Addressing an Objection to Celebrating Hanukkah

I just got a note from someone who objects to celebrating Hanukkah because it’s not a biblical command to do so. This gentleman insisted that celebrating Hanuakkah is adding to the word of Elohim, which the Torah forbids. To do so is sin. My response to him is that if you don’t want to do it, then don’t. Pretty simple.
Hanukkah, Happy 2-33399066
Now let’s examine his specific argument against celebrating Hanukkah. It’s a specious argument since the Torah command found in Deuteronomy 12:32 to not add to the word of Elohim is referring to adding “Thou shalt” commandments to the Torah when YHVH hasn’t said, “Thou shalt….” If we’re not to add anything to the Torah, then we may as well throw out all the rest of the Bible (i.e., the Writings, the Prophets and the Testimony of Yeshua), since it was added to the Torah subsequently.
People like this gentleman need to be careful about taking Bible verses out of context and then lobbing them like missiles at another in order to prove their point by attempting to disprove someone else’s argument. If we’re not careful, we might end up being the one who looks like a fool instead.

Let’s explore his argument against Hanukkah a little further. If it’s adding to the Word of Elohim to celebrate Hanukkah, then the Jews under righteous King Hezekiah were sinning when they, out of zeal for YHVH, kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread for another seven days when the Torah never commanded this to be done (2 Chron 30:21–23). The same is true of Yeshua who added extra (Jewish) traditions to his Last Supper Passover Seder that weren’t specifically prescribed in the Torah to do on Passover. I could give numerous other examples from the Scriptures as well.
Paul in listing the qualifications for an elder in 1 Timothy 3 states that an elder/teacher must be a knowledgeable and mature Bible teacher and not a novice in his understanding of the Scriptures. When someone who has little or no knowledge of the Scriptures — especially the Torah — takes Scriptures out of context and then attempts to correct leaders and teachers who do know the Word of Elohim, such a person can be more of a liability to the body of Yeshua than an asset. As the saying goes, “A person with a little knowledge can be real dangerous, since he doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know.”
My word of advice to those who want to correct the elders/teachers is this: Let’s be humble and be careful when we feel the urge to correct elders, leaders and Bible teachers unless we really know what we’re talking about. If we have questions about something, let’s ask them in humility, instead of outright correcting them. That way, we won’t look foolish if we happen to be wrong about it.
Lest anyone think that I’m lifting myself up in inferring that I’m one of those knowledgeable elders and teachers, let me say this. The other day, I just passed another milestone in my life, and I’ve got six decades on this earth in my sights! In this time, I’ve learned that there’s always someone who knows more than you do. Also, someone else may be an expert in one thing that you’re not an expert in. There’s also always someone who’s an elder to you. In my business, I have a lot of clients who are in their 70s, 80s, and even a few in their 90s. I’m still a kid to them! All this is to say that we all need to stay humble about everything in life — especially our knowledge of the Scriptures, since there’s so much more to learn, and none of us really knows that much. Amein!

19 thoughts on “Addressing an Objection to Celebrating Hanukkah

  1. I believe the Torah nor the prophets tell us every detail about how to live our lives each day. He made us unique. One person ties tzit-tzit with blue and white. .. another ties them with blue and gold. Each have a philosophy about how many knots they make. Is either one adding to or subtracting from the Torah? The beautiful thing is that they have both made a decision to wear tzit-tzit to remember the commandments and promises of YHWH Elohim. Hanukkah brings honor and glory to YHWH Elohim. It celebrates Him and reminds us of the things He has done. This action IS delineated in the Torah. May I give Him honor and glory everyday of my life!

    Division among the believers is prohibited in the Torah. The whole idea of YHWH Elohim is Echad… unity… unity with Him and unity with each other. Why are we squibbling over this thing or another? Can we not learn to respect each other’s differences? One person chooses to glorify YHWH Elohim on Hanakuah and another chooses not to celebrate it at all. It’s okay…. may we extend grace and mercy one to another and accept each other the way our Father has created and fashioned us. There are 12 tribes with their unique gifts and callings. It is like we are each our own separate people but yet we are part of the whole. For example, some women wear head coverings and some don’t. It is all an expression of our individual devotion to Him. Let us learn to celebrate and honor our differences that are clearly not prohibited by the Torah.

    Oppression is prohibited by the Torah. May we approach one another in love and mercy. May we stop being vehicles for the enemy by pointing fingers and condemning one another. There is enough of this in our world. Let us embrace one another and determine within ourselves to NOT be a vehicle for the enemy.

    Let us bind together in unity and love for His glory.

    • True there some point fingers over Hanukkah, but there are some legitimately and I was in this boat a few years ago trying to figure out are we supposed to celebrate Hanukkah or not. and if so what is the biblical support for it and how do we celebrate it..

      I think it is healthy and at the very least we are all looking deeper into His word.. So long as we have the attitude of not using it to divide and truly looking for truth I think the discussion has been great. It tells me more people are searching and want to know the truth… 🙂

      • I think it is very good to question many of the practices we have been taught. In the past, I have been very black and white only doing what was commanded in the Torah. After years of study, I realized that Torah does not give us every detail about how to live our lives each day. I also realized that my view was actually dividing and separating me from other believers. We need each other and we have many beautiful gifts to share with each other. My hope and prayer is that we can deliberate the issues but maintain unity among ourselves. I say… YES… let us sift out the pagan practices but let us each be resolved to maintain unity and community.

  2. Nadia,

    (I’m not speaking for Nathan), but my own view on this is that one who celebrates Hanukkah isn’t adding to (or taking away from) the Torah so long as you’re not calling it a mitzvah. We do not lift Hanukkah to the same esteem and level of obedience as the holidays given to us by YHVH, but we celebrate it much as we do Thanksgiving. We celebrate with thanksgiving for what YHVH has done for us and others.

    Now, there are those who have lifted Hannukah up as a mitzvah and even gone so far as to say that it should be an equivalent holy day. Further, many reformist almost exclusively celebrate Hanukkah and nothing else (with pagan ties abound). These are examples of both “adding to” and “taking from”. One adds to by assuming man can make divine mitzvoth and the other by foregoing the true commandments to celebrate other appointed times.

    I hope that came across clear and is well received.

    • I agree with you. When we tell someone they are not permitted to celebrate Hanukkah, we are adding to His commandments. When we tell someone that they must celebrate Hanukkah, we are adding to His commandments. We cannot impose or prohibit something clearly not defined in the Torah. If one chooses to glorify our Father on one day and another doesn’t… let us love each other and accept our individual expressions of thankfulness to Him.

      There is a clear prohibition against pagan holidays in the Torah as well as their associated practices. There is a prohibition against mixing. In fact, we cannot even determine the dates of pagan celebrations on the Hebrew calendar.

      It is like making challah for Shabbat. There is no commandment in the Torah other than the priests who make bread weekly for the Temple. Because the Torah doesn’t mention this, does it mean we cannot do it? When I make challah for Shabbat, I want to do it to make the day special and set-apart. Bread is delicious and adds to the joy. But I cannot condemn someone for not making it because it is not a commandment.

      I view the commandments as a perimeter that surrounds me. As long as I am operating within the perimeter, all things are permissible. Making bread is permissible. In my individual expression of thankfulness, I choose to make challah for Shabbat. If someone doesn’t, I love my brother or sister and am thankful for the way they have chosen to honor Him. I think this is why He doesn’t specifically give us every detail about what to do on Shabbat or how to tie tzitzits. I believe He enjoys the uniqueness of each individual and their expression of gratitude and worship to Him.

      • Thank you all for your beautiful explanations. I’ve come to learn that traditions aren’t wrong. We are just not allowed to lift them to the level of mitzvot. What a blessing! What a beautiful beautiful King we serve. Thank you once again x

  3. As always, thanks very much, Natan for all the very helpful teachings and messages you provide here.

    Just some honest questions:

    1- Is it not true that like the repudiations made concerning the pagan-influenced and religiously and politically motivated, man-made traditions and “Holy Days” of Christmas and Easter kept by Catholic and Protestant Christianity (and even the pagans of the world), so it also ought to be concerning Hanukkah (and Purim, too, for that matter) kept by Jews and “Messianics” (…aren’t the 9-lamp menorah and festival of lights being from pagan religions)?

    2- Doesn’t the Torah instruct us not to participate in doing those things that are done by the pagans in the worship of their gods? We are not even to have the names of their gods on our lips [Ex. 23:13, Ps, 16:4]?

    3- Isn’t Hanukkah also known to be at least partly based upon a rabbinic myth, as well as a Zionistic philosophy and agenda?

    4- Isn’t it possible that Messiah Yeshua made His appearance at the Temple during the festival of lights to not only point to Himself as the Light of the World but also to indirectly repudiate keeping such man-made, pagan-influenced and politically motivated “Holy Days” versus supporting them?

    Thanks again. We appreciate you very much!

    • I’m amazed at the amount of discussion going on over my Hanukkah blog posts this year. As stated elsewhere, we don’t even do Hanukkah in our home, and we only have a quick Hanukkah party at our congregation after Shabbat services. Beyond that, we don’t even think about it. What was intriguing to me, and I wanted to share with my readers, was that there seems to be some evidence from Scripture and the Book of Maccabees that Yeshua was conceived at Hanukkah time. I wouldn’t make a hard-faced doctrine out of this, and it is somewhat speculative, but it’s worth considering the evidence I proffered. I found it kind of exciting, if my speculative analysis is correct, that, once again, every detail of Scripture is there for a purpose, and much of it, in some way or another, points to Yeshua. Now this is something I can get excited about, because of my love for my Savior and King. I was hoping that others would be as excited about this as me. Instead, this point seems to be being missed, and folks want to debate about other things. As the saying goes, you never know how the ball is going to bounce, or now the cookie is going to crumble! The Hanukkah debate is obviously a bigger issue than I envisioned.

      Now to your questions:

      1) I gave my reasons why I thought that Hanukkah might have some biblical basis. If that’s true, then any pagan additions to it done by rabbinic Jews is, to me, irrelevant. Besides, as noted above, I don’t even celebrate it, except for a quick party at our congregation for the kids and young at heart. If you want to do it, fine, If not, that’s fine too. It makes no difference to me. The main thing is to do the biblical feasts listed in Lev 23.

      2) Your question assumes that Hanukkah is of pagan origination. I don’t believe it is as I stated in an earlier post. I’ve already given my reasons for this.

      3) There may be rabbinic myth added to Hanukkah, but this doesn’t obviate the basic truths of it that I suggested in my blog post on the subject. The rabbinics have added much mythology and traditions to all of the biblical feasts, but we don’t toss them out because of this. As we say, don’t toss out the baby with the bathwater, or the fish for the bones, or the wheat for the chaff. If we did, we wouldn’t have any truth left to follow, since the world has corrupted nearly everything. We must prove all things and hold fast that which is good, as Paul said.

      4) Again, you’re assuming that Hanukkah is of pagan origination. I don’t believe it is, so I, therefore, don’t believe Yeshua was addressing the paganism of Hanukkah since, according to my research, it’s not of pagan origination.

    • I agree that pagan practices have been incorporated into Hanukkah with the Hanukkah bush and Hanukkah Harry. However, the question that seems posed here is whether to celebrate the holiday at all. I appreciate your fervor as a good Berean to rightfully discern between truth and error. I can only share how I have resolved this in my own heart and mind.

      Leviticus 22:29 provides information on a Thanksgiving offering which is an offering made by an individual of their own free will. Because the Temple does not exist at this time, we sometimes gloss over the whole offering system without considering what we actually can do in providing an offering to the Most High. With every offering, there is a prayer or action associated with it as well as the actual sacrifice. I believe this is why Daniel risked his life and prayed three times a day towards Jerusalem. I believe his prayers were at the times of the daily community sacrifices offered by the priests in the temple.

      We cannot offer a sacrifice but we can do the actions associated with the offerings like Daniel. With the sin offering, we can make confession by repenting from our sins in prayer. With the whole burnt offering, we can declare our complete and utter devotion to the Most High. Paul even tells us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to our Father in heaven. The Thanksgiving offering is an offering of thankfulness, confession and praise to our Creator. There are no requirements for this offering. It is one of freewill from the intent of a heart that wants to praise and thank our Creator for what He has done.

      Exodus 10:2, 1 Chronicles 16:7-12, Psalm 26:7… tell us to call upon the Name of YHWH Elohim… to make known His deeds and praise His mighty works. I believe these are examples of Thanksgiving offerings. Every time I have celebrated Hanukkah and Purim, there has been a community declaration of what our Father in heaven has done for His people. I participate in these celebrations to remember what He has done for us as a community, to fellowship with my friends and family and to praise our Father in heaven. It is a witness to His great provision in our time of need. It is reminder that He is our Defender.

      Exodus 22:21, 23:9, Leviticus 19:33, 25:14 caution us not to oppress or vex each other. We cannot impose a mandate to celebrate Hanukkah and we cannot impose a mandate not to celebrate it. I believe we are free to choose how we want to offer praise and thanksgiving to our Creator. For example, King Solomon established the dedication of the temple with thousands of sacrifices. Fire came down from heaven and accepted them (2 Chronicles 7:1-8). This was not one of the Feasts of Leviticus 23 but yet the celebration was received. I believe we need to extend grace and mercy one to another and deliberate whether this is an issue that should cause us division by separating us one from another or that we can appreciate each other’s individual decisions on how we choose to express our faith in Him. I am truly thankful for what He has done for us and I choose to celebrate Hanukkah and Purim for these reasons and I can respect all those who choose not to celebrate them.

  4. Thanks. Sorry for the disappointment of not being excited about the speculations shared. Please take no offense. I AM, as I quite expect you are as well, excited about the account of Him declaring the greater truth to be celebrated the He, Himself, is the Light of the World, especially at a time when others were so excited about their own political and religious “truths” that THEY chose to celebrate. I LOVE the confident boldness He displayed by indirectly bringing correction via His self-declarative preeminence over all creation, no matter when He was born! And no, sorry for any miscommunication on my part, but, I was not at all assuming Hanakkah has pagan “origination”, but that it has pagan “influence” and that it’s origin is of man and not the Creator.

    One of my concerns here is that many repudiate Christmas and Easter, though they also have elements of truth being celebrated in them, and even though they, too, have been syncretized with paganism and myth. It just seems inconsistent that those Christian holidays are repudiated, while such Jewish holidays are not. And please don’t take that as either anti-semitic or pro-Chrisitanity.

    Finally, the reason not to throw the “baby out with the bath water” regarding the Feast Days is that they are mitzvot, and Easter, Christmas, Purim (the legitimacy of the Book of Esther, itself, also even being questionable) and Hanakkah are not. Anyways, who needs to perpetuate such things other than for, at best, mixed purposes of serving both the kingdom of Elohim and the kingdoms of man and this world?

    Shalom blessings and the end of my comments for this blog.

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