Rabbi Schneider — The Feast of Dedication
My name's Rabbi Schneider. Welcome to this special Hanukkah edition of Discovering the Jewish Jesus. Now probably there are many watching right now, and you're wondering what Hanukkah has to do with being a Christian.
But did you know that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah? The English word for Hanukkah means dedication. Hanukkah's Hebrew, and the English equivalent is dedication. Listen now as I read from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 22.
At that time the Feast of the Dedication, that actually in Hebrew is Hanukkah. So Jesus was in the temple, we're gonna read, during Hanukkah.
At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and you do not believe. (John 10:22-25)
Jesus not only celebrated Hanukkah, beloved ones, but he was in the temple during this feast announcing that he was the Messiah. Now Hanukkah's what's called an intertestamental holiday, which means that the historical events that led to the celebration of this day that we call the Feast of Dedication or Hanukkah, took place after the Old Testament was completed but before the New Testament began to be written.
So the period between the time that the Old Testament was finished being written and the time that began when the New Testament started to be written, the time in between the Old and New Testaments is called the intertestamental period. And that's when the feast of Hanukkah came into being.
Here's how it came to be. Israel was in their land. The Jewish people were in their own land but they were under the control and under the government of the Greco-Assyrians.
So even though Jewish people were living in the land of Ararat Israel, they were in Israel, they were not in control, but they were under the Greco-Assyrian authorities there.
And so during this time period, the Greco-Assyrian political rulers were controlling much of what Jewish people were allowed to do. And there was a heavy pressure on them to conform to the Greco-Assyrian culture.
In other words, there was a man by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes. He was the highest ruler in the land. And he was trying to get everybody that was under his jurisdiction to adopt his cultures, to adopt the Greco-Assyrian cultures.
He wanted them to not have any religion, but the religion of the Greco-Assyrians. He wanted them to sacrifice their own, to his gods. He didn't want them to be different than he was.
And so there was tremendous pressure on the Jewish people living there to what we call assimilate. To assimilate means to become like the people around you.
And there was so much pressure on the Israelites living in the Greco-Assyrian culture to become like them that many of the Jewish people did become like them.
Many of them began to sacrifice to Greek gods and to fall away from adherence to the law of God and to the principles of the God of Israel. And instead they began to adopt the values of the Greco-Assyrian culture.
They were assimilating. They were becoming like the people around them rather than remaining a separate and a holy people. But there were some living in the land that resisted.
And what happened one day was the Greco-Assyrian soldiers as they were going throughout the land of Israel forcing the Jewish people to assimilate, the Greco-Assyrian soldiers came into a town called Modi'in.
And there was a band of Jewish people living in this town and there was a priest there, a Jewish priest by the name of Mattathias. And the Greco-Assyrians commanded Mattathias, the Jewish priest, to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god.
And when Mattathias because of his allegiance to the God of Israel refused to do it, the Jewish people that were with him suddenly became terrified that the Greco-Assyrian soldiers were going to retaliate and kill them all.
And in this state of fear and panic, one of the Jewish people said, I'll do it. And when this Jewish person agreed to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god, Mattathias, the Jewish priest, got so upset with this traitor to the God of Israel, that he slew him.
And when the rest of the Jewish people saw Mattathias's courage and his uncompromising spirit, when they saw him slay this Jewish compromiser, it so invigorated them and it so inspired them that they all banded together and rallied together and came against the Greco-Assyrian soldiers.
And literally by courage, drove them out. And this became the beginning of what is called the army of the Maccabees. The Maccabee is a Jewish word. It means hammer.
And this revolt that began in Modi'in with the confidence and courage of the Jewish priest, Mattathias, again, it rallied the Jewish people together to revolt against the Greco-Assyrians. They became an army.
They were made up of a rag-tag group of Jewish people. They became known as the Maccabees, because they were so effective in warfare. Again, the word Maccabee means hammer.
And the way that they were able to defeat the Greco-Assyrians for a time was they would wait for the Greco-Assyrians to come into different cities. And they would be hiding in caves, and behind, behind mountains, and so on and so forth.
And when the Greco-Assyrian soldiers came into the different lands and provinces in Israel, the Jewish army that was hiding would then suddenly come out of their hiding places and ambush them. In fact it was one of the first records we have of guerilla warfare where the army would hide and then ambush the opposing force when they came in and were not prepared for an attack.
And what happened was in B.C. in Judaism they call it BCE, Before Common Era, the Jewish Maccabees, the Jewish rag-tag army, was so effective in driving out the Greco-Assyrian soldiers from all of Israel that they were able to re-capture the temple, because the temple had been taken over by the Greco-Assyrians.
The Greco-Assyrians had desecrated it. They defiled it. They were even sacrificing pigs to Zeus in the temple. But the rag-tag, Maccabee, Jewish warriors were so effective that by they were able to, BC, they were able to drive out the Greco-Assyrians from the land.
They re-captured the temple. And when they got into the temple they began to consecrate the temple back to God. They began to clean it. They found the Torah. They cleaned the Torah off.
But when they got to the menorah, they found out that there was only enough oil in the temple to light the menorah, the menorah that was always burning in the temple, there was only enough oil there they found though, that the menorah would burn for one day.
And legend tells us that what happened was rather than the menorah, when they re-dedicated the temple, this is called the Feast of Dedication because Hanukkah means dedication. They re-dedicated the temple back to the God of Israel in BCE.
And the story goes, the tradition that we have as Jewish people is that when they re-dedicated the temple back to God, even though the Hanukkah menorah should have only burned for one day, supernaturally the candle burned for eight days.
And so during Hanukkah, beloved ones, each year what we do is we light a special menorah called the Hanukkah menorah. Now this looks familiar because it's the symbol of Judaism.
But one of the things that I want to point out here is that this is different from the menorah that was in the temple and the menorah that is often times used as a symbol of Judaism today, because the menorah that was in the temple and the menorah that we use often times as a symbol of Judaism is a seven tiered or a seven branch menorah.
But notice that this menorah, which is a Hanukkah menorah, it's different. This has nine different candles coming from it. You can see there's four here, four here and then one on top. And the reason this is different is because it represents the eight days that the oil in the menorah supernaturally burned when they re-dedicated the temple.
The reason that there's a ninth candle here is because this candle, the ninth one, is lit and when they light the one on top it's called the Shamash, or the servant candle, this candle then is used to light the menorah each day.
In other words, they'll take, they'll light the center candle, which is the servant or Shamash candle and with it they'll light one of the candles each day. The first night of Hanukkah we'll light one candle.
The second night we'll take the Shamash and light two candles. The third night of Hanukkah we'll light the Shamash, the center candle, the servant candle, and light three candles, and on and on until the final eighth day of Hanukkah.
So that's just a little background about Hanukkah. It's a very fun holiday. As Jewish children in the United States we love Hanukkah because we get presents for eight days. And this is actually a Western way of celebrating Hanukkah.
In Israel they don't do that. But in the United States the culture developed around Hanukkah for the Jewish parents to give their children a present for every day of Hanukkah. And this largely was because the Jewish children were complaining that the Christians got presents during Christmas.
And because Hanukkah falls on the calendar during the same season, during the same time frame roughly as Christmas falls, the Jewish parents kind of got tired of their children, you know, thinking that the Christians had it better because they got presents.
And so to offset that, the Jewish parents began to give their children a present during one of every days' of Hanukkah. So now they got eight presents.