This year Hanukkah begins the night of December 11th.
The Feast of Dedication” or Hanukkah, -- you will not find this Holiday in Lev. 23 with the seven Feasts of the Lord. But we find it in John 10:22 and other places as well. I think it may be necessary to do a little history here before going on; this will not be a history lesson, just a little background.
The time was around 167 BC or, if you’re Jewish--BCE. Prior to this date a young ruler named Alexander the Great, ruled the entire ancient world. This period of time is referred to as “the Hellenistic period” (Greeks). His untimely death caused a power struggle and four of his generals split up the kingdom. The one that ended up with Israel was Antiochus IV. This new Ruler of Israel commanded everyone to convert to Hellenism (Greek Metrology) and the Greek values that he held. Many did, even many of the Jews of the land because they found it to be a very civilized way of life.
But, there were those Jews who held close to the Torah and God’s way of worship and refused to embrace Hellenism. In fact, Antiochus gave the Jews an ultimatum, to either give up their distinctive customs, such as worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday), Circumcision, and Kosher Laws, or die.
One of the first things Antiochus did was to desecrate the Holy Temple. He ordered the utensils, such as the Menorah, Altar, and Table to be defiled and torn down. Then to be certain that he had accomplished his job, he ordered a pig to be sacrificed on the holy altar [ Brazen Altar]. After doing all of that, he order that a Greek god Zeus be worshiped in the Temple.
When Antiochus heard that the people were murmuring and talking about revolt against him, he marched his troops to a town in the foothills called Modi’in. His plan was to erect a false god in the city and force the people to worship it. Modi’in was the home of a priest named Mattathias who had five sons. He and his sons revolted and killed the soldiers and began the revolt against this evil ruler. One of Mattathias’s sons was Judah, and he became the new leader and was quickly nicknamed “Maccabee” (the Hammer in Hebrew). To bring this piece of history to a close we will just report that Maccabee and his men defeated the Greek armies and got rid of Antiochus.
The Maccabees now faced the task of restoring the Temple for Jewish worship to their Holy God. They cleansed the Temple and restored the furnishings. There was special attention given to the Menorah, for it symbolized the Light of God. They restored it and when they went to light it, they found there was a problem. This Menorah could only be used with special oil, and it took eight days to prepare such oil. They found enough of this special oil to burn only one day. To celebrate the victory of the battle fought for their religious liberty, they decided to light the Menorah anyway and allow the light of God to shine forth with its glory, even if but for a day. But God gave them a miracle, and the oil lasted eight days, until the new oil was made ready. So today we have the eight days of the Feast of Dedication “Hanukkah.” It is also why you will see a nine branch Menorah instead of seven in most Jewish homes. It represents the miracle of the eight days the oil burned; the ninth branch (in the center) is the Shamash (Servant Lamp), which represents the Messiah.
There are many customs and traditions that brings one closer to God and understanding of His greatness associated with this holiday, but I want to keep this as short as possible. Each night for eight nights a candle is lighted. The Shamash (the center) is always lit first, for it is from the Messiah that all light flows. It is then used to light each candle for the eight nights. Blessing is said and songs about Hanukkah sung. Gifts are given to the children each of the eight nights. During the lighting of the Shamash and the other candles are lit with the Shamash, the following blessings are said. I will try to write the Hebrew in English letters for you, I hope I do it correctly.
A little advice in lighting the candles, you place them in the Menorah from right to left, but you light them with the Shamash from left to right.