, what's significant for every Christian is what the feast symbolizes, what it celebrates. It celebrates the rededication of the temple, which was desecrated with the sacrifice of a pig. When they went to rededicate the temple, they found only enough oil to light the lampstand for one day, but it burnt while they could render new oil to rededicate the holy of holies.
Ezra Benjamin: And that's so significant, because we're commanded in Torah - Moses is commanded to dedicate the temple to worship the Lord. You have to burn the menorah for eight days. It's a commandment.
Jonathan Bernis: Now, here's what so critical for Christians to know. The feast of re-dedication, or Chanukah, doesn't appear in the Jewish scriptures. It doesn't appear in the Old Testament. Interestingly, it does appear in the New Testament. Jesus observed Chanukah. We're told very clearly in John 10, and I want you to look there with me. John 10, beginning in verse 22, it says, “then came Chanukah” in the TLV. Other translations say the feast of dedication. “and it was winter.” Why? Because this is a winter observance. “And it was in Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking in the temple around Solomon's colonnade.” It's a specific... Note that, Solomon's colonnade. And they asked him plainly. They confronted him there, saying, “Don't hold us in suspense, are you the Messiah?”
Ezra Benjamin: Wow!
Jonathan Bernis: Now, what's significant about Solomon's colonnade? According to rabbinic literature, it says that when they rededicated the temple, they had the desecrated stones from the holy of holies. They didn't know what to do with them. So, where did they pile them? They piled them next to Solomon's colonnade.
Ezra Benjamin: Wow!
Jonathan Bernis: Why did they wait? Why did they hold the stones there? Because they didn't know whether to keep them or to discard them, and the conclusion was the Messiah will know what to do.
Ezra Benjamin: Wow.
Jonathan Bernis: So, the context is they're saying we need to know if you're the Messiah so you can tell us what to do with these stones for Chanukah.
Ezra Benjamin: Right here in front of the stones.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, so that's one application. Jesus celebrated, Jesus observed Chanukah. The other thing is it's the feast of dedication or re-dedication. The Bible talks repeatedly about dedication or re-dedication of our life to the Lord. Here's the good news for all of you watching. We're all gonna sin, but the Bible says if we confess our sins, he's faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Ezra Benjamin: To rededicate us, in a way.
Jonathan Bernis: So that season is extremely relevant for every Christian watching. This is a season of re-dedication. Just as the Jewish people rededicated the temple for sacrifices, for service, this is an opportunity for eight days to rededicate our life to the Lord. How do we do that? And the answer is found in this menorah.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: A unique menorah, it's called the chanukiah. Take a look closely. The menorah in the temple, the lampstand, has seven branches.
Ezra Benjamin: But, this one has nine, Jonathan.
Jonathan Bernis: This has nine. Why does it have nine? First of all, eight of them are representing the eight nights that we observe Chanukah, and we either put oil or a candle in the chanukiah, and we light a new one every night. So, for eight nights we're lighting the candles. Why is there a ninth? Well, this one is called the “sHamash.” the sHamash - say that with me at home, “sHamash.” “sHamash” means servant.
Ezra Benjamin: Wow.
Jonathan Bernis: Watch the symbolism. This is really exciting when you get it! The sHamash is a candle, a servant candle, that we use to light the other eight. So, the one we light at home is the sHamash candle, and then the sHamash lights the candles each night of Chanukah.
Ezra Benjamin: The sHamash brings light to the other lights.
Jonathan Bernis: You get it. You're getting it. Jesus said, “i am the light of the world.” but, the scripture also says that we're the light of the world, and we can't hide that light. So, the idea is that we're celebrating Chanukah, lighting the chanukiah, the menorah, every night by lighting the sHamash, and then, gathered with our children, gathered together with our grandchildren. As a family we're lighting, and my kids are doing this at home with us. We are using the sHamash to light the other candles, and we are reminding ourselves, we are declaring to ourselves, that Yeshua, the sHamash, the servant that laid down his life for us, for you and for me, is lighting us, is lighting the other candles, and we are reminding ourselves that we are his light to the world. And we dedicate ourselves, we rededicate ourselves over these eight nights. It's fantastic for the children, it's fantastic for the grandchildren, and it applies to every single one of you watching.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, not just for Jewish people, Jonathan, but for all of us around the world.
Jonathan Bernis: Every one. I'm getting chills talking about this.
Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, this is such an important message. Every time you see a chanukiah, remember the light of the world that gives light to every other light, not just the Jewish people, but you at home as well.
Jonathan Bernis: This year, I want you to celebrate Chanukah. I want you to get a chanukiah. I want you to celebrate Chanukah.
Ezra Benjamin: Jonathan, we've talked about the lesson here, but there's something else we haven't unpacked. There's a miracle in Chanukah, that this one night's worth of this oil of dedication lasted eight nights. Talk about the oil.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, there's miracles. It's a celebration of miracles. A little tiny army defeats this world power. God's in that. God supplies. And it's also significant that the miracle is with oil. It's oil and it's not just any oil. It's not just olive oil. It's specially prepared oil that takes eight days. There's Frankincense, there's myrrh, there's all kinds of spices. It takes eight days to prepare and that oil, Ezra, expands to last eight days so that new oil can go through this preparation process. Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
Ezra Benjamin: Wow.
Jonathan Bernis: It's a picture of the Holy Spirit. This is God expanding. This is God supplying. This is a miracle. When we look back at Chanukah, we say in Hebrew, “nes gadol haya sham.”
Ezra Benjamin: A great miracle happened there.
Jonathan Bernis: Exactly - a great miracle happened there, or in Israel “nes gadol haya po”, a great miracle happened here. What is the miracle? God expanding, God supplying. My scripture tells me that my God shall supply for every need according to his riches and glory in the Messiah. You may have a need today. It may be a financial need. It may be a family need. It may be a need for healing. There's oil. Just as there was oil found at Chanukah, there is oil. The oil of the Holy Spirit is available to you and God wants to supply. God wants to perform a miracle. God wants to expand. And I speak the miracle of Chanukah over your life, and I declare in Chanukah there is provision. There is provision. In the Holy Spirit, there is provision for your need and it is met.
Ezra Benjamin: Amen.
Jonathan Bernis: In Jesus' name.
Ezra Benjamin: Amen. Such an important truth, Jonathan. I love that our holidays aren't just our holidays, they're your holidays, too. Everyone can celebrate, Jew and gentile alike.
Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, and see how Jesus connects to this, how the Holy Spirit connects to all these things are types and shadows of that which was to come, and he who was to come has come, and he's provided his spirit for us, for you and for us.
Ezra Benjamin: Amen.
Jonathan Bernis: And that's available to you. God's spirit is available to you. We're gonna have to take a short break, but we'll be right back with our “ask the rabbi” segment. We've received some great questions from you, so don't go anywhere.
Jonathan Bernis: Well, welcome back. Today we've been talking about Chanukah, also known as the festival of lights, the feast of dedication. And Ezra, we've had a few questions specifically connected to this theme of Chanukah, which we're going to be celebrating shortly.
Ezra Benjamin: Right.
Jonathan Bernis: Let's look at a few.
Ezra Benjamin: Okay. Jonathan, first off, Kim from Spartanburg, South Carolina asks, “what is the difference between a menorah and a chanukiah?”
Jonathan Bernis: Good question. The number of branches and the actual meaning. So, the menorah, has seven branches, the seven days of creation. The seventh day they rested, but six days for creation, that's the lampstand and in the temple. Chanukiah looks similar, but it has nine branches instead of seven - eight to celebrate the eight nights of Chanukah or the eight days of Chanukah and commemorate the miracle of the oil, which we talked about earlier, and the ninth is the sHamash. It stands higher and it lights the other candles. That represents, we believe, Yeshua, who is our servant and the light of the world that lights us up and commands us to be a light to the world. Good question.
Ezra Benjamin: Rebecca from Newark, Delaware asks, “I want to reach out to my Jewish neighbor concerning Chanukah, in order to show my care for him. What would be a good way to do that?”
Jonathan Bernis: The best way to do that is to invite them over to your home one night during Chanukah, and light the chanukiah. Light the candles with them, with your kids and your grandkids, and just show them that you are observing the holiday with them, and of course, talk about Yeshua as the light of the world, and you do this as his disciple, because he is the light of the world and you are a light to the world through him and in him. That's a tremendous testimony. And you can make potato latkes along the way and serve them dinner, and they'll be very, very happy. So, you can get that recipe from us.
Ezra Benjamin: I can taste them now, Jonathan.
Jonathan Bernis: I can. I love them!
Ezra Benjamin: Tim from Cleveland, Ohio asks, “I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, and that as a gentile believer, I'm grafted in. Should I be participating in the traditional festivals of the Jewish people?”
Jonathan Bernis: Tim, I absolutely think you should be. It's not legalism, it's not bondage, it's to celebrate that Jesus, Yeshua, is the fulfillment of all of these holidays. It doesn't mean that they're done away with, but he's brought them to full and new meaning, and you can celebrate that by observing these different feasts with Yeshua, with Jesus at the center. Great questions today. I wish we had time for more. We do want to take a moment to agree with you for your needs. We get lots of prayer requests here at Jewish Voice. Listen, we pray over every prayer request diligently. I consider my role to be your rabbi through this program. I hope you have a good pastor, a good church, but we pray for every need that comes into the ministry, and we agree with you in the name of Jesus that every need is met. And I want you to know we're about to be taking off time, a week time of fasting and prayer. We will pray for every need that comes into this ministry. So, write to us with your prayer requests, and we believe where two or three agree on earth as touching anything, it shall be done. So, we're standing with you for that miracle, for that healing, for that divine provision, and for that restoration of your spouse, your child, your loved one back to the Lord and back to your family. If you have prayer needs or you'd like more information about our ministry, you can log on to jewishvoice.tv. It's all on our website, jewishvoice.tv. Just remember that God loves you, and so do we. As we close our program, I want to remind you of what it says in Psalm 122:6. I think you should highlight that in your Bible. “pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper who love thee.” So if you want to prosper this week, pray for Israel, pray for the Jewish people that God has put into your life. They're not there by accident. We're out of time. Until next week, this is Jonathan Bernis with Ezra Benjamin, saying shalom and God bless you.