This program is a rebroadcast from December 21, 2019.
Hanukkah is almost here! We’re continuing our discussion this week with Steve Herzig, vice president of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Steve grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home and brings a personal perspective to the Jewish holidays. This week he shares his memories of celebrating Hanukkah growing up, how Jewish people celebrate today, and how the servant candle on the menorah shows us an excellent picture of Jesus the Messiah.
Steve and Chris also discuss if believers in Jesus should celebrate Hanukkah. Spoiler alert: Jesus celebrated it! And if you have Jewish neighbors, coworkers, or friends, Steve gives some insight on how you can show support and love them this holiday season. We hope you enjoy Hanukkah in a new way this year!
If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can catch up here!
If you’re interested in giving to our Hanukkah Gift Basket Ministry, you can Learn More Here.
Steve Conover: All month long we are dipping into the archives and this week we welcome Steve Herzig, director of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel back to the studio. Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We’re so glad you’re with us. Everything related to today’s program, every previous episode can all be found at foiradio.org. It’s there you’ll find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel and the Middle East. And while you’re there I invite you to support our ministry by clicking on the donate button and helping us continue to teach biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah. Again, that’s foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, it is Hanukkah season and our good friend Steve Herzig is in the studio again this week to be talking about what it was like growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home celebrating Hanukkah.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, A United Kingdom census found that for the first time, less than half of the population in England and Wales identify as Christian, only 46.2%, that number is down 13.1 percentage points from the 2011 census. The allocation “No Religion” rose to 37.2% the second highest number in the poll.
Chris Katulka: Well, here's my take. Secularism is gobbling up Western culture. It's sad to see this happening in England and Wales. The United Kingdom played a significant role in the rebirth of the State of Israel. Those in British power who sought to give the Jewish people their homeland did it because of their biblical belief that the land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people. Let’s pray for a revival, a spiritual awakening, in our Western culture.
Chris Katulka: In the studio with me today is Steve Herzig. We're welcoming him back for a second week to talk all about Hanukkah. Last week we discussed the history of Hanukkah, where it comes from, from the inter-testamental period. That's between the testaments, that's between Malachi and Matthew. The history of Hanukkah, where it comes from, the significance of it, for the Jewish people. So if you didn't get a chance to catch last week's episode, I want to encourage you go to FOIRadio.org and right there on our homepage you'll see our archives link where you can listen to last week's episode, hear Steve, and all the information that he was able to give us about Hanukkah.
But then also we have all of our podcasts on there. You can go ahead and listen to everything that we've been doing almost for the past five years. So that's FOIRadio.org. Steve, great to have you back in the studio.
Steve Herzig: Great to be here.
Chris Katulka: We are talking Hanukkah. And we talked about the history last week. Today I want to talk about the present celebration of Hanukkah. And even more importantly, what it meant to you because you grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home, and you became a believer in Jesus the Messiah. So as you were growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, can you describe for us what it was like to celebrate Hanukkah for you and your family? I know, I can tell you what it was like for me to celebrate Christmas growing up. What was it like celebrating Hanukkah?
Steve Herzig: Oh, it was great. Hanukkah is a fun time. There is food all the time.
Chris Katulka: I like that.
Steve Herzig: Food. And Judaism is loaded with illustrations of lining up a particular feast or a holiday or special day with a particular food. We do it all the time. In fact, it's very instructive for us. So for instance, at Hanukkah we'll have potato latkes. Potato latkes are made with oil, and oil is a significant time during the Feast of Dedication, because we light the menorah for eight days. And interestingly enough, there's nine candles. People often wonder…
In fact, a real quick story. I led a trip to Israel. They were in a gift shop and a person came and said, “Now wait, I got a seven branch menorah and a nine branch menorah. It seems to me I should go with the nine because I get two extra holders, and I don’t want to get ripped off. So which one should I buy? What’s going on here? ”
Well, the seven branch menorah is of course for the temple. It was an article in the temple and the Holy place. And the nine branch menorah is for eight days of Hanukkah with the servant candle, which lights the other candles. There's all kinds of illustrations that I could give from that, but that's important.
Chris Katulka: Is that kind of the equivalent of my family would get the decorations down, they'd pull the Christmas decorations out from the attic and we had a special box for it. It had all the Christmas paraphernalia in there. We'd pull it out, we'd hang the-. Was the menorah, were all these different elements a part of the same celebration for Hanukkah for you as well?
Steve Herzig: Hanukkah was important where there were... Yes. You'd get out the menorah, you get the candles, you make sure you light it every night. One candle for each day.
Chris Katulka: And how many nights is that again?
Steve Herzig: It's eight days.
Chris Katulka: Eight days, okay.
Steve Herzig: Eight days. But the servant candle, I'd like to talk about that if we have time, Chris.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Steve Herzig: But for me, my Gentile friends, they had one day or they got 10 billion gifts. Now that's hyperbole, but I would come back from Christmas break and they would have a million, a million gifts. Well, so what happens amongst Jewish people is that there's a competition here. How are we going to compete with this? So my mother used to give us a little gift each time for each day, for eight days. But I never beat my Gentile friends. It was like they got their whole wardrobe on Christmas. They got every kind of gizmo or whatever. Well, we didn't quite get that much.
Chris Katulka: Did American Christmas rub off on American Hanukkah at all?
Steve Herzig: Absolutely, Chris.
Chris Katulka: In what way?
Steve Herzig: In just about every way you can imagine. There are now Hanukkah bushes.
Chris Katulka: Are there really?
Steve Herzig: There are Hanukkah bushes. There's blue and white lights on the front of homes today. There is a tinsel that is in blue and silver or white that I've seen. There are many Jewish people who say, "Well, this is what the goyim, the Gentiles, are doing. We've got to try to do the same kind of thing." But I never felt that way at all. Hanukkah was unique. We played dreidel. A great game that goes all the way back to the intertestamental periods.
Chris Katulka: Does it really?
Steve Herzig: The kids were involved in spying on the soldiers. They would play a game, it wasn't dreidel, but they played a game and they would hear the plans that the soldiers had, and they would report back to the adults and say, "They're coming at this particular place and time." And they would ambush them. And the kids were involved. So we played dreidel today.
Chris Katulka: So is that the symbolism of dreidel?
Steve Herzig: That's a great miracle happened, pointing to the festival of lights. But the participation of the children is at least one that was passed on to me when I was in Hebrew school, we told the story all the time. It's a connection that it wasn't just the Maccabees as adults, the whole country was involved. Not much different than in the modern state of Israel where everybody had to pull together, Chris, during the War of Independence. The whole country was under attack and everybody has to be involved in preserving the country.
Chris Katulka: Actually, I wanted to go there really quick. I've read a story that Hanukkah is very much connected to Zionism, which is the belief that Jewish people have a right to exist in their ancient Homeland. Why is this Jewish holiday, that's kind of adjacent to Christmas on the calendar, really connected in many ways to the modern state of Israel?
Steve Herzig: Well, Chris, the modern state of Israel was forged out of the ashes of the Holocaust. And as we said last week, we talked about the significance of standing strong. Israel is a country where any Jewish person, anywhere in the world, anytime they're under persecution, there's always a place. The current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that from the United Nations. Whenever there's a difficulty for a Jewish person, for instance, in France, numbers of French Jews are leaving. Where are they going? Before the establishment of Israel, they had no place to go.
Now there's a place to go. What do you identify with when you think of that? Hanukkah. That because the Maccabees said we're not going anywhere, even though we are weak in comparison to those who want to kill us, we are standing up to them, and we will fight them. And they did. And many Zionists look at that day, those series of days, eight days and say, this is the day we want to identify with.
Chris Katulka: Do they, in the celebration of Hanukkah, is there any sense of nationalism in Israel that's connected to that, even today?
Steve Herzig: I am sure that there are Israelis who identify, nationalism is a tough word to use today, Chris. We're using it on the radio and some people like it and embrace it. There's other people that are very frightened about it, and consider that to be the radical right. But I think nationalism in the sense of the context of Hanukkah is something that Jewish people relate strongly to.
Chris Katulka: Yep.
Steve Herzig: And one that we should learn from as Christians and say, "Hey, they are standing for the truth." We shouldn't be fighters as Christians, but we should be willing to have courage.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Steve Herzig: To stand for the truth. That's not always easy, Chris, because the majority tends to pressure all of us, and we tend to say, "Ah, I don't want to rock the boat." The Maccabees rocked the boat.
Chris Katulka: Big time. And as we talked about last week, we looked at the history of the Maccabees, how they were really one of the only families at that time that stood up against the Greek empire that was forcing the Jewish people to adopt their way of life. Like we had talked about last week, the Greeks canceled circumcision. They canceled reading the Torah. They couldn't go to the synagogue any longer. They couldn't celebrate their festivals or go to the temple. The temple was even desecrated.
So really the Greeks were doing everything they could to turn Jewish people into Greek people. And the Maccabees, the story of where Hanukkah comes from, is the fight, that courage you're talking about, to say, "No, we're going to maintain our identity." In fact, I was just listening to somebody say if there wasn't a Hanukkah, there wouldn't be a Jesus.
Steve Herzig: That is one of the most important points you can make. I think concerning Hanukkah. In fact, if you're just looking at world religions, if there was no Hanukkah, there'd be no Islam, there'd be no Judaism, there'd be no Christianity. No, Hanukkah is a very, very important and strategic time.
Chris Katulka: Steve mentioned in the beginning that he wants to talk about the servant candle that's on the menorah for Hanukkah, which is different than the menorah from the temple. So I want you to stick around. I think it's going to be very enlightening and we'll see you on the other side.
Steve Conover: Israel's feasts play such an important role in understanding the context of both the Old Testament and the New. That's why we want to introduce to you an important book, The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah by Bruce Scott.
Chris Katulka: You know something I always try to stress in our program is that the Bible you read during devotions throughout the week, and the Bible that you read on Sunday morning during church is a Jewish book with writers writing from a Jewish worldview. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and I'll tell you the last time I checked, I don't think he celebrated Christmas or Easter. Jesus celebrated Jewish festivals like Hanukkah and Passover. Jesus' ministry, the cross, the resurrection, his second coming, and his future reign as King and Lord are not only in the New Testament, they are also hidden within the Jewish holidays and feasts of the Old Testament. The book, The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah, will help you know the fullness of Jesus through the biblical feasts of Israel.
Steve Conover: We invite you to purchase your copy of The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah by our own Bruce Scott. Visit us FOIRadio.org, that's FOIRadio.org. We'll have a link on our homepage or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Again, that's (888) 343-6940, for our listener line. You can order in Canada by calling (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. We are speaking with Steve Herzig who is the director of North American Ministries here at the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Steve, you mentioned earlier in the program about the menorah. The menorah for Hanukkah is different than the menorah that was in the temple, and then this thing called a servant candle. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Steve Herzig: The servant candle in Judaism is the one that stands out. It could stand above the eight other candles. And in a traditional menorah, you'll have four candles on one side, four on the other, and then one in the middle that stands out. But they could be one on the side and the eight are to the right of it. It could be any way the person who designs the menorah wants. But the shamash candle, servant candle, always is in a different place. In the traditional one, higher than the other ones. You only light the shamash candle, only. The rest of the candles get their light, not from a match, but from the servant candle.
That's significant. I didn't know how significant it was until after I became a believer, and you can tie in your faith in the Messiah, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. And it really dawned on me when my kids were real young, I taught them a song that I never grew up with, This Little Light of Mine, I'm Going To Let It Shine. Most of our listeners probably know that song. Well, where's the light come from? From a Christian point of view? Well, this little light of mine comes not from me. I don't generate the light. The light comes from the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ.
So we have a menorah, the Jewish people, light the servant candle, and the Rabbis say, “only this candle can give the light to the other candles” And He's called a servant. I think the connection is very apparent that in Judaism we take that servant candle, provides the light. In Christianity, we say Jesus is the servant. He came to serve. He came as the second person in the Godhead to come to serve. He's the creator, yet he comes humbly. And through him we receive light. We receive the truth.
And so Hanukkah, just the imagery of a Jewish perspective where a Christian looks at that says, "Man, I can identify with what they're doing." And say, "This is for me as well. My servant came for me and any light I have only comes from him."
Chris Katulka: It's a beautiful picture, that Christ, the servant. Isaiah 53, is the one who can only provide the light. It's not something that we earn, in and of ourselves or we get in and of ourselves. It's something that comes directly from the Savior. That's a beautiful picture. I wanted to spend the remainder of our two minutes that we have here talking about how Christians can bless and honor the Jewish people during Hanukkah. And one of the things that came to my mind is a ministry that we have here at the Friends of Israel, our Hanukkah Basket Ministry, which we just wrapped up. I thought it would be good for our audience to hear from you about the Hanukkah Basket Ministry, and really what it means to the Jewish community.
Steve Herzig: Well, I'll describe it the best way I can the way I described it with one of our own board members in Canada. He asked me about a neighbor of his that he was trying to talk to. And he said, she's really not that interested. She kind of shies away from us. I said, "Hanukkah's coming up. Why don't you put together a basket, put some goodies in there, make sure if you can, they're from Israel, and you and your wife go over and say, “Happy Hanukkah.” I am sure she's never had a Gentile come and say “Happy Hanukkah,” and give them a gift for no reason when out of the blue." Well, he reported back to me that he did that and she cried.
She was crying. And from that time on, he and his wife Elizabeth have had her as a friend, as a person who embraces them. We are doing this all around North America, to love somebody unconditionally, is a demonstration of what Christ has done for us. And when we give a gift, like a Hanukkah basket, when we give somebody a card, even if we just go to somebody who's Jewish and say, "Happy Hanukkah to you. I hope you have a happy season." Jewish people, even in North America, don't hear that too often from a Gentile, let alone a basket.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Steve Herzig: And Chris, you're right. We put together nearly 200 baskets. It's an amazing thing. We always hear back from people saying how blessed they are that we're willing to do that.
Chris Katulka: I've delivered those baskets, Steve, and I'm telling you that the look on our Jewish friend's face when they see you coming up with a gift for Hanukkah, they welcome you in. They are excited to see you, and they are just thankful that you would think about them and their holiday. So I'd encourage our listeners, our Hanukkah Basket Ministry just ended. So for this year, it's not an opportunity, but for next year, be looking on our website at FOI.org, you'll be able to find information, how you can buy a Friends of Israel Hanukkah basket, and you can by yourself, deliver it to your Jewish friends, showing and sharing the love of the Messiah.
Steve, thank you so much for being on the program. This has been a blessing to me.
Steve Herzig: Thank you Chris.
Steve Conover: Now Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Many times I wonder why I must change jobs so often. But recently the Lord reminded me it is so I may reach more people with the gospel. Recently at my new job, some were discussing Christmas. I silently listened until someone asked me, what do you think about Christmas? I was glad for this opportunity and silently prayed. Then I said, "You must study the Bible. It is the only book that will give you the truth about the incarnation of the Lord Jesus." They became very upset. One shouted, Jesus is not written of in our Bible, only in the Christian Bible.
I turned to Isaiah 7:14 and said, "Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and she'll call his name Emmanuel." I explained, "This verse speaks about Jesus. Emmanuel means 'God with us'." One of the men said, "This is in their story." I replied, "In your own Bible, Isaiah prophesied, 'For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given, and the government will be up on his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Surprisingly for the first time at any job I have worked, they continued to listen attentively. One even said we know Christmas is a Christian holiday. We want to understand what it's all about. "Why do you say Christmas is only a Christian holiday? I just read to you from your own scriptures about the Lord's birth." I then read Isaiah 53 and they asked many questions. Even my foreman asked, "If you are a Christian, how can you have any feelings for Israel?"
"Good question. I love Israel very much. I have served in all of the wars, from 1948 until now. All of my children also now serve. How many of your children serve in the army?" He was silent for a long time. Then he finally said, "I have only one son, and I will never let him go." "Well then," I asked, "are you as good a Jew as you think you are?" "I am sorry for what," I said. He responded. From then on he allowed me to freely speak about the New Testament. I said, "On that first Christmas, the angel said to the shepherds, 'do not be afraid. Where there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'"
After this, the foreman said, "If everything you have told us is true, then we should be happy in the Lord. But we cannot decide today. Perhaps someday we will believe as you do." I told him, "You can believe right now if you will open your hearts and allow the Lord to come in, please pray my friend. The Lord will open the minds and hearts to receive the truth so that one day they too will be able to rejoice in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth to die for the sins of the world."
Steve Conover: We're so glad you chose to be with us today and this week, and we thank Steve Herzig for being our guest for the last two weeks. Next week we feature another series from our archives.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we’re going to be looking at the first Christmas and one of the most important aspects of Christmas is not just the fact that Jesus came, but the fact that He was born of a virgin. A virgin birth. What does it mean that Jesus had to be born of a virgin? Something that was actually prophesied about back in Isaiah chapter 7 verse 14. It’s great for us to be reminded of the virgin birth of Jesus as we enter into this Christmas season.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, NJ 08099. Once again that’s FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, NJ 08099. And I’ll remind you once more to visit us at foiradio.org. That’s foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah
Many of the Bible’s most incredible prophecies about Christ are intricately hidden within the Jewish holidays and feasts of the Old Testament. Author Bruce Scott breaks down the seemingly mysterious holidays and feasts revealing the rich symbolism that points to our Messiah.
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Apples of Gold: For There Is Born To You This Day
It was disheartening for Zvi to have to change jobs so often. Many times his coworkers did not care about what he had to say and ignored his attempts to share his faith in Christ. But despite his difficulties, he kept the right attitude: his jobs allowed him to spread the gospel to more people. In one instance, his coworkers asked him his thoughts about Christmas. At first they were upset, but something was different this time. Hear how God opened their ears to listen to what Zvi had to share about the birth of Christ.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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