How Shall We Keep Hanukkah?
Better yet, maybe we should question whether or not Hanukkah should even be kept. In my return to the ancient faith of my forefathers (the ancient instructions kept by the ancient Israelites 3500 years ago) it was written that the Hebrews should gather together as a community three times a year to honor their Creator YHWH (see Exodus 23:17). And so I desired to wholeheartedly comply with the directives given to Moses. And after several years had passed, I began to come into contact with other Hebrews and also those of the Messianic persuasion who not only kept the three festivals required by the Law of Moses; they also kept a fourth festival called "Hanukkah".
Being advised by Moses not to add or take away from the instructions YHWH had given, I wanted to consider his warnings before adopting something that had the potential to lead me into confusion. So let’s discuss this fourth festival called Hanukkah. Should a devoted believer in the Law of Moses honor this celebration or not? Does Hanukkah bring glory to our Creator or not? It is interesting to note that among the Jews living in North America, Hanukkah (although traditionally considered a minor Hebrew festival) is fast becoming known as a major holiday.
"Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky, executive director of the Jewish Outreach Institute in New York City, says the notion of calling Hanukkah “minor” really presents a misnomer and it is only a term used when discussing holidays that impart major restrictions on people’s behavior. Major holidays include Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, and require restrictions on eating and other behavior, giving them titles of major holidays. But just because Hanukkah offers a festival void of the restrictions, it doesn’t make it any less important, Olitzky says. “Outside of the technical framework of Jewish law, Hanukkah is a major Jewish holiday,” he says. “We have really done ourselves a disservice by using the term minor.” (Time Magazine December 20, 2011)
The Hebrew meaning of Hanukkah: The word "Hanukkah" is mentioned 7 times in the bible. You can see how the word was employed in the following passage: "These were the offerings for the "dedication" of the altar after it was anointed. (Numbers 7:88) Hanukkah at its root means “dedication” (to be committed to a task or purpose). Hanukkah, as celebrated by the modern Jews today had its beginnings in the 2nd century BC. The celebration was designed by the Jewish elders to produce a specific spiritual outcome. In order for us to get a true picture of the effects that were intended by the elders, we will need to get a wider view of Jewish history. Next we need to utilize the aid of the Torah and the prophets to determine if this annual celebration has merit in the eyes of YHWH or not. To do this let’s start with the activity that takes place at the beginning of the feast of Hanukah.
The following is the traditional blessing/prayer that was created and recited by the ancient Rabbis of old and has continued to our age: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the lights of Chanukkah.” Wait a minute! Did YHWH actually command His people to light the lights of Hanukah? Was this celebration actually commanded in the Law of Moses? NO! But the Jewish prayer indicates that the people who obey this commandment (which is not a commandment of YHWH) will be sanctified by obeying it.
If I am reading my Bible right, I believe that Yeshua would have been grieved by this prayer. I know this would have been the case because during his earthly ministry He had been confronted by the Pharisees who complained to him that his disciples were not washing their hands according to the traditions of the Elders. We know that the sanitary act of hand washing was not the problem he had with the hand washing tradition of the Elders, it was the blessing (which was almost identical to the Hanukkah blessing I quoted above) that the elders commanded the people to recite and believe.
The blessing gives the impression that YHWH has commanded them to ceremonially wash their hands and recite a specific prayer. However neither Moses, nor any prophet had received such a commandment from YHWH. The response from Yeshua to the Jews was as follows: "They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. 'You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Mark 7:7-9) The prayer Hanukkah was designed by the Jewish elders 2200 years ago to give the impression that YHWH (through the authority of the religious leaders) had commanded this celebration to be practiced. This is a lie.
But if Hanukkah does in fact lead away from the obedience to Bible truth, how does Hanukkah work as a mechanism to accomplish this? Let discuss this in light of its counterpart - Christmas. Within Christmas there are outward forms and festivities intended to produce a spirit of good will within the family and throughout community. It all seems well and good until you study the roots of Christmas and realize that is was not designed to remember Yeshua the Messiah, but rather to lead men away from Messiah, into idolatry and eventually rebellion against the Torah. Hanukkah and the history behind its origins provide an excellent microcosm of the similar path the house of Noah took to abandon the instructions of YHWH at Babel 4000 years ago.You might be surprised by this idea but one will never know this is true until Hanukkah has been placed under the microscope of the Torah for an adequate determination.