"God is in control, yet we have free choice"
The sages taught that this world is not the place where the righteous can expect tranquility — the lives of the patriarchs are proof that this is true. They also taught that the Jews should never surrender to the "inevitable," for God is in control of their lives and much is to be accomplished through a righteous person in the service of God.
In the previous Parashah we have seen how God is in control in the life of Yosef. But Yosef's life story is interrupted by an event showing God's sovereignty in the life of man. God is developing the Messianic line through the extraordinary events in the lives of Yehudah and Tamar. In spite of the humanly impossible and inevitable situations, God brings together events to magnify the good in the righteous people. The struggle between good and evil is the story of man, for Satan wants to have victory over man's actions. We do not understand the duality of God's plan and our free choice, but we are warned that our actions could have a positive or a negative impact. "Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour," advises the apostle Peter. Yehudah's two oldest sons committed sin and thus were unworthy of carrying the Messianic line, but Tamar's righteousness conquered the uncommon resistance by Satan to stop the developing roots of the Davidic dynasty and thus the coming of Moshiah.
Parashah Mikeitz continues the tumultuous story of Yosef. He has been sold for having a dream, taken to Egypt, thrown in prison for being an upright man, and now after 13 years his dream starts to become reality. His brothers, not all of them yet, come and bow down to him — God is in control.
The book of Bereishit - Genesis - proclaims God as the Creator of the universe, the only one who can determine and sustain its course. Even though Pharaoh considers himself a god and worship the Nile as its deity, even he proclaims that only God has the power to give the knowledge of the future and that He is the only one who controls the events of the universe and of our lives. What a fitting message for the Shabbat Hanukkah. God was in control many centuries later at the Maccabeean revolt and He is in control today in the crises of our lives.
But often we are told that Hanukkah is not a Biblical festival, commanded by God, therefore it is not important for Israel to celebrate it. Our response must be that if we would not have the holiday of Hanukkah, we would not have salvation! If God would have allowed success to the tyrant of 165 BCE, Antiochus Epiphanes, all Jews would have been annihilated off the face of the earth. But God, in His grace and mercy, interceded because of His promise to the forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov. Therefore, “when the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Torah.” (Galatians 4:4) The promised Messiah came to the Jewish people and to the rededicated Temple to become the Redeemer of all mankind who will receive Him. The attempt to destroy all the Jews by Antiochus was again an attempt by Satan to stop the coming of Messiah. Even as the Holocaust, through another tyrant — Hitler, was an effort by Satan to prevent the formation of the State of Israel, thus preventing Messiah’s return to Zion. So, without Hanukkah there would be no salvation, because there would be no Savior born to the Jews! When the world by-and-large is busy preaching a Jewishless Messiah in December, we also have the opportunity to exhort with great patience and instruction the Jewish people about the Good News of the Jewish Messiah and God's wondrous works.
When the Temple was rededicated, the Maccabee family led the nation in the observance of Sukkot according to the historical account found in the Apocryphal - non-Scriptural - but historic book of II Maccabees 10:6-9. And so, the holiday referred to as Rededication, as it was later surnamed, was actually the observance out of season of the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. According to the historical account the Menorah was re-lit in the Temple with only enough kosher oil for one day. The miracle — the manifestation of God's will — was that it lasted seven more days, through the eight day holiday of Sukkot. God has called the Jews to observe the feast of Sukkot and He has called the Messianic believers to magnify its meaning in His Son — for all the holidays are a shadow of Messiah. But there is one aspect of the "out of season" Sukkot — Hanukkah — which is unique, the lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah. Though great lights were burning on huge pedestals to completely enlighten Jerusalem on Sukkot, this feature has been lost to Sukkot but retained in Hanukkah. It was at the Feast of Sukkot that Yeshua said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life" — man's free choice.
John 1:4 tells us that in Yeshua was life, and that it is the life of Yeshua which enlightens our own lives, that without Him we live out our lives in dark fear and striving against one another. On the Menorah this symbolism is born out beautifully. The Shamash, or servant candle, represents the light of Messiah. It is the ninth candle and represents God the Servant Messiah. When that great light touches our darkened lives, we become lights too, and Yeshua said to us, “You are the light of the world.” In Matthew 5:14-16, He said that we were to share the light, letting our lives shine before all people through the good we can do in His Name.
Proclaiming Messiah to the Jew first and also to the Gentile is the reason we live and endure. We announce through the Festival of Lights that God is present with us — Immanuel — Yeshua the Messiah of Israel. The question we must deal with is “Does my life reflect that light of the Service Candle?"
Darkness cannot be defined by itself. Darkness is the absence of light, and, as our sages said: "A little light expels a lot of darkness." Just as we kindle the lights of Hanukkah Menorah in a progressive number from day to day, so too, we must express our righteous deeds by increasing our mitzvoth little by little. It begins at home. We can take little steps to make our home more of a godly environment by the books we read, the music we listen to, the TV/movies we see, the words we use, the clothes we are wearing and the way we are spending the finances that God blessed us with. Is our home and our life style reflecting the light of the Service Candle, Yeshua? Yeshua prayed to the Father concerning us: "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." God is faithful to keep His promise — God is in control, but our task is to remain in the world and be a light to it — that is our free choice. The erosion of values and principles of the society around us may be a sign that we do not always reflect Yeshua's light.
May this Hanukkah make us reflect on how to increase and intensify our commitment to God, one step at the time, so that the world could indeed see the bright light of Yeshua calling them to salvation.
Shabbat joy, peace and blessings! Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!