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Hanukkah - A Quest To Shine Unceasingly

Hanukkah is also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication.

Interestingly Jesus observed and celebrated this feast in Jerusalem.

John 10:22-24
Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.
And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.
Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him,
“How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday starting on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. It commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (or the Second Temple) in Jerusalem in the second century BC.

Antiochus was a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire. In 167 BC, he ordered an altar to be erected for his Greek god Zeus in the Jewish Temple. He banned circumcision (brit milah). He also ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar of the temple. This sacrifice of pigs to the Greek gods was a standard ritual procedure in the ancient Greek religion. The Second Temple in Jerusalem was looted and all its services were stopped. Judaism was outlawed.

Antiochus's outrageous actions caused a large-scale revolt. Mattathias was a Jewish priest at that time. He led his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah in a rebellion against Antiochus.

After the death of Mattathias, Judah became the leader. He was later known as Judah the Hammer (Yehuda HaMakabi).

By 165 BC, the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. The Holy Temple was liberated and rededicated back to God. The festival of Hanukkah was instituted to celebrate this event.

Judah ordered the Temple to be thoroughly cleansed. A new altar was built in place of the polluted one. New holy vessels were also made. But according to the Torah, unadulterated and undefiled pure olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple. Its quality and process of making must be approved by the high priest (kohen gadol).

Exodus 27:20
And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.

Leviticus 24:1-2
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually."

Pure oil of pressed olives was required for the menorah to burn continually throughout each day and night. But only one flask of such oil was found. It could only burn and last for one day. Then a miracle happened. The one-day supply of oil lasted and burned for eight days - the duration needed to prepare a fresh supply of kosher oil for the menorah. Thus an eight-day festival was declared to commemorate this miraculous event.

Hanukkah is observed by the kindling of the lights of a unique candelabrum. The nine-branched menorah or hanukiah has eight branches with an additional visually distinct branch. The extra light is called a attendant (shamash). It is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest. The purpose of the shamash is to light up the other lights.

On the first night, the shamash is first lighted and then used to light another candle. While holding the shamash candle, blessings are recited or sung. One more candle is added to the menorah each night. By the eighth night, all of the candles are lighted.

Candles should be lighted from right to left just like Hebrew writing. The shamash candle is lit first. For those interested to know how the candles are lighted, please view a one-minute instructional video by clicking here.

Hanukkah is the season of light. It’s the time not only to celebrate the ancient miracle, but also our own victory over spiritual darkness. But how do we celebrate this feast of lights when everything around us seems so dark? Where is the light?

Jesus was born most probably during the Feast of Tabernacles. The divine conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb must therefore be 9 months earlier at about December, probably during Hanukkah. In the Gospel of John, this truth was being revealed:

John 1:9-11
That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

Our world is currently facing some serious problems of unprecedented proportions. Climate change, natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunamis, severe poverty and wealth inequality, potential meltdowns in financial markets, political upheavals in various nations and regions, environmental degradation etc. and the list goes on.   

Evil has unleashed an ugly wave of violence and darkness all over the world. Innocent children are killed in broad daylight. Women are kidnapped and raped. Men are massacred and beheaded in cruel hatred and uncensored webcast.

Family ties and friendships have broken down. Many marriages have ended up in divorces, fights or lawsuits. Trust is lost, and hope is wavering.

Most of us presumptuously assume that others such as our politicians and governments will take responsibility and solve such complex global or social problems on our behalf. It is their job, not ours.

As a result, many of us have become numbed and complacent, choosing to turn a blind eye and simply ignoring the undesirable information we have witnessed. Just like an ostrich burying its head in the sand and refusing to confront or acknowledge the difficult problems we face in life.

In those darkest corners of our own hearts, we need to begin lighting up our world. One candle at a time. Reaching and touching one person at a time, beginning with ourselves, those closest to us and then gradually those in the distant regions of the earth.

Isaiah 60:1-3
Arise, shine; For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

Now is the time to arise and shine for Jesus for His light has come! We cannot afford to slide into darkness again. We cannot allow the dimming of our souls to continue, throwing away our hope and our faith. It’s a fight we must do with the help of God. He must light up our lives and He must shine through our darkness. To light up is easy but to continue shining and remain lighted up is difficult. We must have this quest to shine unceasingly!

We need God to say again, "Let there be light!" We need Jesus Who declares in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” We need the Holy Spirit to fill us continually so that we will shine throughout each day and night 24/7! We need to rededicate our lives to God again! We need the miracle of Hanukkah to happen in our own lives!

Our world is now in darkness. We must shine His light. And we must be the light!

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father in heaven.


Written on: 13 December 2014