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The Dreidel and Chanukah
According to Rabbi David Golinkin, the dreidel, or sevivon, is the most strongly linked symbol, next to the Chanukah lamp, for Jews at Chanukah. Apparently the dreidel is not an indigenous custom, but one that is modeled after other cultures. In 16th century England, Ireland and in central Europe, there were games called Totem, which also had spinning tops with gambling directions. T is Take All, H is Half, P is Put Down, and N is Nothing. How very ironic that a holiday with a message to hold tenaciously to one's laws and customs has as one of its main symbols one derived through imitation!
But this does not stop our rabbis from attributing other meanings to dreidels, after the fact. Some claim that the letters nun, gimmel, hey and shin stem from the miracle of Chanukah shortly after declaring Nes gadol Haya poh, or in the diaspora, Nes gadol Haya Sham–A great miracle happened here/there. The game of dreidel, it is claimed, was begun for the purpose of concealing Torah study, which Antiochus prohibited, and that the letters equal the numeric equivalent of 358, which is also the value of the word meshiah. Chanukah begins a time of messianic redemption.
Finally, some claim the letters represent the kingdoms that Jews have “spun circles around” and vanquished. Nun, gimmel, hey and shin remind us N, Nebuchadnetzar=Babylon; H, Haman=Persia=Madai; G, Gog=Greece; and S, Seir=Rome.
But the following is the take-away that I like best. The dreidel is a representation of what we mean by the middle Chanukah candle-lighting blessing. Praise and bless God, who has given us miracles in those days and in this time. “This time” refers not to our era, but rather “human time” real time. the whole story of Chanukah is that the miracle is driven from below by the Maccabees in real time. The centripedal force of the spin is driven not by the little handle above, but rather the body below. Similarly, it was the assumption of actions below that drove the victory and the success over the Greeks. The weighty actions and decisions we make in our life, in our time, are what allows miracles to happen. “Actions below lead to stirring above,” say our sages. That is what the letters of the body of the dreidel are telling us.
May all of us enjoy Chanukah and our dreidels. And may they inspire us to weighty actions and decisions that drive our reality. And let us say, Amen. Read More
Shalom to all:
The Evening of Tribute (Friday, November 18) for Avrille and I was one of the most moving, fraylach, exciting and memoriable evenings that we will always remember with love and appreciation! I am literally unable to find the appropriate words to describe our feelings at this time.
When asked by the committee chairmen, Evan Axelrod and Jeff Glatzer, when the tribute should take place, we immediately responded, "Friday evening," as to us, Shabbat is more than special. Who would have thought that we would have had 450 members of our amazing congregation present for a delicious Shabbat dinner! Adults, young parents, young adults, teens and children. To coin a phrase, we were totally “blown away” by the boisterous crowd. Further, I am absolutely certain that I will never have such a beautiful Shabbat dinner with such a large crowd, and that we elevated this holy day, whereby we were all closer to God. This is called a Kiddush Hashem, and we are so proud of this fact.
We then moved into the sanctuary and more people arrived for services and the official tribute. I want to personally thank our amazing choir for their beautiful songs, with some of the lyrics orchestrated by Mel and Ruth Noble and, of course, Terry Bernstein. Todah to the children of our Religious School for their amazing musical presentation, arranged by Morah Julia, with appreciatin to Bobbi Weinstein, our dedicated Education VP for her time spent with rehearsals. Appreciatin to all of those individuals who presented beautiful and meaningful speeches and to our President, Eric Loring, who sang a beautiful song, which he himself composed. A very special thank you to two of our senior Hay class students, Jack Wynn and Matthew Schwartz, who spoke so magnificently on behalf of all the students in our Religious School! I was emotionally so overwhelmed by their beautiful and sincere words.
I absolutely want to recognize some very special people who worked tirelessly to guarantee the success of this amazing evening: Evan Alexander and Jeff Glatzer, the co-chairmen of the the event, who spent so much time coordinating every detail relating to this special evening, Peggy Axelrod, Terry Bernstein, Alexandra Fingerman, Terry Glatzer, Scott Keiser, Mel and Ruth Noble, Lynne and Mark Slovin, Bobbi Weinstein, Peter Wisotsky, and so many more– Yishar Kochachem to all! I apologize if I missed anybody.
An evening that we, the Nussbaum family, will never forget. Professionally, the evening was the highlight of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you–
In November, we had the opportunity as a congregation to say good-bye to our Cantor. In December, many of us will have opportunities to say personal good-byes to a dear friend. Cantor Nussbaum has been a constant presence in our synagogue life. It will be very strange to not see him on the bimah or in the Religious School. I will miss his melodic baritone, "What's going oonnnn?" I will miss his enthusiastic "guess"-timates of attendance at various functions. I will miss the way in which he has always made my family feel welcome and loved in our shul.
If you have not already, I hope that you will have opportunities to wish Ralph well as he and his family embark on this new stage in their lives. Shake his hand. Share a memory. Give him a hug if that feels appropriate. (Just try not to make him cry. He hates that!)
Now, as a community, we must look to the future. We are at once both diminished by our loss and stronger for having had the Nussbaums in our midst. As we adjust to their absence, we will gradually develop a new sense of balance and normalcy.
Shalom, chaverim! See you in shul! Read More