Nittel Nacht – the Chassidic Reaction to Christmas

While the Christian world wide lit their Christmas trees, the Chassidic Schools (Beith Midrah), where the ancient Hebrew texts written by the sages of old are taught 24/7, remained darkened and barren. Purposefully. The rabbinic students avoid studying Torah on that night, and pass their time playing chess or card games, studying foreign languages or even simply cutting toilet paper. So long as they do not study the texts. “Nittel Nacht” is the Iddish name of that night, that falls always, every year, exactly on Christmas Eve.

הלילה לא לומדי תורה (צילום: עמית לוי, אתר COL)

Chabad’s classroom on Nittel Nacht.
Some other Chassidic denominations may prefer
to go to bed early on Christmas Eve
(Photo: Amit Levi, COL)

(Photo taken by Shimi Kutner/COLlive)

The outcome? The Chassidic world, surprisingly, “celebrates” December 25th, but for reasons that are exactly the opposite of the Christian world.

Several reasons stand behind the halting of their studies specifically on that date:

The practical reason. In Europe, Christmas night was destined for persecution and attacks on the Jews. Most European countries forbade merchants from dealing with their Jewish neighbors that day anyway. The Rabbis too, preferred that their students shut themselves in their homes and not roam the streets in fear of attacks.

The mental reason. December 25 is attributed by the Rabbis to the birth of Christianity, not only of Christ. This is the same religion behind much of the destruction the Jewish people have endured over history, and so the Rabbis have turned this day into a day of mourning.

Spiritual reason. The Rabbis believe that evil inclinations are at full force that night, and so refuse to add anything positive to it.

So sad to see how much the Jewish identity of the Messiah is hidden from our eyes. But no matter how much we try to hide the One considered by our people as the greatest enemy, one way or another – this day ends up being centered around Him.

Cooo-eee! In Those Days, At This Time

November 8, 2016. The night Trump was elected as the president of the US, I boarded a plane to return to Israel from a speaking tour.

December 6, this year. Once again I was on a plane heading back home from the US, when Trump came out with his earth shaking declaration regarding Jerusalem. Hello there, anyone? Can someone please tell Mr. President he does not have to compete with me for the headlines in the Israeli  media?

Six weeks ago, an interesting event took place. Does it have anything to do with Trump’s declaration? Only God knows. In order to understand it, please join me for a short examination of a few key events on the Jewish Calendar .

October 31, 1917, 4:30 pm. Coooo-eee – the Australian battle cry, sounded on a hill outside the city of Be’er Sheva. A corps of Australian and New Zealand soldiers, who served in the British army (ANZAC), came in riding on their light horses. Against all odds, they defeated the Ottoman Turkish force that was guarding the hill, thus breaking through a way for the British empire to conquer Palestine-Israel.

Australian light horses
(image available from the Collection Database of
the Australian War Memorial, ID Number: J05987)

That was back than. Now…

October 31, 2017, 4:30 pm. The Israeli ministry “Streams in the Desert” co-hosted a conference in Be’er Sheva, with intercessors from Australia, New Zealand and others from the “ends of the earth.” The goal: to commemorate the above mentioned breakthrough event. Together we cried cooo-eee once again, this time praying for a spiritual breakthrough for our nation.

The Coooo-eee cry was most likely birthed in the bushes of Australia, and is a calling to draw near. We stood at the very spot where a physical breakthrough took place, and made the same cry, but this time invited Yeshua to draw near, to reveal His Jewish Face to His people, promising we will not reject Him.

Chief Ray, a Maori from New Zealand, performed parts of the Maori war dance, called the Haka. It is an intimidating dance, designed to scare off the enemy and set the stage for a victory.

Part 1: Chief Ray makes a  declaration in the native Maori language

Part 2: If you listen carefuly, you will hear the words
“Beer Seeba”, meaning: Be’er Sheva

The descendants of those who paved a way through to Jerusalem for the British forces 100 years ago, did something similar, this time in the spiritual realm, exactly 100 years later.

Let’s flip once more through the pages of the Jewish calendar.

November 2, 1917. Two days after that ground breaking battle of Be’er Sheva, the Lord Balfour issued his famous declaration. Note the Jewish date: the 17th day of the month of Cheshvan, 5678.

December 6, 2017. Trump declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. This took place on the night between the 17th and the 18th of Kislev, 5778. Meaning, 100 years + 1 month.

December 9, 1917.  Jerusalem surrendered without fight to the British armies, thus renewing Christian control of Jerusalem, a control that was lost hundreds of years earlier, when the crusaders left Israel. Two days later, on December 11, 1917, General Allenby rode into Jerusalem, climbed off his white horse, and walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where he received the official surender of the Ottomans.

הגנרל אלנבי מגיע לירושלים

The British General Allenby marching into Jerusalem
(Picture credentials: Underwood & Underwood)

On the eve of Allenby’s grand entrance into Jerusalem, the Jews who lived in the city lit the first candle of Hanukkah, and welcomed the miracles and wonders, the salvation and comfort. “As in those days, so in this time.”

A special prayer vigil was held in London in honor of the event. The Westminster church bell was rang for the first time in three years. All the churches in Rome rang their bells for a whole hour and in Paris, a special mass was held at the Notre Dame church. No need to expend here about the response from London, Rome and Paris following Trump’s announcement, 100 years later. Even in Jerusalem, among the Jews, there are many un-happy voices that were raised in reaction to Trump’s declaration. Fear of riots, international rejection, and a deep rooted lie concerning the irrelevance of Jerusalem are probably some of the main reasons.

Coooo-eee with us, friends. Our widowed nation does not recognize her Husband, and is struggling to see how He is the one who restores her back in her land, and eventually back to Him. Once more many of us are motivated by fear of men, and by poor understanding of our election and calling. Stand with us and pray for our eyes to open, and for all of us to welcome The General, who marched on a donkey into the same city, but she did not yet surrender.