Tonight we are going to talk about the concept of authenticity as it relates to G-d, Torah (The Bible), and the attitudes of today’s society. I hope this will be an enjoyable, but thought provoking message.
In order that we may understand this message in it’s full context, we will refer back to a time in history that is equivalent to the events of this day.
G-d gave His instructions, the Torah, at Mount Sinai. Moses wrote the 10 commandments on the two tablets given him by G-d on the mountain and brought them down to the people who were to become known as the Jews. Herein lies the first misunderstanding by those who are ignorant of Scripture either by omission or commission. The common teaching is that the instructions written in explicit detail in the Old Testament such as the dietary laws are “only for the Jews”. Yet Christianity portends to adhere to the 10 commandments. So is the Old Testament authentic in its entirety, or are parts of it outdated? How can one say Some of G-d’s instructions are authentic, and others can be ignored?
In Judaism these are the basic beliefs that are adhered to by Torah observant Jews.
G-d exists (is authentic)
G-d is One and there is no other
G-d is eternal
G-d is omniscient (all-knowing) omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (able to be in all places at all times)
Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other
The words of the prophets are true
Moses received the written Torah
There will be no other Torah
G-d will reward those who obey Him and punish the wicked
The Messiah will come
The dead will be resurrected
G-d is considered to be the Creator of everything. Even Albert Einstein, a non-observant Jew, compared the universe to a clock, with G-d as the “clockmaker”, who cannot be envisaged or understood. The Jews know that G-d is incorporeal. He has no limbs or parts. He has both male and female characteristics. What you say! That’s blasphemy! Now let’s use some common sense and you will see the consistency in G-d’s plan.
G-d made us in His image. In Gen. 1:26). He said “Let US make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves…”. In Verse 27 we read, “So G-d created humankind in his own image; in the image of G-d he created HIM: male and female he created THEM.” We have both male and female characteristics after our Creator. We have estrogen and testosterone. Don’t believe me? Just look at the person sitting next to you and tell me this isn’t so.
There are two accounts of creation in genesis. The first man was made on the 6th day (Gen.2:7). Later woman was taken out of man (Gen. 2:22). Understand that man had both characteristics of male/female before woman was taken from man. Once man and woman were separated into individuals, the majority of the female qualities; emotions, nurturance, gentleness, etc, were given to the woman. The characteristics of justice, dominant physical strength and logic were given to the man. Only when man and woman are united in marriage do they become as in G-d’s image, Echad, or a compound unity. But that is for another message.
Next, Judaism is not only a set of ideas about the world, but an entire way of life. It means more than contemplating, praying, having faith or believing in a Supreme Being or an afterlife. Following the dictates of Judaism means taking action. Jews cannot excuse themselves from this requirement by claiming one person cannot possibly make a difference in the world. G-d holds people responsible for their actions and teaches us to follow His standards of ethical behavior. Do you hear me? HIS standards… not yours, not mine, not Dr Spock or Shirley McClain. Now if this hasn’t sunk in yet, think about this; G-d’s expectations, found in TORAH, the WHOLE Bible, both old and refreshed covenant, apply to ALL human beings, even those who don’t choose to follow them. Now, which model of ethical behavior do the Jewish people follow, and how do we know it is authentic?
Listen now, this applies to Jews and non-Jews. First, we have the Ten Commandments. I say this first because this is supposedly common ground between Christians and Jews. But believe it or not, unless we study the original Hebrew, we can and often misunderstand and mistranslate the meaning of the commandments as well as the rest of the Bible. This is what has happened today. We have “The New Translation”,” The King James Version”, the “Paraphrased” version and at least 26 others. That is why we have to go back to the original version of G-d’s instructions for the proper translation and meaning. Sorry if you are anti-Semitic; the original text was written by Jews according to G-d’s purpose. (Deut: 7:7) The point is, G-d intended for these instructions, what Christianity calls “laws” because that serves their agenda for throwing them out, to be followed by everyone. In a few moments we will explore the counterfeit beliefs followed by many today. Remember, Abraham was commanded to leave his country, his home and his father’s house, and to leave all distractions behind that might impair his ability to be a blessing to anyone around him. He was sent on this journey to emphasize the fact that he as we, are temporary residents here and that we must leave the familiar, the comfortable, to make G-d’s purpose for our lives the priority. Jews are forbidden to walk away from society, from the rest of the world, to strive to be the best they can be for G-d’s glory and not their own. This means self-nullification as a way of life. Wooo! I can tell you as the Bible does that the more control you give G-d over your life, the more freedom you have. You simply have to learn to recognize that you have not arrived yet! Example needed here? Check the records and see how many Jews have won the Nobel Peace Prize for medicine alone! The goal of glorifying G-d and help ones’ fellow man is ingrained in the very fabric of the obedient Jewish soul. Narcissism is disdained by the Jew, unlike the Greek and Roman counterparts of old and our society today, which has once again embraced the Greek mentality. (More on that later).
Now at this early point in the message I hear some of you out there thinking, “Jews this and Jews that, I believe and do everything she says observant Jews do and I am a Christian!” That is also a sermon in itself but I will interject that G-d says beginning in Exodus 12:14 , (This is speaking of Passover and the day it is to be celebrated)” This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to Adonai; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.” He repeats it in verse 17. In verse 19 He goes further and says these instructions apply to both the “foreigner and the citizen of the land.” He repeats his instructions again in verse 24 of the same chapter. In verse 49 He says, “The same teaching is to apply equally to the citizen and to the foreigner living among you.” This means that if you consider yourself a true believer, or as G-d puts it, “a foreigner living among you”, then these instructions apply to YOU. Then we go on to see the regulation of Shabbat, the Sabbath. Again, He states that Shabbat is to be observed on the 7Th day, not the first as has been changed since the days of Constantine. G-d says, “you are to keep my Shabbat, because it has been set apart for you. “This is a sign between me and you through all your generations; so that you will know that I am Adonai, who sets you apart for me.” G-d goes on throughout the Torah to lay out the blueprints for a long life when we follow his regulations and instructions. He repeats himself several times concerning the Biblical festivals, which are to be followed. I can assure you that Christmas and Easter are not among them. If you are interested in their origins and meanings, I will be happy to talk with you later. But suffice it to say, they are not of G-d.
Then we move on to Leviticus. In its pages, we find many admonishments, commands not to get involved with sorcerers, psychics, divinators, etc. He reinforces observation of his regulations lest we be cut off from him. He repeats these statements many times throughout these books so that we may see how important our obedience and separateness from secular society is and must remain. In Leviticus 20:22 He says,” You are to observe all my regulations and rulings and ACT on them. A true believer doesn’t sit back and “wait on G-d” for blessing and answers to life’s challenges. Judaism is a moving, intellectual and spiritual faith. We move as Abraham and take our direction as we go. The designated times and festivals are repeated in Lev.23 and 26. The dietary rules are given in Lev. 11. And may I say here for your clarification that the term “people of Israel” means all true believers, Jew and the foreigner or Gentile who lives among the Israelites or biological Jews. The definition of a true believer is found seven times in Revelation and is described as “one who caries the testimony of Yahshua, and one who guards the command of HaShem. That is one who understands that we must be reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s faithfulness to die for us, and one who obeys the rulings of G-d. Even in Hebrews 4 we read,” Therefore, let us be terrified of the possibility that, even though the promise of entering his rest remains, any one of you might be judged to have fallen short of it; for Good News has also been proclaimed to us, just as it was to[those in the wilderness] them. But the message they heard didn’t do them any good, because those who heard it did not combine it with trust (Trust is defined as obedience, action, worship). Those who disobeyed G-d were not allowed to enter into Caanan. For it is we who have trusted who enter the rest. In Galations 3:6 we see that Avraham trusted in G-d AND was faithful, and that was accounted to him as righteousness. “Be assured then that it is those who live by trusting and being faithful who are really children of Avraham. Also the Tanach (The Old Testament), foreseeing that G-d would also consider Gentiles righteous WHEN they live by trusting and being faithful, told Avraham in advance by saying, “In connection with you, all the Goyim will be blessed.” So then, those who rely on trusting and being faithful are blessed along with Avraham, who trusted and was faithful. This is a true Jew according to G-d. In Romans 2:28 we read, “ For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not only external and physical. On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly; the true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his praise comes not from other people but from G-d. Yes, physical circumcision is commanded, but the act is done out of love for G-d and not merely for a legalistic motive. Those are listed repeatedly in the Old Testament. I must remind you that everything in the New or “refreshed” covenant is based and found in the “Old”. The “Old testament” was not eliminated or made null and void when Yahshua dies for us. Only the sin sacrifice was done away with. Matt.5: 17 teaches us that the Torah is still valid, “ Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or stroke will pass from the Torah- not until everything that must happen has happened. The word abolish or destroy as it is in some translations means to “show an incorrect interpretation of.” Complete or fulfill as it is in some translations means to “show a correct interpretation of. Yahshua came to physically show us how to live what had been written. He is the living manifested Torah. “James 1:21 tells us to receive meekly the Word (Torah) and implant it in ourselves so that we might be saved. He tells us not to just hear what the Word says, but do it. If a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.
Now with this background in some of the basic tenants of Judaism and the applicability of G-d’s entire Word to all who choose to follow Him in love AND obedience, let us move closer to the Chanukkah story.
The descendants of the Israel were exposed to many pagan gods and practices, but none posed a greater lure or threat than that of the Greek culture because of its aesthetic and intellectual nature. The Greeks were not only military imperialists, but culture imperialists as well. Greek soldiers and settlers brought their way of life- language, art, architecture, literature and philosophy to the Middle East. When Greek culture merged with the culture of the Middle East, it created a hybrid- Hellenism (Hellas is the Greek word for Greece)-whose impact would be far greater and last far longer than the brief period of Alexander’s empire. Hellenism’s influence on the Roman Empire, Christianity, and the West was monumental, as we shall soon see. But it is the interaction between the Jews and the Greeks and the Hellenism on Judaism that we want to take a closer look at.
During his military campaign against Persia, Alexander took a detour to the south, conquering Tyre and then Egypt via what is today Israel. There is a fascinating account about Alexander’s first encounter with the Jews of Israel, who were then subjects of the Persian Empire.
This encounter is recorded both in the Talmud (Yoma 69a) and in the Jewish historian Josephus’s Book of Antiquities (XI, 321-47). In both accounts the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, fearing that Alexander would destroy the city, went out to meet him before he arrived in the city. Alexander, upon seeing the High Priest, dismounted and bowed to him. (Alexander rarely did this). When asked by his general, Parmerio, to explain his actions, Alexander answered,” I did not bow before him, but before that G-d who has honored him with the high Priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very apparel.” Alexander interpreted the vision of the High Priest as a good omen and thus spared Jerusalem, peacefully absorbing the Land of Israel into his growing empire. As a tribute to his benign conquest, the Sages decreed that the Jewish firstborn of that time be named Alexander-, which remains a Jewish name to this very day. And the date of their encounter, the 25th of Tevet, was declared a minor holiday. This corresponds strangely enough to the first day of Chanukkah. I’ll explain in a moment.
Thus began one of the most interesting and complex cultural relationships in the ancient world. The Greeks had never met anyone like the Jews- the world’s only monotheistic nation who had a unique concept of an infinite G-d who cares about creation and acts upon it. They had literacy rates and a social welfare infrastructure unheard of in the ancient world. So fascinated were the Greeks with the Jews that they became the first people to translate the Bible into another language when King PtolemyII (c.250 BCE) forced 70 Rabbis to translate the Bible into Greek (known and the Septuagent, which means “70” in Greek). I must interject however that the Bible had to be translated because the Greek-speaking Jews were no longer able to read the Bible written in the original Hebrew. The rabbis who disapproved of this translation did so with well-founded fears. In the Talmud it is said that this translation “was as intolerable for Israel as the day the golden calf was made, because the Torah cannot be translated adequately” (Soferim I)
The fear was that unfriendly eyes would read the Bible without the knowledge and understanding of the original context and Jewish commentary and that the enemies of the Jewish people would attack various passages. This has come to pass, even from Christianity. The attitude of these rabbis can be summed up as follows:” be careful of Greek wisdom, which bears no fruit but only flowers”; that is, the culture of the Greeks produces beauty but not moral truth.
Two Greek Empires emerged in the Middle East after the death of Alexander, who by the way, died of syphilis at the age of 32. The Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria. The Land of Israel was the border between these two warring Empires. Initially, the Jews were under the control of the Ptolomies, but after the battle of Panias in 198BCE, Israel found herself in the domain of the Seleucids and their king, Antiochus.
While much of the upper crust of Jewish society, along with the rest of the population of the Mediterranean world, readily embraced Hellenistic culture (some to the point of denouncing their Jewish identity), the vast majority of the Jews remained loyal to Judaism. Those who became assimilated felt that the Greek culture and assimilation was a positive and modernizing influence and they welcomed the release from obedience to Torah and G-d’s instructions and values. They saw it as a way to gain acceptance into the larger Greek society, and the way to prosperity. This also happened prior to the Holocaust and is happening today folks. A Jew with ambition during the time of the Greeks had no choice but to join the local gymnasium. Those who rejected assimilation and stuck to the Torah of G-d and of their Fathers were viewed with great hostility by many Greeks and was seen as a form of rebellion. They were seen as uncivilized, for Judaism remained the one intellectual, religious and cultural tradition that refused to submit to the authority of the New World Order . Unlike barbarians, who could lose their inferior status by accepting Greek culture, the Jews continued to believe in one invisible G-d. Their counterculture which set them apart from the pervasive Hellenistic civilization set the stage for what is known as classic anti-Semitism. Again, this whole scenario was repeated during the Holocaust and is present today. Look around you, those who are Torah observant… listen to the comments that are being made today. I encounter them all the time. Be careful folks. I alluded to this a little last week when I was talking about Walmart. We love a bargain. Wal-Mart stores are popping up all over the place putting many families out of jobs and absorbing businesses of the communities. However, the benefits to the employees are poor and few. I say it again… it doesn’t take a far stretch of the imagination to envision the consolidation of banks and other businesses to the point where we will have no choice but to shop at a particular place or do without. The barcode technology is here. Think of it… if you don’t take the barcode so that you can be tracked, you cannot buy or sell… Think this is my wild imagination? Read Daniel, and Revelation and see for yourselves what G-d says about all of this. You can also read the Book Of Esther, which depicts this new formulation of Jewish hatred.
Now back to the chronological narrative. The exotic differences between Greeks and the Torah observant Jew, which had once served as the source of attraction between the two cultures, now created the flashpoint for a cultural war. (Satan does not lure us with a pitchfork and horns. He attempts to seduce us with that which he knows will tempt us the greatest… the narcissistic attractions that lured and continues to lure away those who follow G-d). But it would be wrong to view the conflict as purely Greece vs. the Jews. Internal tension within the Jewish community also contributed to the strife. Hellenized Jews took it upon themselves to “help” their more traditional brethren by “dragging” them away from what they perceived was their primitive beliefs into the “modern” world of Greek culture. In the end, the Jewish war against Greece at the time of Chanukkah would prove not only a war of Jew against Greek, but also a war of Jew against Jew- fought over the heart, soul and future of the Jewish people. To aid them in their efforts, these Hellenized Jews enlisted the help of their Greek allies, ultimately bringing the king himself, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, into the conflict.
In the mid-second century BCE, Antiochus issued a decree which until that time was unheard of in the multicultural and religiously tolerant ancient world (Like ours today!). He outlawed another people’s religion. He banned the teaching and practice of Judaism. Brutal Greek persecutions of the Jews included the torture of the seven sons of Hannah who was a righteous woman and who told the last of her sons to remember the God of his fathers and not to give in to the Greeks. Her sons were tortured before her eyes one by one. These acts of brutal torture and persecution triggered the first religious/ideological war in history- the Maccabean revolt. A priestly family of Matithias and his five sons, the most famous of whom was Judah, led the revolt.
The matter came to a head in Modi’in. Greek soldiers came one day and demanded that the Jews sacrifice a pig to the pagan god Zeus, of whom a statue was placed at the head of the Temple, and the Temple was renamed for this pagan god. A Hellenized Jew stepped forward to commit this blasphemous act. Mattathias stabbed him and the Greek official that was present. He turned to the crowd and announced: “ Follow me, all of you who are for G-d’s law and stand by the covenant.” (1Maccabees 2:27). He then took his five sons to the hills and launched a guerrilla war against the armies of the empire. After three years, the Jews re-conquer Jerusalem although the Greeks outnumbered them with professional soldiers and war elephants, which were the tanks of that time. The Jews were outnumbered, out trained and poorly equipped. But what they lacked in training and equipment they made up in spirit and the trust and faith that G-d was and is with them.
The Temple was defiled and turned into a pagan sanctuary where pigs had been sacrificed on the altar. The first thing that was done upon recapturing the Temple was to try to light a make-shift menorah (as the gold one had been melted down by the Greeks) but only one vial of pure lamp oil with the special seal was found. They used this vial to light the menorah and miraculously it stayed lit for eight days, by which time fresh pure oil has been pressed and delivered to the Temple. The Maccabees then purified the Temple and rededicated it on the 25 of Kislev, which is when Chanukkah begins. Chanukkah means “inauguration”. It is also a contraction of “cahnu kof hei”, they rested on the 25th (of Kislev) The Chanukkahg lights were to be lit and set in the windows for a public display of the miracles and to reaffirm the Jewish faith in G-d. Chanukkah represents many miracles and has some very profound meanings. It was established to commemorate the very opposite of cultural assimilation. It represents the military victory of a vastly outnumbered band of Jews against the Greeks, and the spiritual victory of Jewish values over those of the Greek (Today’s values). The light of Chanukkah is symbolic of the survival of the spiritual light of Judaism. Its survival enabled the Jews to have a monumental impact on the world that has far exceeded the miniscule size of the Jewish people, giving the world the concept of one G-d and the values of the sanctity of life, justice, peace and social responsibility that WERE the moral/spiritual foundations of Western civilization until the 1960s. The name Maccabee means “hammer” and it also an acronym for the Torah verse “ Who is compared to You among the mighty, oh L-rd” (Exodus 15:11).
Chanukkah is the only Jewish holiday not found in the Tanach per se and the only one rooted in a military campaign. However the Tanach reveals that Chanukkah is predicted in later prophetic writings. The vision given to the prophet Daniel is an amazing detailed description of the events surrounding Chanukkah. Daniel chapter 8:21 speaks about Alexander the great and his conquering the Persians. Verse 23 speaks of Antiochus who desecrated the Temple. Antiochus Epiphanies, Greek for G-d manifest has come to typify the anti-christ of the latter days who will be the one responsible for the “abomination of desolation” referred to in Daniel 8:11-13 and by Yahshua Himself in Matthew 24:15. The miracle of Chanukkah is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures with so much detail that some scholars have suggested that Daniel was writing after the fact and not prophetically. What an important time of history to understand! John 10:22-23 we read,” Then came Chanukkah in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Yahshua was walking around inside the Temple area, in Solomon’s Colonnade…” read this passage and see for yourselves. You will not see Christmas listed here or anywhere else in the Bible except where G-d speaks of HaSatan changing the times and the seasons. That is for another message also.
The focus of Chanukkah is almost entirely spiritual and not physical. The lack of a physical side to Chanukkah is unusual but appropriate. The light of Messiah must burn brightly in our hearts and shine through the actions of our lives. This is a celebration of deliverance and G-d’s provision. It is no wonder 8 days of light were provided with one day’s worth of oil. The festival of Sukkot (G-d’s provision) lasts eight days also. For many scholars think that Yahshua was conceived during this time and He is the Light of the world. The extra candle in the menorah is the Shamash candle or the servant candle used to light the other candles. Yahshua was the servant of his Father who came to show us how to physically live the written Torah of G-d. The eighth candle foreshadows Paul’s treatise in Roman’s 11:17-18 where he speaks of the wild olive tree (Gentiles) being grafted into Israel. The Shamash candle plus the 8th candle makes a total of nine, which denotes finality. In revelation 1:16, Yahshua is described standing in the middle of a Menorah in the position of the Servant Lamp and Yochanaon described, “his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.” In Hebrew numerology 8 is a transcendent number and represents deity and a new beginning. Seven represents spiritual perfection. The Chanukkah Menorah features 8 candles (deity) and one candle (the servant candle). Spiritual perfection (represented by the number 7) obtains life only after the Servant Candle lights them, having seven candles contained within the nine candled Menorah may be interpreted as “perfect humanity” or imputed righteousness by virtue of the work of the Servant Candle who is also YHVH (Incarnate Deity represented by the number eight). The number eight may be associated with the eighth day Jewish infants are circumcised, eight different garments worn by the high priest, and eight days of Passover and Sukkot. The 25th of Kislev is also the date the Tabernacle was finished in the wilderness and the day YHVH blessed Noach with the rainbow. The nine candles of Chanukkah can also be likened to the nine blessings of the Beattitudes (Matt.5:3-11) and the nine fold “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22). Even hasatan, the adversary whose name Lucifer (Hay-Lale in Hebrew) means “light bearer”, suggests his desire to usurp Yahshua in His role as the Servant Candle.
The most explicit reference to Chanukkah is in the Brit Chadasha or the New Testament. This is why all believers in Mashiach might want to understand and celebrate this festival. Messiah celebrated it. Not only did He celebrate it, He observed it in the same Temple that had been cleansed and rededicated just a few centuries earlier as we have studied tonight. Even the miracle of the oil is representative of the Messiah as the Ruach HaKodesh. Why oil? Because oil does not blend with any other liquid but will rise to the top. In that respect oil is symbolic of the Ruach HaKodesh. Like the oil, the Ruach does not mix with non believing nations but rises to a higher plane. Finally, I want to show you the Shield of Israel that represents a seven lamp Menorah with two olive branches making two more lamps. The leaves of the olive branches respectively are twelve in number. In Revelation, we read of the 24 elders representing the elders of Israel. This also represents the 12 patriarchs and the 12 apostles. So even the shield of Israel carries the message of Chanukkah. Jew and Gentile believers; one, under the Kippur (covering) of the blood of Yahshua.
The war for the Temple that resulted in the establishment of the Chanukkah celebration was against a worldview that elevated the physical above all, that venerated beauty, not holiness; the body, not the soul. This is the Greek philosophy that has again permeated our society to its continued denigration. The Jews fought and still fight to preserve a different view of the world- one with G-d, not man, at its center. If a letter of authenticity will make you believe in the genuineness of something and ignite you to seek and obtain it such as the brick I showed you at the beginning of this message, let me assure you that The Bible; both the Old and New (Refreshed) Testaments are G-d’s certificate of authenticity, authenticated by the manifestation of Yahshua Who gave up His place in heaven for a time, and lowered Himself to a physical being that He might teach and convince us that this world is only a training ground. We must separate ourselves as did the observant Jews of old and the true believers of today from the re-Hellenization of our civilization, study and learn those things which G-d as instructed us to do if we love Him, and remain true to Him in the face of persecution and possibly even death. He is coming again and soon. We must be armed with the knowledge of Torah and the love for G-d. For this is the only way we can overcome and remain separate from assimilation into the soulless value system of hasatan rampant in our world today. May you all be blessed during this Chanukkah season.
Baruch HaShem, Eloheynu Melech HaOlam,