Lighting the Way

Rabbi's Message - November 23, 2021

Rabbi Tina Sobo

As we approach the start of Chanukkah (beginning sundown on Sunday), we retell the story of the Maccabees who fought for their religious freedom and the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight days (and the deliciousness of latkes, jelly doughnuts and gelt!).  In recent years, the ancient message of Chanukkah resonates more strongly – the Maccabees fought for the right to live and practice peacefully in a culturally diverse empire.  We too, live in a diverse nation, and yet, we recognize that the freedom to live and practice peacefully without persecution due one’s faith, race, sexuality, or gender, are not equitable across Americans nor the world.  The Maccabees fought not only for the ability to practice their own faith openly, but against the creation of a homogenous culture in general. We too, remember that diversity is important. We especially recall our commitment to fight and persevere against intolerant forces and evil in order that redemption and freedom will prevail.

But in true Jewish fashion, how we do this has been subject to debate – and not just if one should put applesauce or sour cream on latkes. (In case you were wondering, this Rabbi says either is completely acceptable).  An interesting teaching from the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 21b, gives two opinions on how to light the Chanukkah menorah.  The students of Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai (both first-century C.E. Rabbis in the Land of Israel) disagreed. The Babylonian Talmud records this debate stating that Beit Shammai (Shammai’s students) maintained that one should light the menorah with eight candles on the first night and reduce the number each night following, ending with one candle on the final night. Beit Hillel (Hillel’s students) maintained that on the first day one should light one candle and increase the number of candles, ending with eight on the final night. The Talmud then supposes reasons for the practices: Shammai’s practice of decreasing the number of candles corresponds to the days still to come (or perhaps parallels Sukkot, but that’s a different lesson), while Hillel’s increasing number of candles corresponds to the days that have past.  Do we count what has already happened, or anticipate what is to come?  Do we mark how many days of the miraculous oil have occurred already, or are left?

The Talmud gives a second rationale for each opinion.  Shammai’s decreasing candles might be a parallel to the number of bulls sacrificed at Sukkot, which also decrease over eight days, while Hillel’s increasing number can be attributed to the principle that, “in matters of sanctity one increases and does not decrease.”  

My Rabbi growing up (Rabbi Jeff Glickman) would always say, “May you grow in holiness”.  I’m reminded of this each year as I watch the flames increase over Chanukkah.  In a way, Hillel “won” the debate – that’s how we light.  But preserving the debate reminds us that both methods have merit.  I’m sure we have all counted down the days until something happens.  May we too, be able to take some time to count “up” our blessings that we have too.  As we count those blessings, may we grow in holiness, and share the light we have with others.

I’ll conclude with my favorite – not Jewish-sourced – thought: A candle that lights another candle loses nothing, it just makes the world a better place.

Chanukkah & Giving Tuesday Outdoor Experience

Tuesday, November 30 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Ready to spread some joy?

Join us at Temple Israel to celebrate Chanukkah and give back to our community! Bring items from St. Vincent de Paul’s wish list to donate and then we’ll light the outdoor menorah, eat sufganiyot, play some games, and share hopes for the future. You’ll also have the chance to purchase candles, dreidels, and other Chanukkah wares to elevate your celebration at home. Everything will take place in the parking lot. 

Wishing you peace and light this Chanukkah season!

Keeping Hope Alive

Keeping Hope Alive

Rabbinic Intern’s Message – December 15, 2020

Rabbinic Intern Grant Halasz

The Hanukkah season is one that has many different lessons. The gift of giving, looking for the light in dark times, the pride of celebrating who we are, and many more. But I think that one of the most valuable, is the lesson of resilience. Especially in a time where we feel like we are only reacting to the ever changing world around us, we must stay strong and keep our heads held high, knowing that there is going to be a sense of normalcy in the world again. Though we may not know when, it will come. 

When thinking about the resilience of the Jewish people the song “When You Believe” by Stephen Schwartz comes to mind. Like most of us, I was first introduced to the song in the animated movie “The Prince of Egypt” where it was sung by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.  The movie tells the story of our exodus from Egypt, and we hear the song as all of the Jewish slaves in Egypt are fleeing and following Moses toward the Red Sea, and escaping to their freedom. In the song, they talk about how we must keep hope alive, especially in times when it is tested most. 

Like the song says:

In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seems like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
Yet now I’m standing here
My hearts so full, I can’t explain… 
There can be miracles

When you believe (when you believe)
Though hope is frail
Its hard to kill…
They [miracles] don’t always happen when you ask
And it’s easy to give in to your fears
But when you’re blinded by your pain
Can’t see your way clear through the rain
A small but still, resilient voice
Says hope is very near, oh (oh)

I think that these words describe mindset that a lot of us may be having in our lives at this time. Prayer and belief may seem like it’s fleeting, but we must remember that solutions may not happen exactly when you ask, nor will they happen over night. There must be that small resilient voice that helps us know that we cannot lose hope. As we see in the song, hope may be frail at times, but it is hard to kill. I would argue that it is near impossible to kill. Use this Hanukkah season to keep hope alive, better yet, keep it healthy and thriving. Let the candles that we light every night be a literal symbol of the light at the end of this crazy tunnel that we call the world in 2020. 

Wacky Chanukah Contests!


Wacky Chanukah Contests

Dive in to the fun with one (or both) of these friendly competitions!  
Wackiest Recipe – We can’t wait to see and taste your amazing creations.  How do you make your latkes special and unique?  Is there a special filling for your sufganiyot?  Recipes submitted will be prepared and judged.  
Wackiest Chanukiah – How many materials can you use to create a Chanukah menorah?  How big or small is your design?  Pictures submitted of unique chanukiahs will be on display at our Drive-Thru Experience on December 11 and attendees will vote on the winner.  
Email all photos and recipes no later than December 4 to


Hanukkah Drive-Thru Experience

Hanukkah Drive-Thru Experience

Friday, December 11 from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Let’s spread light, one car at a time! 

Join us for a special drive-thru to celebrate the Festival of Lights.  Attendees will have the chance to recite the Hanukkah blessings, light the pedal-powered menorah, pick up some unique latke recipes, sing songs with Grant Halasz, eat donut holes, and grab some coffee or hot chocolate to go.  In addition, pre-order Hanukkah necessities (candles, dreidels, wrapping paper, and gelt) to help support Temple Israel, and pre-order sufganiyot (jelly donuts) and challah from Evans Bakery to pick up at the event.  (Please submit orders no later than December 4 for Hanukkah items to the Temple office.  Evans’ donut and challah orders are due no later than December 9.)  

Interested in a little competition?  We are interested in seeing what your creativity brings!  Find out more about our Wacky Latke & Chanukiah contests!  The deadline for submissions is Friday, December 4.

We’ll light the big menorah on our front lawn at 5:45 p.m. and stream it on Zoom, so anyone can participate.  Looking forward to seeing everyone soon!