Chag urim sameach – joyous festival of lights!

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Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

Tomorrow evening after we make havdalah to end Shabbat, we’ll light the first candle of Chanukah. Chanukah reminds us that we can kindle light even in the darkest of times — indeed, the darkest of times is precisely when we must encourage the  lights of our hearts and souls to shine.

In anticipation of Chanukah, here is some wisdom from some of my teachers:

Rabbi Shohama Wiener writes: “Concentrating on watching the Chanukah candle lights shimmer is a way to take in light in a time of darkness, and a reminder that always we must take in spiritual light in order to give light—that is, to transmit light through us from its truest source. If we do this spiritual practice and fill with light, then naturally we will transmit that light to others.” Read the whole post: The Lights of Chanukah – Receiving in Order to Give.

Rabbi Marcia Prager writes: “Stories of the origin of the dreidl suggest that the toy and its “gambling” game were used by Chanukah celebrants living under the Roman occupation to circumvent Roman edits forbidding group gatherings, and thereby plan acts of resistance… The great Rebbes of Eastern Europe elaborated on these themes, using the lessons to offer guidance on the inner work we must undertake when we wish to grow spiritually. Reb Nachman of Bratzlav, the great grandson of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, offers this unusual teaching on the dreidl: The dreidl,  he says, is a symbol Creation itself. Why? Because all existence is like a rotating wheel.” Read the whole post: The Dreidl: A Simple Toy – Or Is It?

And Rabbi Shefa Gold writes: “Chanukah celebrates the re-dedication of the ancient Holy Temple, the place where the infinite meets the finite, where the spark of God bursts into flame within us. Each year we recall the “great miracle that happened there.”  And that same miracle is happening inside as we heal the desecrations we have suffered and re-dedicate our lives to Holiness.” Read the whole post: The Inner Practice of Chanukah.

On a more practical note, here’s a page of Hanukkah Resources from the URJ, including how to light the chanukiyyah, blessings and songs, and more.

May you be filled with light as this holiday unfolds. Shabbat shalom and chag urim sameach — wishing you a joyous festival of lights!

Rabbi Rachel

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