How Shall We Keep Hanukkah?
Cause and Effect
We who are of Hebrew descent are commanded by the God of Israel to consider the deeds of our ancient forefathers with a critical eye. In fact, we are commanded to determine why the “Holy People” currently exist in lands which are vulnerable to intolerance, persecution and mortal danger in respect to the standards commanded by our God. For as one studies the Torah they soon realize that the sure sign of YHWH’s disfavor with His people are the frequent seasons of annihilation by the nations which He (the God of Israel) permits. In order to prevent further Hebrew genocides, the Holy People must consider where we have deviated from the Torah and correct our errors. 'If they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies..." (Leviticus 26:40-41)
It is easy to look at the hardships of the Jewish people in recent times and view the people as victims of circumstances. But if we view the tragedies in the light of the blessings (for obedience to the Torah) and curses for disobedience, it comes down to some pretty simple detective work to discover the root cause which brought on their destruction. With this in mind, let’s take the traditional view of the Hanukkah story: The Greeks of the Seleucid kingdom (the king of the north) oppressed the Jewish people beginning in 175 BC and began to force Judah into giving up the practices commanded by the Torah. A family of priests rebelled against the Greek rulers and fled into the wilderness. The Jewish resistance eventually built up an army that gradually pushed out the Greeks and won back their Temple. In the process of purifying their temple, the priests found that there was not enough holy oil to keep the Lamp within the temple lit, but miraculously, the oil continued to burn for 8 days.
An inspiring story! Now let’s take a detective’s point of view and see if we can gain more insight into the reasons that caused the Hanukkah story. A Greek King by the name of Antiochus Epiphanies began his oppressive rule over Judah. Why did YHWH allow such a horrific thing to take place among the people He loves and promised upon oath to protect? According to the covenant, protection for His people is contingent upon obedience. Note what is written: "If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands…I will grant peace in the land, and …the sword will not pass through your country." (Leviticus 26:3-6) Now ask yourself about the Hanukah story, "Did the sword pass through the land of Judah?" YES! "Was Judah able to resist its enemy?" NO! And there was only one reason. Somewhere along the way Judah had broken the covenant and lost favor with YHWH.
We find that in the year 191 BC, that the Ptolemaic kingdom (the king of the south) and the Northern kingdom (the Seleucids) were fighting to occupy the land of Judah. In the course of many years, Judah’s territory had been passed between these two kingdoms about seven times. Had Judah trusted YHWH and held to the principals of the covenant, the Holy People would have continued to receive the protection of the Almighty. However the people of Judah became mesmerized by geo-politics; one side supported the Polemic kingdom while the other supported the Seleucids.
This was a major dispute. And according to the Torah, “The priests, the sons of Levi, shall step forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them … to decide all cases of dispute and assault.” (Deuteronomy 21:5) In the most extreme cases, when not even the priests possessed the wisdom to settle a dispute, the ultimate decider for Judah was summoned. The matter would be taken to YHWH and His decisions would be presented to the High Priest through the stones set on his garments. With this system in place, the Jewish society would have always enjoyed YHWH's protection. But Judah's elders did not want to put their trust in YHWH. They wanted to become the ultimate deciders for the nation. They demoted YHWH (through His High Priest) to the position of a voting member of the Sanhedrin. Imagine it. Thinking that your church board has the power to out-vote the King of the Universe! “The position of Nasi (president) was created in about 191 BCE when the Sanhedrin (70 elders) lost confidence in the ability of the high priests to serve as the head of their body. Not surprising, given that the high priest was often opposed to the Oral Law.” (Goldwurm, Hersh and Holder, Meir, History of the Jewish People, I "The Second Temple Era")
What followed from this point onward is a moral decline which led the Jews into lawlessness against the Torah even to this day. This rebellion can be seen in the most fervent Jewish sects who zealously follow the council of the Rabbis above the plain utterances written in the Torah. “In His anger against Israel YHWH handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.” (Judges 2:14) 20 years passed from the time the Jews shut the door on the decisions given to the High Priest. Finally in 168 BC, the people of Judah realized the retraction of YHWH’s protection over them. It was at that time that the practice of the Mosaic code became illegal through the power of Antiochus Epiphanies who ordered that the Torah scrolls were to be destroyed. All of the gold, silver and precious things were plundered by the Seleucids. Suddenly Judah was in religious and economic hardship as many Jews fled into the wilderness in order to preserve what was left of Israel's community.
The next part of this series will take into consideration both the good and evil actions of the Maccabees after they drove the King of the North from land of Judah.