Hanukkah: The Light of Rededication

Tonight begins the first night of Hanukkah. Every year, I get quite a few questions about this holiday. “Is it the Jewish Christmas?” “Do you get presents?” “Do you have a Hanukkah tree?” “This is the holiday where you’re fasting, right?” But probably the most frequent, and important, question I get asked is, “What are you celebrating at Hanukkah?”

The short answer to these questions is, no, Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, traditionally there are no presents at Hanukkah, there is no Hanukkah tree, and we don’t fast during Hanukkah.

But the answer to what we’re celebrating at Hanukkah requires more explanation.

While Hanukkah is considered a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar (Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Passover are the major holidays) it is still a very significant and meaningful time for all believers. Hanukkah is the season where we celebrate a military victory of the Maccabees over the Romans and a spiritual victory of YHVH’s way of life over assimilation and a loss of faith.

A Hanukkah History
In 200 BC, Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and gained the region of Judea (modern day West Bank area) as part of its kingdom. Antiochus III wanted to make peace within his new kingdom so he allowed the Jews to continue worshipping as they pleased and to live according to Torah.

But in 175 BC, after killing his two nephews who were the legitimate successors of the throne, Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne. As a side note, Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ original name was Mithradates. This is important as it connects to the pagan origins of Christmas.

After assuming the throne, rumors spread that he had been killed and in his “death” a revolt was taking place in Jerusalem. In response, he stormed Jerusalem, quelled the revolt, and subsequently killed 40,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery as recorded by the contemporary historian Josephus and the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees.

In order to strengthen his hold over the region, he outlawed Jewish traditions and practices and, instead, ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god. He then sent his army to enforce this decree. They defiled YHVH’s Holy Temple by dedicating it to Zeus, bringing obelisks and other abominable objects into the Temple, and pouring the blood of slaughtered pigs in the Temple and the Holy of Holies.

According to Josephus, public worship of YHVH, including sacrifices, was shut down for 3½ years because of Antiochus IV’s proclamation.

The Maccabees
After Antiochus Epiphanes’ decree spread, a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. This rebel group became known as the Maccabees or “hammer” in Hebrew.

The Maccabean revolt began when Antiochus’ army ordered that Mattathias sacrifice a pig on the altar of YHVH. When he refused, a fellow priest stepped forward to sacrifice the pig in hopes the army would then leave them alone. Mattathias, rather than see YHVH’s altar profaned and a priest commit blasphemy, killed the priest and afterwards fled to the wilderness with his sons.

Jewish opinion differs on how long the Maccabean revolt actually lasted. Some believe the revolt lasted 20 years, ending only when the entire Judean region had been reconquered and the Hasmonean Dynasty was established. Most, however, believe the revolt lasted 7 years – starting when the sacrifices were stopped and ending when the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were reclaimed.

Rededication of the Temple of YHVH
After seven years of living in the wilderness, hiding in caves, and engaging in rebel warfare, the Maccabees emerged victorious. They entered Jerusalem with their hearts full of joy, only to find the Temple of YHVH completely defiled.

Pigs had been slaughtered on the altar of YHVH. Pagan asherah poles, obelisks, and dozens of idols had been placed in the Temple. There was fornication and orgies, worship of hundreds of pagan gods, and many more blasphemes that had taken place. In order to restore the ways of YHVH and Temple workings, the Maccabees began the task of cleansing the Temple.

Part of Temple protocol is that the light from the menorah must burn continually. Thus, lighting the menorah was one of the first actions the Maccabees took. According to Rabbinic tradition, the Maccabees could only find enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, but miraculously the oil lasted for eight days and they were able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple.

Rededication of Our Temples
As you can see, Hanukkah is indeed a very significant holiday filled with a rich history and spiritual inspiration. Hanukkah is about searching our own hearts and lives and reexamining any areas we may have gotten off the path of God. It is a time for us to rededicate the temple of our lives to YHVH and return to His purpose for our life. In a world that is trying to erase  Judeo-Christian values and redefine what is right and wrong, we need to be like the Maccabees who defended what they knew to be right, no matter the sacrifice.

This Hanukkah, as we light the candles and reflect on our own lives, I pray God would give each of us the courage to stand strong in the face of adversity and would reveal how we too can be a light to the world.

Chag Urim Sameach! Happy Festival of Lights!

Ferguson is the New “Palestine”???

*WARNING: This post contains graphic images.*

Ok…so I’m sure pretty much everybody has heard about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. The grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson and, unsurprisingly, people went crazy. Personally, I think these people just used this situation as another excuse to do whatever they wanted. I also think that they are getting WAY too much media attention. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, many of the protestors in Ferguson in the immediate aftermath were not even Ferguson residents but were bussed in from other cities. Perhaps if the media stopped focusing on these miscreants, and stopped making them celebrities (no matter for how short of time) maybe some of the incentive to riot would go away. Perhaps they would find something else to fill up their time…like figuring out new ways to stay perpetually connected to the government teat. Or instead of taking road trips to Ferguson, they could plan the next Jack Kerouac road trip to Seattle on the their search for cheaper pot. But I digress…

But not all the blame can be laid on these butt-faced miscreants. Oh no…….the liberal leaders of the progressive movement should shoulder their fair-share of the blame too. I mean, we all know how much liberals love to redistribute stuff and how they want everything to just be fair!

Leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should be all over this telling people to not be violent or to stop the destruction and chaos they are causing. These people are destroying the city and these leaders have been silent on showing restraint. Instead, they fan the flames of hatred and division among the people. And when these flood gates are opened, they are nearly impossible to close.

Think of a dam. If a few drops escape, no big deal. But when the entire infrastructure gives way, things get out of control quick! The waves created are usually bigger and reach much further than ever expected. And the destruction they can cause is often irreparable.

That is exactly what is happening with the Ferguson situation. Left unchecked, these protestors have taken on a life of their own. They are beginning to reach much further than what logically makes sense and making their way into political realms that don’t readily share a connection.

Pictures coming out of Seattle are showing protestors of the decision in Ferguson holding a sign that says, “Occupation is a crime Ferguson to Palestine resist U.S. racism boycott Israel.” Ferguson Boycott Israel 3

I’m sorry…but when did this become an issue about occupation? Or Israel? Or the Middle East??? How are we once again blaming Israel for something they had nothing to do with? Do people really hate Israel that much that they would literally blame them for everything? That’s some serious commitment right there.

I also saw this picture recently about the situation in Ferguson that attempts to compare the people of Ferguson to the Palestinians. This idea that the situation in Ferguson is the same as that in Israel is what happens when crazy people smoking too much weed are left unchecked. Ferguson Boycott Israel 5

But there is something fundamentally wrong with this comparison. You see, it doesn’t account for the fact that Jews are often the targets of Muslims. The same people who ignore the killing of Christians, Jews, and even other Muslims by Muslims in the Middle East are the same people who ignore all the black-on-black crime that exists in America. Because it doesn’t fit their narrative, they just ignore it.

But it’s hard to ignore pictures like this. Jerusalem Synagogue Attack 1Or these. Jerusalem Synagogue Attack 3 Jerusalem Synagogue Attack 2

This is what being targeted for race looks like. This is what happens when division and hatred go unchecked. It’s time we woke up and faced the truth. After this gruesome attack, the Palestinians celebrated these deaths by handing out candy and sweets in the streets of Jerusalem. This is the terrorism Israel is fighting. It’s not politically correct, its not pretty, and it’s not easily fixed with ideology. Israel has a right and an obligation to her people to defend herself against the monsters who seek to destroy them.

Where was the rest of the world when this happened? I didn’t hear the protestors in Ferguson decrying this heinous attack! Why? Why would they choose to take up the Palestinian plight but completely ignore these Jews being hacked to death with meat cleavers for simply being Jewish?

Or what about the 3 month old baby who was killed in Jerusalem last month? She had just been at the Kotel (Western Wall) for the first time with her parents, who had struggled to get pregnant, when a Muslim terrorist ran his car into a metro bus stop. Or what about 22-year-old Karen Jemima Mosquera who died from the wounds she sustained in the attack?

Baby at KotelKaren Jemima Mosquera

Now, I’m not saying that the death of Michael Brown should somehow be less sad or tragic but let’s be honest, Brown wasn’t some innocent little kid who got randomly shot by a police officer for no good reason; unlike the men who were shot, butchered, and hacked by Muslim terrorists.

They were simply there to pray. There was no scuffle before the incident, unlike the confrontation that took place moments before Brown was shot. These men were in a synagogue, a place of reverence and worship. They did nothing to deserve or provoke this attack except simply exist. What kind of people would defile the sanctity of a place of worship simply to satisfy their need for blood. Evil men. Surely they would not be instructed by the same god. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not the god whom these people serve…never let anyone deceive you on that point.

Just because people call something right, “evil,” and something evil, “right,” it doesn’t change the reality of the matter. Palestinians, Palestinian sympathizers, liberals, blacks, whites, or rainbow colored can tell you all day long that Ferguson is the new “Palestine,” but it doesn’t change the reality.

Ferguson is NOT the new “Palestine.”