Through the Eyes of a Messianic Jew
Hanukkah--The Feast of Dedication
As a child, I remember Hanukkah celebrations being a semi-controlled, chaotic mix of relatives, gifts, latkes and noise. It was a time of playing with cousins as we dodged adults—especially grandmothers set on pinching our cheeks.
Hanukkah was fun.
As a preteen, the central theme of Hanukkah became the story of Judah Maccabee, the great warrior. It was the seventies, and a real live battle was happening in Israel. Just as Judah Maccabee led the Israelites into battle against a much larger enemy and won, Israel had an equally supernatural victory against an overwhelming force made up of five nations. As a young Jew approaching manhood it stirred something in me to see God actively working within the lives of Jewish people today! That Jews today were just as dedicated to fighting for the right to exist as the Judah Maccabee and his people. The Holy Scriptures became more real to me. Imagine, instead of just reading about miracles that happened thousands of years ago, here were miracles that happened now.
Hanukkah was about miracles.
As I got older and began to establish my own identity as a Jewish man, Hanukkah retreated into the realm of gatherings, dinners, gifts and noise—only now I was the adult. It wasn’t that I had lost my wonder of the amazing things God was doing in Israel—I kept up with news and current events–it was that my Jewish experience was still limited to an expression that largely centered on our local synagogue and our Jewish community. Because of my earlier experience, I knew God was still active among the Jewish people; it just seemed His activity was focused across the world in Israel.
Hanukkah was about Jewish life.
When I joined the military, I was confronted with challenges to my faith. December rolled around and a new battle arose—in my spirit. As I prepared to celebrate Hanukkah and those around me were getting ready to celebrate Christmas, I was torn. Just as the Israelites were confronted by assimilation into the Greek culture, I was also being inundated by those who wanted me to give up my belief system and join with them—to be “assimilated” into something non-Jewish, and what I believed to be non-Scriptural.
Hanukkah was about battles.
My faith was being challenged. My own personal experience in Judaism was being challenged. Who I was as a Jew was being challenged.
I was being forced to come to terms with my Jewish identity. Was it about Israel as the Jewish homeland? I didn’t live in Israel. Was it the traditions—like celebrating Hanukkah? There had to be more. Hanukkah was the Feast of Dedication, what was I dedicated to?
Hanukkah was about Jewish identity.
What was my faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all about? Who was I? The identity crisis forced me to go to the source: the Holy Scriptures—the law and Jewish prophets. Searching the Scriptures I read how a Messiah would come and suffer as a sin offering for Israel. We needed the Messiah to atone for our sins—I needed Messiah. When I read Isaiah 53, I knew the Jewish Messiah we had been waiting for was Yeshua (Jesus).
Hanukkah was about revelation.
It was my own Maccabee experience. That Hanukkah was when my identity became real. It changed from being a time to celebrate what happened to others long ago. It was no longer about victories across the globe in Israel. It became a battle of Hanukkah (dedication) around me and yes in me. A victorious battle Yeshua fought for me.
Hanukkah was about dedication and redemption.
Today, Hanukkah is still a time filled with joy, great food, life, and family. Hanukkah is still time spent thinking about God and His might and deliverance shown throughout history. But the central theme in my heart is not just a celebration of what God did for Israel, now Hanukkah is when I focus on what God through Messiah Yeshua did for me. I have dedicated my life to Him and have dedicated my life to sharing the Hanukkah message with all those who will listen. My Hanukkah experience changed my entire foundation of faith.
Happy Hanukkah and God bless you and your family!
Messianic Rabbi Eric Tokajer and his wife, Pam
Bio: Rabbi Eric Tokajer was raised in a Traditional Jewish home. While serving in the US Navy, he was challenged to study the Scriptures where he found Yeshua. He has been ordained as a rabbi in the IAMCS and is serving in Pensacola. He and Pam have been married for thirty years.
For more info on Rabbi Eric click on these links:
www.shalompensacola.com and www.messianicdailynews.com
***For more information and teaching on Hanukkah download The Feast of Hanukkah article