Editorial - Hanukkah

by Joseph Hunting

Perhaps it is more than a mere coincidence that there is a similarity between the 25th Kislev, the commemoration of Hanukkah, and 25th December, the commemoration of Christmas.

Hanukkah is Israel's meaningful Festival of Light which commemorates the cleansing and sanctifying of the Temple after it had been defiled by Syrian soldiers under the direction of Antiochus Epiphanes. A monstrous crime had been committed by the Syrians when they slew the priests officiating in the Temple and mingled their blood with that of a sow as an offering on the holy altar.

A subsequent revolt led by the Maccabees defeated the Syrians and the Temple was cleansed on the 25th Kislev. The sacred Menorah was relit with only one day's supply of consecrated oil available. Miraculously it burned for eight days.

Whilst this interesting event is not recorded in the canon of the Jewish Scriptures, but in the Apocrapha, it has been observed as an annual festival to this present time.

But it is certainly no coincidence that Isaiah should declare: "Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth. I have put My Spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles ... and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles." (42"1-6).

Hanukkah as a festival is specifically mentioned in the New Testament. So it does not come as a surprise to read in John's Gospel that at least on one occasion the Messiah observed this beautiful festival in Jerusalem. On that occasion He had healed a man who had been born blind.

Oddly enough, this miracle had caused a division among the people. "Many of them said, He has a devil and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, these are not the words of Him that has a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? And it was at Jerusalem the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon's porch." (John 10:20-23).

Could it be that there is a deeper meaning to the Feast of Hanukkah than is apparent on the surface? Listen again to the words of Isaiah concerning the Messiah: "I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, FOR A LIGHT OF THE GENTILES" (42:6). Then ponder the words of Messiah that truly add splendour to this festival that He graced with His presence: "I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12).

On 25th Kislev (the Hebrew month corresponding to December) Hanukkah candles will again be relit to commemorate the miraculous light of the Menorah shedding its golden rays in the Temple of God. Does not this have deeper spiritual significance than the almost pagan commercialized frenzy that is associated with 25th December? Perhaps the Syrian soldiers' defiling of the Temple so long ago, and the commercializing of Christmas have something in common after all!