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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More About Hanukkah

Dear Pastor and Friend of The Fellowship,

During Hanukkah, Jews celebrate two miracles. The first miracle is the military victory 2,100 years ago of a small group of Jews, the Maccabees, against a powerful Greek/Syrian army that had invaded and occupied Israel, defiled the Temple, and tried to impose paganism upon the Jewish people. Despite overwhelming odds, the Jews fought fiercely and, through God's favor, prevailed. This pivotal victory was the key to the survival of the Jews as a people and Judaism as a faith.

The second miracle involves a flask of oil. After overcoming the invaders, the Jews set about to purify the Temple during the eight-day Feast of Dedication. Upon entering, they found only one flask of purified oil for the eternal flame — enough to keep it burning for just one day. But, miraculously, the oil lasted eight days and nights until more pure oil could be brought.

This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, and why it is called the "Festival of Lights." While Hanukkah is a special celebration for Jewish people, it is not a holy day. Hanukkah is not a biblical celebration, either. Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Hebrew Bible — what Christians call the Old Testament — because the events surrounding it took place after the closing of the Hebrew Bible. But it is mentioned in the New Testament: John 10:22 states that the people were gathered at the "feast of dedication" — or Hanukkah — in Jerusalem. Jesus celebrated Hanukkah!

The story of the Maccabees and their courageous stand against foes who wanted to separate them from their faith contains a lesson for Christians and Jews alike. All of us must at one time or another be willing to take a stand against that which we believe is contrary to God's will, even if taking that stand means we have to struggle against great odds.

We may not immediately see the fruit of our faithfulness — in the Maccabees' case, their struggle for victory against their oppressors took years! But in doing so, we know that we are doing what is right and acting as partners with God to fulfill His purposes. And it is always possible that, like the Maccabees, God will bless us with a miracle for our faithfulness.

Today I invite you to learn more about Hanukkah by using the free downloadable resources in our Pastor's Library. Here you will find resources about the major themes of Hanukkah, as well as a teaching video, church bulletin inserts about how Hanukkah is celebrated, plus activity pages and a PowerPoint presentation for children.

I hope these resources will help you and your congregation grow in your faith as you gain greater insights into the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and come to better understand what is perhaps the most widely known Jewish holiday.

We thank you for your continued interest and your partnership in building bridges of understanding between our two faith communities. May God bless you richly as you and your congregation continue to study His Word.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

Bible Study Resources
Help your congregation expand its understanding of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, through a downloadable overview and a downloadable reading about Hanukkah from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's book, How Firm a Foundation. Discussion questions on the reading are available in the overview.

Church Bulletin Inserts
Explore how Hanukkah is celebrated in Israel and elsewhere through this downloadable church bulletin insert, The Rabbi Looks at Celebrating Hanukkah. Find out more about the traditional Hanukkah symbol, the menorah, and why it now stands in front of Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

Multimedia Teaching Resources
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein is featured on this teaching video clip about Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights, from the Journey to Zion series on The Jewish Holy Days. This short video clip can be used with the discussion questions, as part of a sermon illustration, or as a stand-alone resource for adult education. In addition, Rabbi Eckstein offers a brief teaching on the scripture inscribed on the Knesset menorah — and its significance for the Jewish people.

Children & Youth Resources
The Pastor's Library is pleased to offer for the first time a variety of children's activity pages on Hanukkah and a PowerPoint presentation on Hanukkah that can be used for Sunday school, children's church, or during a midweek program.

More information:

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