Rabbi's Commentary

An Inspiring Time of Year

December 14, 2014

Dear Friend of Israel,

Hanukkah, which begins Tuesday, December 16, at sundown, is a time when Jewish people light candles, children get presents for a whole week, play games with a dreidel, and engage in other festivities.

Indeed, Hanukkah is a festive, celebratory time for Jewish families. But it is also much more than that. At its foundation, it is a moving, inspiring story of God’s protection and provision – one that is especially meaningful this year in light of recent events in Israel.

The story of Hanukkah begins more than 2,000 years ago, when a powerful Greek/Syrian army invaded and occupied Israel. They tried to impose paganism on the Jewish people by forcing them to eat non-kosher food, forbidding circumcision, and placing a pagan idol, Zeus, in the Temple. While many people tried to accommodate this powerful new regime, a small group of Jews, known as the Maccabees, stood strong in their devotion to God. Led by Mattathias and his brothers, the Maccabees revolted against this powerful army – and miraculously, despite overwhelming odds, prevailed.

After their victory, the Jews set out to purify the Temple during the eight-day Feast of Dedication. But when they went to light the Temple’s eternal flame – a key part of any synagogue even to this day – they realized they only had enough pure oil to keep the flame burning for one day. In obedience, and an inspiring act of faith, they lit it anyway. They trusted God, and He miraculously kept the lamp lit for the entire eight days. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, and why it is called the "Festival of Lights."

Jews and Christians alike find many important lessons in Hanukkah. We’re inspired to take a courageous, and countercultural, stand for our faith. We are reminded of the importance of religious liberty, a right we need to continue to fight for – Christians and Jews together. And we see that when we have complete faith in God, He often responds by accomplishing with His strength what we can’t.

Israelis, and Jewish people everywhere, know that the darkness is still present today. We see it in the new terrorist campaign against Israel – a campaign that utilizes cars, knives, and hatchets to injure and kill innocent Israeli civilians. We see it in the Palestinian attempt to get recognition for a state of “Palestine” in a cynical ploy to avoid peace negotiations with Israel. We see it in the rise of violent anti-Semitism worldwide.

Thankfully, the Jewish people do not face this darkness alone. I am so grateful for you, our Fellowship friends, who faithfully stand by Israel and Jews in need around the world. With your prayers, financial support, and unflagging advocacy for Israel, you, too, light a candle in the darkness. This year as I light each candle in my menorah, I will thank God for your faithfulness and generosity – and for the ways God continues to protect and provide for His children.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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