This guest article is written by Messianic Rabbi Eric Raider. Rabbi Raider was born and raised a devote Jew in the Second Holy Land, as I call it, Brooklyn, New York. Rabbi Eric’s uncle is a conservative Senior Rabbi, and Eric grew up attending Synagogue. As an adult, and after a long journey combating doubt, legalism, tradition, teaching, and just plain stubborn, Eric Raider accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Yeshua Ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah). Rabbi Eric enjoys teaching Christians about their Jewish foundation in Yeshua so His Word will come alive all the more! Rabbi Eric asked me if I would host or sponsor his writing a guest article. I am most pleased he asked. May you learn, as I learn from Rabbi Eric, too. LYLE J. RAPACKI –
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Copyright© 2013 Rabbi Eric Raider
This year Chanukah began at an unusual time coinciding with Thanksgiving. To be more precise, Chanukah began the evening prior to America celebrating Thanksgiving, as all Jewish holidays begin at sundown and end at sundown. What is the significance of Chanukah, and is this a holiday only the Jews should celebrate or should all Believers in Christ (Yeshua) participate in this festival?
Chanukah goes by other names as well; the Festival of Dedication and the Festival of Lights are examples. Now the Festival of Lights can easily be explained by the simple fact that we light a Menorah each night of Chanukah. But Chankuh is not the first time the Menorah was mentioned in the bible. Let’s talk about light for a moment. In Genesis 1:3 God said , “Let there be Light,” and then God called the light “good.” Light is always seen as good and darkness as evil. When light shines it casts out the dark, the evil, so the two cannot exist at the same time. Light illuminates all that is pure and holy, this is the light God wants us to see. God also used the pillar of fire as a light for the Israelites to lead them through the wilderness. In Exodus 25:31 the Menorah is described in great detail. The Menorah God tells the Israelites to build is made of pure gold and had seven lamps. These lamps were lit by pure olive oil and would be used in the Holy Tabernacle to allow the Priests to perform their tasks while inside this holy place. Hopefully you are starting to see some connections between the Menorah and our Messiah. The Menorah lamps were to be lit eternally, or in Hebrew called n’er tamid. Just as the oil had to be pure and holy, so too is our Messiah, pure and holy. And just as these were n’er tamid, eternal lights so too is our Messiah eternal. The bible refers to the Word as a lamp in Psalm 119:105. In the book of John, the first 14 verses are used to describe Yeshua as the Living Word made flesh and dwelt among the people. The Menorah was a symbol, a forerunner of the living light. Proverbs 6:23 refers again to the light of the lamp as a commandment and the Torah (instruction) as light. The Menorah of the Old Testament days prophetically spoke of the true light that lights our paths, our lives and His teachings. The pattern of scripture always points to Yeshua.
OK…so during the intertestamental period or silent period is when the story of Chanukah originates. The Israelies were ruled by a Syrian King, Antichus Epiphanes, meaning “the visible god”. This madman was determined to wipe out all that was Jewish but did not succeed due to the fact that as always, this was not man against man this was man against the Lord, and the Lord was with the Jews! So the Lord rose up a righteous leader, Judah Macabee (hammer) and Judah and the Macabees defeated the great Syrian army which was a great miracle in itself. Now when the Macabees reached the temple it was desecrated. Antiochus built a statue to Zeus, and even slaughtered a pig in the Holy of Holies! After rebuilding and cleaning the Temple the Jews went to light the Menorah and found only enough oil for a day. But the oil lasted for a miraculous 8-days, and to this day Chanukah is celebrated for 8-days.
This is a wonderful story about the origins of Chankuh, but what you need to know is that God spared the Jews for one purpose. Through the Jews and only through the Jews would our Messiah come. So once again God stepped in demonstrating that no weapon formed against Him shall prosper. King Antiochus was an anti-Messiah (Christ).
Please travel with me to John 8:12. It was Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles and Yeshua himself was in the Temple Courts. During this feast large torches were lit, so Sukkot was also sometimes called the “Light of the World”. What a coincidence that Yeshua speaking with Pharisees at this time calls Himself the Light of the World. In John 9:5 Yeshua again uses this term. In James 1:17 we read that the light is a gift from above, a perfect gift. The middle candle on the Menorah or highest candle, is called the Shamash candle or “helper” and is lit first, and then used to light the remaining candles. We are to be lights unto the world, but we are first to be lit by our Messiah. The Messiah is the One who gives light, just as in the days of the Tabernacle.
Back to the question…is this a Jewish festival or a Yeshua festival? I firmly believe this is a Yeshua or Jesus festival; it all points to Him. All of the Jewish biblical feasts point to Yeshua. So is it wrong to celebrate Chanukah if you are not Jewish? I leave that up to you, but even if you choose not to, remember this is a feast that reminds us to re-dedicate ourselves to the Lord. So please take this time and re-commit yourselves to the “Light of the World”, Yeshua our bright star.
Authored by Rabbi Eric Raider, a Messianic Rabbi