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We thank you, O Lord, for giving us this day to come together with our fellow-members in celebration of Hanukah.

Every mindful of what it means to be living in a land where one is free to practice religious beliefs as conscience dictates and in the manner of one’s own choosing, we are careful to extend to all others the same tolerance and respect.

It is with fervent hope that we offer up the prayer that America’s torch of religious freedom will continue to burn as bright as the light from our own menorah.

America’s torch of religious freedom has thankfully continued to burn bright, as has other freedoms. As the saying goes, however, with freedom comes responsibility. Unfortunately, recently the freedom to purchase and carry guns has come with a price.

Today, four people were shot in Maine by a former convict. Yesterday, four Marines were shot in Chattanooga, Tennessee at a military recruiting center. Later in the day, James Holmes, who killed 12 people inside a Colorado movie theater three years ago, was found guilty of murder in the first degree. About a month ago, 9 people in a Bible study group at a historical church in Charleston, South Carolina, were shot.

The Constitution also provides the freedom of speech. Lately, it has meant a proliferation of hatred spewed online – and occasionally on the streets and events – against people of color, homosexuals, and immigrants.

It’s frightening to think the nasty and unsubstantiated remarks by Donald Trump are propelling him into the top spot as the Republican presidential candidate. Do his followers truly agree with his comments about Mexico sending rapist to America, and assumption that some are “good people?” Do they nod in agreement when Trumps says America needs to boycott Mexico, Senator McCain is a dummy, and Governor Perry needs to take an IQ test before the GOP debate?”

Equally startling is the adoration for the Confederate flag, which has come to symbolize racism. One could argue it represents Southern pride. To others, however, it’s a disturbing reminder of slavery and discrimination. The freedom to fly or display a flag shouldn’t overrule the sensibilities of a group of people. Seeing a Confederate flag probably invokes the same abhorrence among blacks as Jews seeing a Nazi flag.

While freedom is the ultimate blessing, it has a darker side, which sometimes needs to be tempered, and at times, regulated.