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Just what is Chanukkah?

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Chanukkah (also Hanukkah, pronounced "haw-nuk-kah") is approaching quickly! But just what is Chanukkah? It is the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

This year Chanukkah begins on the evening of Dec. 24 and is one of the few times in history that Christmas is specifically aligned with this festival. Y'shua (Jesus) attended the Chanukkah festival as mentioned in John 10:22-23 and it is also discussed at great length in the Christian Apocrypha within the intertestamental book of Maccabees 1.

More than 21 centuries ago, Yisra'el was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Yisra'el. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Hebrews (generically known as "the Maccabees") defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Y'rushalayim (Jerusalem) and rededicated it to the service of God. To commemorate this divine deliverance, candles were lit for eight days.

Just as it happened 21 centuries ago, so now Chanukkah is centered around the nightly menorah (chanukkiah or candelabrum) lighting. A single flame is lit on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on until the eighth night of Chanukkah, when all eight lights are kindled.

Chanukkah customs include eating latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hey and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, "a great miracle happened there"); and the giving of Chanukkah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

During Chanukkah, various songs and biblical texts are read out-loud in the synagogue in joyous participation and unitizing fellowship together. It is truly a festive and joyous time and all are encouraged to join with your Jewish and/or Messianic Jewish brethren in celebrating this wonderful festival with them. To truly learn more, come and partake in Chanukkah!

Rabbi Uziel ben Yochanan is from Derekh haMashiach (Way of the Messiah), the only Orthodox Messianic fellowship on the Western Slope, located in Cedaredge. To receive additional information or times of assembly contact rebuziel@gmail.com.

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