Hanukkah is now in full swing, and to mark the occurrence of the Festival of Lights, the congregation of gathered on Friday to celebrate with a special Shabbat service combining prayer, song, and the lighting of Menorahs.
Janise Poticha, long time Rabbi of the reform Synagogue located on Clocks Boulevard, said that this year’s service was going to be a special one, for a variety of reasons.
“We’re continuing our food drive that we started back in September, along with a coat, scarf and glove drive,” she said. “But the big thing this year is that we’re using a new prayer book of the Reform, called the Mishkan Tefila, so we have to adjust to that.”
Something else new to Temple Sinai is their Cantor, Orna Green, who hails from Israel. A Cantor is a spiritual leader who helps lead the services through song, and her lovely voice made even the simple utterance of a prayer a special event.
The eight-day event known amongst the faithful as the Festival of Lights certainly seemed to lift the spirits of the collected members of the Temple, who opened the service with the ceremonial lighting of their family Menorahs, each brought from different homes but all symbolizing the same thing- the miracle of Hanukkah.
Hanukkah as a holiday began hundreds of years ago when Jews who had successfully revolted against oppressors lit their Menorahs with only enough oil to last one day; however, this meager amount of fuel actually lasted for eight days, until the supply could finally be replenished.
In addition to prayer, the holiday was also punctuated by song, as both the congregation and a gathered chorus performed many beautiful, uplifting Jewish standards. Another important part of the service was the traditional wine toast, known as the Kiddush.
Rabbi Poticha spoke to her congregation early in the service, extolling the significance of lighting their Menorahs as a group.
“First of all, we’re supposed to publicize Hanukkah,” she said. “But there’s also a lesson to be learned...we’re not supposed to look at the candles and think, what can they do for me? It teaches us to appreciate things just as they are, and how light can triumph over darkness.”
Congregation member Leslie Eichen said that she never misses a Friday Shabbat service at Temple Sinai, especially when it comes to Hanukkah.
“We love this time of year,” she said. “This brings family together, this brings the kids together, and this brings the community together. We want everyone to feel welcome and to remind them that it’s all about the lighting of the Menorah.”