Hanukkah: The Eight-Day Party in Praise of God

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O Hanukkah, O Hanukkah
A festival of joy
A holiday, a jolly day
For every girl and boy

Spin the whirling dreydls
All week long
Eat the sizzling latkes
Sing a happy song

Hanukkah! Even the most sophisticated, secular Jewish person cannot help feeling merry when Hanukkah rolls around. Who wouldn’t? It’s a celebration that combines the unique blend of history and faith that has sustained the Jewish people throughout the centuries. Plus, it’s simply a ripping good story of an underdog standing up to a bully and teaching him a lesson.

Hanukkah: Countdown to Messiah

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On Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, Jewish people remember one of the shining moments in Israel’s history. It is a glorious story of the best kind-a righteous underdog battling against seemingly insurmountable odds and prevailing. The mighty Maccabees rallied a beaten and dispirited people and turned them into winners.

Today, Hanukkah is a festival with special foods and activities for Jewish people everywhere. Jewish children play with the dreydl, a top with Hebrew letters that proclaim “A Great Miracle Happened There.”

Purim Around the World

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Purim! Is there a more festive celebration in the entire Jewish world? No indeed! Purim is a foot-stomping, shouting, eating, singing, joking Jewish carnival for all ages. The Book of Esther provides the background and Jewish tradition has taken it from there. Throughout the world, Purim is celebrated in many ways, as Jewish people from many cultures have infused their festivities with their own particular local customs.

But along with the differences, there is a continuity that is solidly based in the Scripture and the story it tells of God’s deliverance through the bravery and obedience of His chosen servants.

Shavuot: The Feast of Weeks – An Earthly and Spiritual Harvest

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Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, is one of the three “convocations of the Lord” that, along with Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, constitute the “appointed times” (Leviticus 23:4) for Israel to gather in Jerusalem. It may be thought of as a unit with Passover, as we will soon see, for a number of reasons-including the close connection between the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Spirit that empowers the Lord’s people to do His work.

The High Holy Days in the Time of Messiah

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The Jewish context of the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah is the source of a constantly renewed sense of wonder. We marvel at the mystery of the Incarnation as we contemplate the earthly life of the Lord and the Jewish trappings that accompany it. And we are struck by the part played by the Temple, its services and the other Jewish observances that are so carefully described in the Gospels. This is the world that Jesus entered, we remind ourselves. This is the world that His presence reshaped forever.

Will Suffering Lead to Bitterness or Sweetness?

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Written by Dana N.

As we celebrate Purim, we remember God’s deliverance through yet another attempt to destroy the Jewish people. We recall the heroism and bravery of young Esther and the faithfulness of her uncle Mordecai, who incurred the wrath of Haman after refusing to bow down to him. But I wonder how the story would have ended if Esther or Mordecai had responded differently to their situations?

I think of Esther, who was young and beautiful. When she learned that she was to be taken into the king’s harem, would she have been delighted? Or would she have mourned the loss of a young woman’s hope for love and a family of her own? You see, if Esther had not become queen, she would have remained in the king’s harem, only to be summoned on the occasion of his request. Any expectations of a family and other dreams – not to mention her purity – would have been lost.

Lessons From Esther: A Female Perspective

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Written by Cathy Wilson

Scripture tells us that Esther was “taken” (Esther 2:8). Where? To a place not of her choosing – she was taken to a harem! And, she was told to stifle her identity as a Jewish woman.

At first pass, the book of Esther reads like a modern reality TV series. The setting is the Persian palace of Shushan, the abode of dysfunctional King Ahasuerus. In the midst of a victory celebration gone wild, Queen Vashti rebels and is subsequently decrowned. What’s a king to do? Beautiful virgins are gathered from the 127+ provinces within the kingdom to compete for the Queen’s crown. All receive gift certificates for a year’s worth of beauty treatments. (Who said Day Spas are the latest craze?) Might we see such a script on TV next season under the title of “Persian Idol”? I wouldn’t be shocked!

Ten Things Christians Can Learn From the High Holidays

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Written by Olivier Melnick

In each of the three Jewish High Holy Days – Rosh Hashanah (New Year), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) – there are gems hidden by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Beyond a yearly calendar of holy convocations, the Levitical Feasts (Lev. 23) as a whole point the reader to a deeper understanding of the God of Israel.

Year after year, as we celebrate God’s provision for and preservation of the Jewish people, we are reminded that the same God who promised never to forsake Israel (Jeremiah 31:35-37) has also promised us forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). Here is a list of a few things Christians can learn from the High Holy Days:

Meditations on the Feast of Tabernacles

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Written by Alan Shore

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, lasts for seven days and is part of the High Holy Days season that begins with Rosh Hashanah (New Year). Like many Jewish feasts, Sukkot has a dual significance. The first is agricultural, as the tabernacles or booths remind us of how the farm laborers lived as they worked to bring in the harvest. That’s why this holiday is also called the Festival of Ingathering.

The second meaning of Sukkot is historical, as the holiday commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel wandered in the desert. In honor of the holiday’s historical significance, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters (called sukkot in Hebrew) as our ancestors did. Today, the commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one’s health permit, one should live in the sukkah as much as possible, including sleeping in it.

The Fall Feasts of Israel

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The Fall Feasts of IsraelIsrael’s three most significant biblical festivals – Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot – are examined in full, including a look at their biblical roots, their celebration in the time of Messiah, and by Jewish people today. The Fall Feasts of Israel is an invaluable guide to help you understand these wonderful biblical festivals as well as their significance for your spiritual life as a believer in Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile.

Excerpts from Chapters 1 and 2

The feasts and laws of the Lord were a tutor (Galatians 3:24) to lead the Israelites to the Savior. The apostle Paul described the Hebrew calendar as a “mere shadow” of what was to come. He wrote, “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). The apostle was not condemning those Jewish Christians who wished to continue celebrating the Jewish holidays. Rather, Paul asserted that the festivals lead to Christ.