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Through The Lens with Rabbi Eric Walker – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

 

Tonight, we will light the 8th and last candle on the Hanukkiah the special 9 branch menorah only used during Hanukkah. It is a tradition passed on for many generations celebrating the miracle of the oil and the power of G-D to sustain us during the restoration of the 2nd Temple that had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 165 BC. Although the Hanukkah celebration is not defined anywhere in the Bible it is mentioned that the Messiah Himself was in Jerusalem at the Temple at the time of the Feast of Dedication. How the Feast of Dedication was celebrated nor what traditions were embraced are not biblically defined, yet, we, a Biblical Jewish Work celebrate this feast by lighting the 8 candles recreating the miracle of the oil.

We give out dreidels and chocolate coins called gelt in commemoration of the ingenious way our people were able to discuss Torah under the watchful eye of their Greek persecutors. A game similar to the dreidel game was popular during the rule of Antiochus. During this period Jews were not free to openly practice their religion, so when they gathered to study Torah they would bring a top with them. If soldiers appeared, they would quickly hide what they were studying and pretend to be playing a gambling game with the top.

The dreidel has one Hebrew letter on each side. Outside of Israel, those letters are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and ש (Shin), which stand for the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Sham.” This phrase means “A great miracle happened there [in Israel].”

After the State of Israel was founded in 1948 the Hebrew letters were changed for dreidels used in Israel. They became: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and פ (Pey), which stand for the Hebrew phrase “Nes Gadol Haya Po.” This means “A great miracle happened here.”

Many of you know that as I was growing up my father worked for a department store in Pittsburgh. Many of my friends and their families would take the time off during the holidays and make their annual pilgrimage to the 2nd most holy Jewish site – MIAMI BEACH!

Because of my father’s job he could not take time off until after the holidays and by then my sisters and I were back in school. My older sister had friends that would take her with them on these trips, but I did not have such friends so I was left home. What do you do with a Jewish boy during the Holiday season when even Hebrew school was on the same calendar as the public schools and was closed.

Left to the creativity of a mother that had no intention of entertaining a 10 year old boy at home for 3 weeks she found the only place she could to keep me busy during the holidays. Since I sung in the elementary School choir  she found a place that would keep me busy, not only during the Holidays, but for many nights and weekends months before the holidays. She enrolled me in the Catholic Boys Choir where I learned all the Christmas Songs in Latin and in English! We would practice and practice and then during the month of December we would sing around Pittsburgh in the lobby of department stores, in front of fountains at Point Park where the 3 rivers all came together and at senior citizen centers. And there I was in the very middle of the Prophecy of Zechariah 8:23 – In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'”

What I remember most about the Holiday Season was best depicted in the Andy Williams Song you hear on radio stations and in stores all over: It’s the most wonderful time of the year, With the kids jingle belling And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer” It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

This holiday season is about celebrating miracles. One of those miracles is Hanukkah and the other miracle is foretold through the Jewish Prophet Isaiah 9:6-7   For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

And in Isaiah  7:14-15  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Both prophecies about Yeshua!!

And, like Hanukkah, there was no command of God to celebrate this event either.

Throughout recorded history man has found a way to desecrate the holy with the profane.

Isa 44:9-20 All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. 10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? 11 He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy 12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. 13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread.

But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.

16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

We celebrate the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah in alignment with God’s Appointed Times from Leviticus 23. We celebrate your birthday and mine! Are we above Messiah? What precludes us from celebrating the miracle birth of Messiah or the historically documented miracle of the oil and the restoration of the 2nd Temple? In fact, nothing prohibits it in scripture. It simply says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them. “Yet we take something as simple as a Birthday celebration and turn it into something it was never intended to be. This holiday celebrating the birth of Messiah has been twisted and turned and so much has been added to it that for many it has lost the true significance of the birth of the Messiah.

In Colossians 2:1-3:4 Paul writes 2 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Messiah, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Messiah is. 6 So then, just as you received Messiah Yeshua   as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Messiah. 9 For in Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Messiah, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Messiah, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Messiah. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Messiah to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self- imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.  Since, then, you have been raised with Messiah, set your hearts on things above, where Messiah is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Messiah in God.  When Messiah, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

If during this holiday season or during Easter you are bombarded with all the references to pagan practices, do not allow others to steal your joy. If you were celebrating these holidays as a pagan you would not be gathering in Jesus’ name and He would not be present. Even Paul makes it clear “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.”

Today, I want to set you all free. Free to enjoy, without guilt or condemnation, family gatherings and celebrations of the miracles of this season whether Hanukkah or Messaihmas. I want you to enjoy your freedom in Messiah to share your love of the Jewish Messiah with all you can. Use this time to gather together and bring a new understanding to who He was and what He stood for. Use this time to challenge in a good way your friends and family to embrace the fullness of the bible and the rich Jewish heritage of Yeshua. Not for your sake and not for mine, but for His! Many say we have taken Christ out of Christmas and I say who better to put him back in than those like you who have embraced their Jewish roots in Messiah Yeshua. In your kindness, love, mercy and grace you will win more hearts for the kingdom than you could ever imagine.

Again I say It’s the most wonderful time of the year with the kids jingle belling And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer” It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

From all of us here at Igniting a Nation we wish you and your families a happy, safe, and joy filled holiday season.

May the blessings of God be lavishly poured out upon you this year and every year.

Shalom!

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