Wednesday, December 17, 2014

8 Days of Chanukah - Day 2


This post is a part of the series 8 Days of Chanukah.

Tonight is the second night of Chanukah, and we light the second candle of the menorah. 

Each year, we're reminded of G-d's miracle working power by reading the story of the Maccabees.  The festival of Hanukkah began in 165 BC.  The events behind this holiday are recorded in First and second Maccabees, books of the Apocrypha written between the Old and New Testaments.  You won't find this in your King James Bible (the one I used for most of my life) because it was not included by the Protestant Church. It is a fascinating tale of how a small number of Jews triumphed over a wicked tyrant and freed Jerusalem and the Temple, preparing the way for the Messiah, Yeshua.

When the Assyrian-Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes came to power over Israel, he tried to Hellenize the Jews, to make them like Greeks.  He made laws that no Jewish practices could be observed, and he put Greek idols in the marketplaces and Temple.  He even commanded that pigs, unkosher animals, be sacrificed in the Temple, and poured their blood over the scrolls and on the altar.  This was absolutely abhorrent to the Jews.

In the town of Modin, Mattathias, a man of priestly descent, refused to obey the new laws and led a rebellion.  Judah, one of his sons, became the leader after his father’s death.  He was called Maccabee, which means “hammer”, and his followers were called  Maccabees.

Depiction of the Maccabees returning the menorah to the Temple (source unknown)
After three years of fighting, the Macabbes finally defeated the enemy and drove them out of Jerusalem.  The Jews then cleansed the Temple and built a new altar.  On the 25th of Kislev, they rededicated the Temple to Adonai with a celebration that lasted eight days.

A Great Miracle Happened Here!

Among the traditions surrounding this festival is the story of the miracle of the oil.  The Talmud says that when the Maccabees cleaned the temple, they found only enough oil to light the Ner Tamid (eternal light) for one day.  But to their surprise, the oil lasted eight days until a new supply could be obtained.  The saying, "A great miracle happened here" came from this event.

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As I think about the persecution of the Jews back then, and around the world today, I ask myself, "Am I willing to take a stand the way they did?"  Am I willing to obey G-d no matter what people or the government says?  These are serious questions.  

While I cannot compare my experience to being beaten or murdered for my faith,  I have faced persecution for my beliefs.  I've been shunned by family and friends over because I stood firm on what G-d's Word says.  I 've lost jobs and professional reputation because I obeyed G-d's Word and took a stand for ethics, honesty and integrity. 

I may have lost some things dear to me, but G-d has been faithful.  I've gained so much more by obeying G-d's ways, and I have no regrets.  G-d has blessed me for my obedience in every case. As the Scriptures say: He causes everything to work together for my good.

I write this having just read an article in a well-known Christian magazine that discussed the merit of using the phrase "G-d's Word says" from the pulpit.  I am shocked that this would even be a topic of debate.  Some ministers said it was not a good idea because it could alienate people.  Yes, I am serious.

If we are not led by G-d's Holy Word, what are we guided by?  A religion?  A denomination?  A man?  I decided long ago that I wanted His Wisdom more than any of those things.  He has been faithful to lead me, teach me, protect me and bless me.

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