Every year, as we kindle the flames in our menorah, I reflect upon the glow of the many lights we kindle at Temple Beth El every week of every month throughout the year.
We light candles together each Friday night as we bring Sabbath rest and holiness into our lives. We spread light when we study together the weekly Sabbath Torah portion every Saturday morning, and also when we reach out to help people in the greater Manatee community who are in need.
Every Sabbath eve we light our candles as we gather to pray and sing and have a sweet treat afterward. As we light the Sabbath candles in our temple sanctuary, we symbolically make Temple Beth El our warm and welcoming home.
At 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, our congregation will be aglow with light for the annual festive Chanukah Sabbath service and potluck dinner. All are welcome. Simply contact the temple office to RSVP and sign up for your potluck dish.
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Chanukah is a favorite holiday because there are so many ways to participate in the festivities. You can spin the dreidel and eat latkes (potato pancakes) or jelly doughnuts, or anything else fried in oil that tastes so yummy -- as it expands the waistline. However, Chanukah offers far deeper lessons and opportunities for reflection in our own spiritual lives.
To be sure, in the real story of Chanukah, the Maccabees were a bit zealous and extreme in their ways. However, the ultimate lesson I believe we can take from their story is one of commitment to Judaism and a sincere rededication to our ancient heritage and our faith in God.
At 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, we will celebrate the third annual "Downtown Bradenton Chanukah." We gather on the street in front of the Manatee Players, light the menorah, sing holiday songs, and give thanks for the freedom of worship that is ours as American Jews.
Our Christian friends and neighbors, as well as unaffiliated Jews, may be wondering why this night is so unique for our community. Come join us and experience the joys of Chanukah. All are welcome. No RSVP is necessary.
Happy Chanukah! May this Festival of Lights be filled with happiness and peace for all.
Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call 941-755-4900 or visit www.templebethelbradenton.com.