Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What is the meaning of Hanukkah?

What is the meaning of Hanukkah?

Bringing of Light, the festival of Hanukah is held in December. On each day of the festival a new candle is lit on the menorah, a nine branched candlestick. Candles are place into the menorah from right to left, with the center "Shamash" (servant) candle and the right most candle being used the first night. The candles are lit left to right, so the Shamash candle is lit first, then all other candles. It is tradition to light the candles before the festive meal each night.


Hanukah or Chanukah means "dedication", referring to the rededication of the Temple after a great Jewish military victory in 165 BCE This feast did not originate with Moses, nor is it even mandated in the Bible. It is found in the books of First and Second Macabees in the Apocrypha, the books written in the 400 year "silence" between the Tenach (Old Testament) and B'rit Hadashah (New Testament). God was not silent in these years however. He was still at work fulfilling His promises and preserving His people. Furthermore, there are good Biblical reasons to celebrate this feast. The first is that Yeshua observed this holiday:

John 10:22-23 "Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter and Yeshua was in the Temple area walking in Solomon's colonnade."

Secondly, the events at Hanukkah were prophesied centuries before by Daniel:

Daniel 11:3-4 "Then a mighty king will appear, who will rule with great power and do as he pleases. After he has appeared, his empire will be broken up and parceled out toward the four winds of heaven. It will not go to his descendants, nor will it have the power he exercised, because his empire will be uprooted and given to others." The "mighty king" was Alexander the Great. Then Daniel goes on to describe another person who would succeed Alexander...

Daniel 11:21-28 "...a despicable person....and his heart will be set against the Holy Covenant..."

Daniel 11: 31 "His forces will desecrate the sanctuary and do away with the regular sacrifice, and they will set up the abomination of desolation." This prophecy accurately describes Antioch IV who reigned 175 - 164 BCE. His reign was one of many throughout history that tried to wipe out the Jewish people. The survival, however, of the Jewish people is a firm testimony of God's faithfulness...

Genesis 12:3

"...All peoples on earth will be blessed through you." Yeshua, the Messiah of all mankind, would come through the Jewish bloodline.

Antiochus wanted everyone to be united under Greek Hellenism, thus he was not at all tolerant of the Jews.

Daniel 11:36 "Then the king shall do according to his own will. He shall exalt and magnify himself above all gods and speak blasphemies against the God of Gods."

The king called himself "Antiochus Epiphanies" which means "visible god". He made people bow down to his statues and if they didn't comply.....the consequence was death! Social and political pressures caused some Jews to follow Antiochus and they actually bowed down to his statues (doesn't sound Jewish to me).

Daniel 11:32 " smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the Covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action."

Many Jews took the easy way out and tried to "go Greek". Others understood that assimilation and elimination of Jewish worship, sacrifices and traditions would be the destruction of Judaism itself...making God a liar! The Jewish people faced persecution. Antiochus' heavily armed soldiers were sent out to force people to worship the king and make sacrifices (pigs) on the holy altar. This was the "abomination" that Daniel spoke of. The penalty for resistance was death. Antiochus' actions foreshadowed Hitler's axiom toward the Jews:

First: "You can't live among us as Jews."
Then: "You can't live among us."
Finally: "You can't live.">

In 167 BCE soldiers came to Modin outside Jerusalem to force Greek worship on an influential Jewish family led by Matathias and his 5 sons. Matathias would not forsake his faith. He tore down the Greek altar and drove off the soldiers with the battle cry, "Whoever is for the Lord, follow me!" This was the beginning of the Jewish rebellion. The Jewish people knew they were up against great odds, but their banner was "Who among the mighty is like Thee, o God?" ("Mee Kamocha B'aleem Adonoi!") The name for the Jewish heroes of Hanukkah comes from using the first letters of these Hebrew words to form "Macabee". Matathias' oldest son was nicknamed "Judah Macabee"....the hammer....because he fought so hard. The battle was difficult for untrained Jewish farmers against the well equipped Syrian soldiers.

Daniel 11:32 says: "...the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits."

The real miracle of Hanukkah is that a few, with God on their side, triumphed over a multitude of powerful enemies. Remember: "God's people + God = VICTORY!

Zechariah 4:6 "...not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." (Haftorah reading for Hanukkah Shabbat)

On the 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, the date we celebrate Hanukkah, the Macabees won back Jerusalem and the Temple that had been desecrated by Antiochus. This date was also prophesied

Daniel 8:13-14 "How long will it be until the daily sacrifice is restored again? How long until the desecration of the Temple is avenged and God's people triumph?' He replied: "For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the Holy Place will be properly restored." This is a great confirmation that God's word is true: Historically accurate from the start of Antiochus' persecution of the Jews in 171 BCE until the restoration of the Temple in 165 BCE......

6 years, 3 1/2 months = 2,300 days!!

How did the tradition of the 8 days and lighting 8 candles begin? When the victorious Macabees began cleaning up the Temple, they found only one small jar of oil for "ner tamid"...only enough for one day. They sent a messenger for more. Meanwhile, the small amount of oil burned miraculously for 8 days. Another explanation for the 8 day observance is that some Rabbis believe it was a delayed celebration of the fall feast of Sukkot, which also lasts for 8 days.

During the time of Yeshua (in John 10:22), people's minds were focused on themes of deliverance and rededication, oil and light.

John 10: 27-28 "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." Yeshua was promising His people deliverance from sin and death...not just for a season, but for eternity!

Earlier in John 8:12, Yeshua proclaims "I am the light of the world...he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." The people listening to Yeshua understood what He was saying...they knew what God had promised through the prophet:

Isaiah: (9:2) "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined."

Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation." ("Yeshua" in Hebrew means salvation.) Hanukkah is referred to as the "Festival of Lights" (Hag Haorim) and it was during this season that Yeshua described Himself as the" light of the world".

A future Hanukkah is described in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-8 where Paul writes about the second coming of the Lord:

1. Many will turn away from God (as some Jews did who followed Antiochus' Hellenism).
2. The "son of perdition exalts himself above God" (as Antiochus Epiphanies did).
3. But the Lord will destroy him with the "brightness of His coming"... ( this victory we can all think of when we gaze at the lights of our Hanukkah menorah).
4. The Lord will usher in His millennial kingdom with the overthrow of the "lawless one" in a miraculous way. (A miracle to think about when we retell the Hanukkah story.)

The shamash or "servant" is the candle used to light the other candles of the Hanukkah menorah. Yeshua is our shamash...

. Matthew 20:28 "...the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many..."

Other traditions:

1. Display your menorah in the window to show God's miracle to the world.

2. So eat some latkes and donuts already! Oil (the symbol of the Ruach) is associated with the Hanukkah miracle. Fry the latkes in oil and don't think about the calories....think about the miracle!

3. The draydel: The four Hebrew letters mean "a great miracle happened there". (nes gadol haya sham) Children play a game with the draydel and each letter has an assigned value: nes (nothing), gadol (all), hayah (half), and sham (put in).

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is the Importance of Community? - Part 3

What is the Importance of Community? - Part 3 ...continued from last week

I'd like to continue our discussion of Community by discussing behaviors that hurt the Community and its members.

We discussed ways to build Community last week. Those methods can make a real difference if we put them in practice and use them consistently. Those alone will not build Community if we do not address activities that hurts individuals and Community. What are these behaviors that tear down Community:

* 1. Unfriendliness
* 2. Cliques
* 3. Envy
* 4. Anti-Semitism
* 5. Thinking better of ourselves than others
* 6. Rushing / snapping
* 7. Not keeping promises
* 8. Vain disputes
* 9. Looking for offense
* 10. Unforgiveness

Let's discuss each of these in some detail, and see how to correct and prevent each of these behaviors.

* 1. Unfriendliness - How do we treat each other? Do we smile and say hello to each other at the Congregation? Do we ask how people are? Do we genuinely want to get to know one another? Do we greet visitors? Are there people you avoid and do not speak too? I'm sure I'm guilty of all of the above at some time or another. We all need to slow down and make sure we greet each other, say hello, shake hands, and hug one another (if you're comfortable with that). If there are people you avoid, make that extra effort and greet them warmly. In doing this we will be exhibiting the love of Messiah.

* 2. Cliques - We all have our friends, and there is nothing wrong with that, but cliques can destroy a Congregation and are not of G-d. Do we find ourselves excluding others from conversations? Are we spending 90% of our time only with those friends? If so, we may be building a clique. Cliques are most destructive when we exclude others from it, limit ourselves just to the clique or in the worst case, and talk about others if they are not in our clique. If you find yourself wondering if you are in a clique, then you might well be. We each have a responsibility to breakout of these artificial groups and spread out into the wider Synagogue. Remember, the Master even befriended sinners; He obviously would not want us in cliques.

* 3. Envy - If love of money is the root of all evil, then envy is a close second. Envy is very destructive and can cause division faster than any other behavior. Gossip, strife, and slander usually result from envy. Are you envious that someone sings better, seems more spiritual, etc. Are you envious a person seems to have more spiritual gifts? Scripture commands us to not be, as envy is from ha-Satan (the adversary). The cure for envy? Be thankful for what G-d has given you. Thanklessness or ingratitude to G-d for what He has done is the root of envy. Thanklessness, ingratitude, and jealousy are very serious sins and need to be repented of immediately.

* 4. Anti-Semitism - With a mixed family of many peoples coming from all walks of life, many of whom are not Jewish by birth, we need to be careful how we speak. Some old phrases from the past can pop up causing unintentional harm. We all need to be wary as certain phrases used by our Sunday brothers. Comments like "the Jews killed Yeshua" are factually incorrect and very offensive. A general guideline to follow is anytime we want to say "the Jews" we need to remember that includes many of us, by either birth or conversion. It includes all of us as Hebrews grafted into Israel. So think about that and maybe it is better to say "our people" instead.

* 5. Thinking better of ourselves than others - This one I suspect most are guilty of to some extent. I confess that I too can fall prey to this. Scripture commands that we think better of others than ourselves, yet many do the exact opposite. This often shows when people enter Ministry. They fail to understand that time is needed to mature; instead they want it all now. This same behavior is seen in marriages. One test to see if you might be doing this: Do you cut people off when they are talking? If you do, you might be seeing a sign that you consider what you have to say to be much more important than the other person. So how do we address it? First, we must be sober in our assessment of our own abilities. Second, we must see and appreciate the abilities of others. Third, we must be willing to let people grow. Fourth, remember the Master's Words about the wedding feast where the person who exalted himself was embarrassed when he was asked to give up his seat to a more honored guest.

* 6. Rushing / snapping - We all are busy, especially right before service, or when getting ready for the Shabbat dinner. This can lead to rushing around and snapping at one another. We need to remember this is the Shabbat, it is supposed to be peaceful and calm. Efforts should be made to ensure all is ready before Shabbat begins to minimize rushing around. We also need to remain calm, seeking the peace that Adonai gives to us. If we do snap, be quick to apologize. If someone snaps at you, let them know gently; you'll most likely find they did not even realize it.

* 7. Not keeping promises - One area that also causes distrust and hurt feelings is when we say we are going to do something and then fail to follow through. I myself am guilty of this one. We need to follow through with commitments as that builds trust and shows caring.

* 8. Vain disputes - Lets face it, we like to discuss with passion. There is nothing wrong with good discussion and passionately expressing our thoughts. It is when it becomes vain disputes that it becomes harmful. We need to learn to agree on the majors and not sweat the minors. That Yeshua is Messiah we agree on. On the exact day He was crucified, that is subject to differing beliefs. I teach Thursday, but if someone does not agree, does it really matter? We need to learn to love one another even if the person does not agree with everything we do or say. Arguing past the point of either side learning or exchanging information is a waste of time. Arguing over the color of the carpet is meaningless. Remember love and unity is important in the body.

* 9. Looking for offense - Unfortunately there are times when people seem to be looking for something to get upset about. This looking for offense takes the form of interpreting words, events, or actions in such a way as to find offense when none was intended. This is the famous example of the person saying, "Good Morning," to someone and the person responding, "What did you mean by that?" We should all try hard to not take offense at another's words or deeds.

* 10. Unforgiveness - Unforgiveness may be one of the biggest causes of mental illness. When a person refuses to forgive another individual, it hurts the person not forgiving more than the person they will not forgive. Unforgiveness is the root of much strife and bitterness. The Master made it clear: we are commanded to forgive our brother (or sister) up to seventy times seven. The Rabbis teach failure to forgive a person who asks your forgiveness is a major sin! If there is a person you haven't forgiven, it is commanded in Scripture to forgive that person. If we don't, it is ourselves we are hurting.

How do protect ourselves and the Congregation from these behaviors or attacks? By loving one another, forgiving each other, and committing to being at Synagogue to worship Adonai. So many times people come in the door with the attitude 'What can the Synagogue do for me?' Is this the proper way to approach G-D? John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country." We should adopt a similar attitude, "Ask not what the Synagogue can do for us; but how we may serve the Living G-D!" Remember, "They shall know you by your fruits" and "By your love for one another."

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hanukah - It's meaning and how to celebrate

In seeking a practical expression for this holy day, believers in Messiah Yeshua can incorporate many beautiful traditions. The observance is centered on the hanukiyah (9 candle menorah) and what it represents. Each evening during Hanukah family and friends gather to light the hanukiyah with the appropriate number of candles. The branches of the hanukiyah represent the eight days of Hanukah, plus one shamash candle used to light the others.

Note: the appropriate numbers of candles are placed in the hanukiyah from right to left, yet they are kindled by the shamash from left to right.

On the first night of Hanukah, after sundown, the shamash (servant) candle is lit, which in turn is used to kindle the first candle in the Menorah. The second night, we light the shamash again and use it to light the two right candles. This continues through the eight nights of the Hanukah.

During the lighting of the shamash and the appropriate number of candles, the following blessings are chanted:


Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments, and commanded us to light Hanukah lights.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, ah-sher kid-shah-nu b'mitz-voh-tayv v'tzee-vah-nu l'had-leek ner shel Hanukah.

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, she-ah-sah ni-seem la-ah-vo-tay-nu ba-ya-meem ha-hem baz-man ha-zeh.

(Messianic version)

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us holidays, customs, and times of happiness, to increase the knowledge of God and to build us up in our most holy faith.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, ah-sher nah-tan lah-nu cha-gim, min-ha-gim, oo-mo-ah-dim l'sim-cha, l'hag-deel et da-at Adonai, v'liv-not oh-tah-nu b'emunah ki-do-shah v'na-ah-lah.

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, she-ah-sah ni-seem la-ah-vo-tay-nu ba-ya-meem ha-hem baz-man ha-zeh.

(On the first night you can add)

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who granted us life, sustained us and permitted us to reach this season.

Baruch Ata Adonai Elohaynu Melech ha-olam, she-he-che-yanu v'kee-ma-nu v'hi-gee-ah-nu laz-man ha-zeh.

Note: Traditionally, the candles are lit from right to left. The first candle is placed on the right side of the Menorah, and the second one placed directly to the left. But lighting them starts from the left and moves to the right. Thus the first candle that is lit is the new candle added for that day. The Shammash candle (the tallest) is used to light the others.

Meaning of the Candles

Shamash (Servant) Candle

Messiah Yeshua stated in Mark 10:44-45:

Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be the servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

First Candle

Genesis 1:3-4 describes the creation of the

first light: God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.

Second Candle

Exodus 13:21-22 reveals that God is the source of Israel's light:

And the Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Third Candle

King David reminds us in Psalm 27:1 and Psalm 18:28 that God Himself is the source of our own individual light:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread? For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness.

Fourth Candle

Psalm 119:105 and Psalm 119:130 describe the light that comes from God's Word:

Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

Fifth Candle

Messiah Yeshua is the greatest light of all:

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4-5). As Messiah Yeshua was in the Temple in Jerusalem watching the illuminating lights, He declared: "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Aged Simeon was promised by the Lord that he would not die until he saw Israel's Messiah. When he saw Yeshua as an infant in the Temple, he knew that this One was the light of Israel and the Nations. Simeon declared: "My eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel" (Luke 2:30-32). For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Messiah (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Sixth Candle

After we come to know Messiah, we are to be a source of light for the world. King Messiah tells us in Matthew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Seventh Candle

The prophet Isaiah speaks of the future glory of a restored Israel in Isaiah 60:1-3:

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you... And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Eighth Candle

Revelation 21:22-27 gives us a description of our glorious eternal dwelling place in the New Jerusalem:

And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it. And in the daytime (for there shall be no night there) its gates shall never be closed; and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.


Potato Latkes


2 eggs
3 cups grated, drained potatoes
4 Tbls. grated onion
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbls. cracker or matzah meal
1/2 cup oil or butter

Beat the eggs and add the potatoes, onion, salt, pepper and meal. Heat half the oil or butter in a frying pan and drop the potato mixture into it by the tablespoon. Fry until browned on both sides. Keep pancakes hot until all are fried and add more oil or butter as required.

Serves 8. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

How to Play Dreydel

The Hebrew letters Nes, Gadol, Hayah, Sham, mean "A miracle happened there." Those are the letters on the dreydel.

Game Instructions

1. Give each person the same amount of candy or nuts.
2. Each player puts one piece in the pot.
3. The first player spins the dreydel and does what the dreydel says.
4. After a player gets a Gimel, everyone puts one more piece into the pot.
5. Everyone gets a turn. When you are finished playing, you can eat your candy or nuts.

Gimel-take all
Hay-take half
Shin-add 1 to pot
Nun-take nothing

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What is the Importance of Community? ...continued

What is the Importance of Community? ...continued from last week

So, how do we build Community?

Building community when members are geographically spread out is difficult; but with some imagination and commitment, we can make this happen.

Some steps to build community:

* Regular Attendance - As simple as it sounds, the first step is being at the Synagogue on a regular basis. We have many activities and services which a person can take part in. Being at Synagogue allows everyone to get to know one another.
* Fellowship - We offer both Oneg on Friday Night, and dinner on Saturday specifically to allow people to sit together and to get to know one another. These times should not be skipped as they are the best time to build relationships and a sense of belonging.
* Prayer - liturgy during service, the corporate prayer during worship, and individual prayer during the week help build community as we lift up each other and the Synagogue to Adonai.
* Helping Hands - Caring for each other. This is done by individual acts of kindness, Synagogue support for those needing emergency assistance, and Synagogue scheduled events to assist someone (such as our Habitat for Humanity work)
* Care groups - 4 care groups exist, led by Louise & Curt, Amado & Maria, Mario & Sarah, and Michael Bugg (single men). This groups are being realigned to make sure all people are included. Care groups contact people for prayer and are your individual contact point if you have any issues or needs. They may also schedule additional fellowship activities.
* Counseling - While we do not have professionally trained counselors on staff, we do assist people struggling with issues. This is done by listening, trying to offer both spiritual guidance and practical suggestions. If necessary, we can refer them to professional counselors

While we all may look for the day we can live in close proximity to the Synagogue; we can take concrete actions to build community today.

Try it today, reach out to someone and talk to them, try to establish a relationship with them. In doing that, you will be keeping one of the greatest commandments - to love your neighbor as yourself.

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What is the Importance of Community?

Many today long for a sense of belonging, from children & teenagers to young adults & adults. This sense of belonging explains why many from a church background see the Jewish community and long to be part of that community. The Amish Community is similar in many ways.

Prior to World War I, many towns had a similar sense of Community. As more people moved to urban areas, this sense of community was lost. The 60's & 70's stressed individuality over community, resulting in the acceleration of loss of Community. This left many individuals lost and alone, with little or no support.

So, why is this longing so important, and how can we increase a sense of Community?

Community provides stability, social interaction, protection, support, a sense of belonging, and knowing how the person "fits in." The Community provides many answers to the basic questions a person needs to know: who they are and how they relate to the world. The Community also provides a high sense of worth.

For teenagers and young adults, the Community often seems restrictive. As they seek to determine their place, they often push against Community values. While this is to be expected, it is important the teen or young adult understand what the Community provides. They may choose to reject the Community short-term, but most return once they realize the allure of the world is a vapor.

So, how do we build Community?

... to be continued

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el