Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a wonderful holiday of renewed dedication, faith, and hope. It’s a holiday pointing to the Messiah, who is the light of the world.
Chanukah commemorates the victory, through the miracles of God, of a small band of Jews over the pagan Syrian-Greek empire who ruled over Israel around two thousand years ago. Psalm119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” The evil Syrian ruler Antiouchus Epiphanes tried to wipe out faith in the Word of God. He failed and this is what we still celebrate today.
Chanukah means “dedication”, because it was on Chanukah that the Temple was purified and rededicated to God, in 165 BCE, after three years of pagan defilement.
Chanukah is a family event with much singing, rejoicing, eating and family fun each night, as well as rich spiritual edification from the Word of God. Families gather at nightfall to light candles, rededicate themselves to the Word of God and to share in festive meals.
In the center is the Chanukah menorah, called the Chanukiah, which is lit every night after sundown before the Eternal, except on the evening on the Sabbath, when it is lit before sundown. Blessings are sung or recited as the candles are lit.
Each night the celebration continues with songs or readings, games, and sometimes small gifts.
Below we will give you some practical guidelines for this celebration that you can use as you like for your family. This is a wonderful time to fellowship with your family, as well as inviting people over to join you.
Lighting of the candles
First some practical instructions regarding the lighting of the candles. The Chanukia holds nine candles. There is one higher than the rest, which is called the shamash (or shammus), which means the servant, and is used to light all the other candles. This is of course of picture of the righteous servant of the Lord, the Messiah Yeshua, who is the light of the world.
One candle is added to the menorah each night. The first night, you light only the shamash and one Chanukah candle. By the eighth night, you light all of the candles. Place the Chanukiah in the front window of your house or apartment to be seen by as many people as possible glorifying God for what he did.
Candles are added to the menorah from right to left (like Hebrew writing). However, you light them from left to right (the newest light first). The rule to remember is “The first (the furthest to the right that you add first) shall be last and the last (the furthest to the left that you have added last) shall be first.”
You light the shamash candle first. While holding the shamash candle, you recite the following blessings.
“Blessed are you LORD, our God, ruler of heaven and earth, who performed miracles for our ancestors in their days at this time. In the name of Yeshua the Messiah. Amen!”
The first night only, you also add this blessing
“Blessed are you LORD, our God, ruler of heaven and earth, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. In the name of Yeshua the Messiah. Amen!”
After reciting the blessings, use the shamash in your hand to light the first Chanukah candle, which is situated to the furthest right.
The second night you light the shamash, read the blessing and then light two candles to the furthest right in the Chanukiah from left to right (newest to oldest). The third night you light the shamash plus three lights from left to right and so on.
Candles should be left burning until they go out on their own. They should burn for more than half an hour. (Standard Chanukah candles burn for about an hour.)
After you have lit the candles, sing a song of praise and take some time for prayer, Scripture reading and meditation. We have given eight reasons why all believers in Yeshua/Jesus should celebrate this feast. Each night you can focus on one specific reason or theme. We recommend that you make the first and the last nights, plus the sixth night (the New Moon) extra special events.
The First Night – Revelation
We have been grafted into God’s covenant people. Their history is also our history. Paul calls Israel “our forefathers” in 1 Cor 10:1. The nations are called to rejoice with God’s people Israel. “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” (Rom 15:10)
“you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root.” (Rom 11:17)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (Eph 2:19)
- Read the Chanukah story with the family from 1 Macc 1 – 4 or have someone tell the story.
(See “The Chanukah Story”)
- Celebrate a feast with potato latkes and/or other typical Chanukah dishes.
- Play the dreidel game with the whole family and talk about the miracle in the Temple.
- Pray that more followers of Messiah in the nations will have a revelation of how we have been grafted in to the true olive tree sharing the promises with Israel!
The Second Night – War
Chanukah is the story of the victory of the forces of “light” – which include faith and loyalty to God and his Word, and the will to fight for these beliefs – over the forces of “darkness,” represented by the hedonistic lifestyle of the ancient Syrian-Greeks. It is the story of war against apostasy and lawlessness that will be repeated again in the last days. Antiouchus Epiphanes is the foremost picture of the coming antichrist, see Mt 24:15, Mk 13:14 and 2 Th 2:1-4.
- Read Dan 11:31-36 and Zec 9:11-17 about the victory of sons of Zion against the sons of Greece.
- Talk about the difference between Hellenism, (hedonism, secular humanism, materialism, nudity and sexual lusts, idolatry, etc), and faithfulness to Gods’ word and his commandments.
- Talk about the importance to fight against Hellenism today in order to be a pure Bride ready for Messiah. Jn 14:21, 1 Jn 2:3-6
The Third Night – Miracles
Chanukah is the story of miracles in the battle against those who tried to destroy obedience to the Torah. Without these miracles the Savior of the world could not have been born. There would have been no Holy Temple and no one in Israel who followed the Torah.
“And when the time came for their purification according to the Torah of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Torah of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”).” (Lk 2:22-23)
- Read about the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22-39.
- Thank God for the miracles that happened to the Maccabees that made it possible for the Messiah to be born!
- Pray for miracles again in Israel in the battle against those who want to destroy the nation so that Messiah can return! See Zech 12:3 and Mt 23:39!
The Fourth Night – Purification
The Maccabees cleansed the Temple from all idolatry and restored the altar igen. Yeshua also cleansed the Temple. (Jn 2:13-23) Our body is a Temple for the Holy Spirit and we need to be pure for God.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Co 6:19-20)
- Read John 2:13-23!
- We are supposed to shine as lights in the world Mt 5:14-16!
- Pray for purity before God!
The Fifth Night – Dedication
We are the temple of the Lord and need to dedicate our lives to serve God.
- Read 2 Thessalonians chapter 2!
- Talk about the importance of loving the truth of God and his Word and obeying it, see Eph 5:25-27.
- Pray for greater dedication to serve God and obey the truth!
The Sixth Night – The Greatest Miracle
Tonight is the New Moon, which is a shadow pointing in a special way to Messiah. “regarding a festival or a new moon…, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Messiah.” (Col 2:16-17 NKJV Revised) It was probably this night that Yeshua was conceived in Miriam’s womb and was born exactly nine months later on the Feast of Trumpets, see the article “When Was Messiah Born?”.
“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:9,14)
- Read: John 1:1-14 and Luke 1:26-56
- Give thanks for God sending the Messiah, the true light, the Word becoming flesh!
The Seventh Night – Anointing
Chanukah is also called “The Festival of Lights” referring to the lights that are lit on each night. Light in the menorah requires oil, which is why food dipped in oil like donuts and latkes are eaten during Chanukah. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
Yeshua said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:14-16)
Without oil, without the help of the Holy Spirit, we cannot do good works and shine as lights in this dark world.
- Talk about how we can let our light shine!
- Where does the power come from? Read Ac 1:8
- How can we get this power? Read Lk 11:13 and Eph 5:18-20
- Take time to pray and ask God for the Holy Spirit and sing praises and hymns to God thanking him for his goodness!
The Eighth Night – Victory
Read Rev 15:1-4,
“I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:
‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”
Celebrate with happy worship songs and thanksgiving for:
- The miracles that happened during Chanukah
- The preservation of the Jewish people today
- The promises in God’s Word.
- The coming of the Messiah
- Pray that God will repeat the miracles of Chanukah again in Israel!
“On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. …On that day I will make the leaders of Judah like a firepot in a woodpile, like a flaming torch among sheaves. They will consume right and left all the surrounding peoples, but Jerusalem will remain intact in her place.” (Zec 12:3,6)
The Jewish people love to sing at the Feasts. Here are a couple of traditional Chanukah songs, as well as some other songs that are fit to sing during these nights.
1) Maoz tzur
Maoz tzur yeshua-si
Lecha na-eh li-sha-beyach
Tikone bais ti-fee-lasi
Vi-sham todah ni-za-beyach.
Li-ase ta-chin mat-beyach
Az eg-more vi-sheer meez-mor
Az eg-more vi-sheer meez-mor
O mighty stronghold of my salvation, to praise You is a delight. Restore my House of Prayer and there we will bring a thanksgiving offering When You will eliminate our enemies,Then I shall complete with a song of hymn the dedication of the Altar. (To listen to the song go here to Aish.com)
2) Sevivon, sov, sov, sov
Sevivon, sov, sov, sov
Chanukah, hu chag tov
Chanukah, hu chag tov
Sevivon, sov, sov, sov!
Chag simcha hu la-am
Nes gadol haya sham
Nes gadol haya sham
Chag simcha hu la-am.
Dreidel, spin, spin, spin. Chanukah is a great holiday. It is a celebration for our nation. A great miracle happened there.(To listen to the song go here to Aish.com)
3) Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
Chanukah, Oh Chanukah,
come light the Menorah,
Let’s have a party,
we’ll all dance the hora,
Gather round the table,
we’ll all have a treat,
Sevivon to play with,
and latkes to eat.
And while we are playing,
The candles are burning bright,
One for each night, they shed a sweet light,
To remind us of days long ago.
One for each night, they shed a sweet light,
To remind us of days long ago.
(To listen to the song go here to Aish.com)
PRAYER FOR ISRAEL SONGS
1) Sh’ma Yis’ra’el
/: Sh’ma Yis’ra’el Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad :/
/: Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed :/
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever.
2) Baruch Haba
Baruch haba be’shem Adonai! Hallelujah!
Baruch haba be’shem Adonai! Hallelujah!
Baruch haba be’shem Adonai! Baruch haba be’shem Adonai! Hallelujah!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hallelujah!
(Matthew 23:39) Melody by Barry Kornreich
1) Dreidel Game
Chanukah is a time for family games and fun. Take time to fellowship and play games. The traditional Chanukah game is played with a dreidel and some tokens such as candy, nuts, raisins, foil wrapped chocolate coins, (gelt).
The origin to the Dreidel game: The Syrian-Greeks who ruled over Israel had decreed that the teaching or studying of Torah was a crime punishable by death or imprisonment. As the Jews defiantly studied the Torah in secret, they used the game of dreidel as a cover, and as the Syrian-Greek soldiers burst into the forbidden study groups, they Jews would instead be playing this game.
The letters on the dreidel stand for the Hebrew phrase: Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, which means “A great miracle happened there.” The word “there” refers to the land of Israel.
Divide the tokens equally among the players, around 20 each. Every player contributes one token into a central pile. This becomes the “pot.” Players spin the dreidel in turn and contribute or collect items from the pot based upon which letter faces up when the dreidel stops its spin.
נ “Nun” means nothing, you win nothing, you lose nothing.
ג “Gimel” means you take the whole pot.
ה “Hay” means you win half of what’s in the pot.
ש “Shin” means “put in” – you lose, and must put one.
When only one token or no token is left in the middle, each player adds another piece. When a player has all the tokens, that person wins!
Use the pattern of the dreidel below to make your own. Use strong paper and a stick to put in the middle to spin with. Color it with beautiful colors. Big dots look great when the dreidel spins.
2) Chanukah Treasure Hunt for Children
The Treasure could be some candy or small gifts.
Instructions: Hide the clues according to your situation. Read the story below to the children, and then give them the first clue. If the children are not old enough to read, you need to have a person reading the clues to them in the particular places.
The Story: Over two thousand years ago, not long before Yeshua was born, things were very hard for the Jewish people. There was an evil ruler* that conquered* Israel. He did not believe in the true God, and he forbid the Jewish people to worship the true God and he forced them to follow his pagan* religion. If the Jews did not obey him, he would kill them.
Many of the Jews were afraid and obeyed the evil ruler. But some of them refused to obey him and told him they only worshiped the true God. The leader of these people was a family that was called the Maccabees*. These men had to fight many big armies that came to kill them, but God always saved them and gave them the victory.
Even when the evil ruler sent the mightiest army to conquer the Jews, God gave his people the victory. God gave them freedom from their enemies and freedom to worship him again.
Now they were able to cleanse* the Temple that the evil ruler had defiled*. When the Temple was cleansed they celebrated for eight days with praises and songs and offerings to God.
*Take time to explain these words to the children.
- In those days, when the evil ruler did many bad things to God’s people, it seemed to be very, very dark for them. But – – there was one light – God was still with them. Go to a place where it is really dark. Turn on the light and you will find the next clue.
- When the Jewish people were fighting the battles, or hiding in the caves from the enemy, it must have been really cold, because it was winter. Go to a place where you can find things that keep you warm, and you will find the next clue.
- Before the Jewish people would fight a battle, they would read the Scriptures and pray. Go to the room that has a Bible verse on the door. Go inside the room and find the next clue under the Bible there.
- What a happy day it was for the Jewish people, when the Temple was cleansed and they were free to worship God again! Go to the place where you clean yourself, and you will find the treasure.
3) Gather the Word Game
In this game you divide the children, and/or the adults in 2 teams. If you are a very large group, divide into teams of 4-5 people.
Instructions: Tell the story of Chanukah and then you give the teams the task to find things, inside the house (and outside as well if you so choose) that make up the word CHANUKAH by the first letter of each item.
Example: C could be a “Cookie”, H could be a “ toy Horse” and so on.
The team that first has gathered the 8 items and put them in the correct order, spelling Chanukah in front of you has won. (You can also give them a time limit and see how many items each team has gathered within the given time.)
If they are energetic and want more words, you can use your imagination, or for instance:
CHANUKAH FOOD RECIPES
Because the ancient miracle took place through a jug of oil, so Jews for over 2,000 years have commemorated the event with different oily delicacies and fried foods.
Here are a few recipes of the most common foods:
6 medium sized potatoes
1 small onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons flour, or bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Oil for frying, add additional oil as needed.
Wash, peel and grate the potatoes. Strain, but not too dry. Add grated onion, salt and the egg. Mix well. Add remaining ingredients and beat into potatoes, mixing well. Heat enough oil to cover bottom of frying pan. Drop by tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Brown on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper. Delicious served with applesauce or sour cream.
Variation: Add one large apple, coarsely grated, to batter, as well as 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Serve with jam.
Sufganiyot (Israeli jelly doughnuts)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1 teaspoon vanilla
A dash nutmeg
5 cups flour (approximately)
1/2 cup oil
Jam or jelly
Dissolve yeast in water and set aside for ten minutes. Meanwhile, place sugar, salt and shortening in a large mixing bowl and mix to a smooth paste. Add eggs, one at a time; blend well. Add milk and vanilla and stir them in slightly. Add flour gradually, enough to form a smooth dough of medium consistency.
Brush dough with oil, cover bowl and set to rise in warm place until doubled. Punch down, place on lightly floured board and roll into a tight roll about 1 inch in diameter. Slice into 16 equal slices and place on a flour dusted pan to rise again. Fry 4-6 at a time in deep oil until brown. Drain on absorbent paper.
When doughnuts are completely cool, force jelly into them with a pastry bag or cookie press. (Insert tip of tube into the center of the side of each doughnut.) Sift confectioners’ sugar over completed doughnuts. Makes 16.
1 pound cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
A pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Grated peel of a 1/2 lemon
1 cup flour
Oil for frying
Combine above ingredients in order given. Drop by tablespoons into hot oil, and fry until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and serve topped with sour cream. Serves 6- 8.