Ian Silverman, Rabbi

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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.

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Israel Items of Interest

Israel's medical clowns- they cheer up sick kids, reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and alleviate depression. They are Jews, Christian Arabs, and others. Watch a YouTube video about them HERE.

Learn about the connection of Jews with Israel, the decades-long quest of Israel for peace with it's neighbors, the failure of Palestinian leadership to turn conflict into coexistence, and the contrast between the fate of Palestinian and Jewish refugees from the Arab-Israel conflict, HERE. 

Women of the IDF video

 

Rabbi Silverman's Suggested Sites to See

Watch a YouTube video of Chloé Valdary, an American 23-year-old who is inspired by Israel and the Jewish people, and who communicates Israel engagement to her generation, HERE.

Read a blog from The Times of Israel about how to discuss and deal with Israel's future with regard to the numerous factions in Israeli society HERE.

Palestinian activist and BDS Founder Omar Barghouti was awarded the Gandhi Peace Award- a tragically misguided and insulting action. Read about it in the New Haven Register HERE.

Read about the "Forgotten Jews" and a pastor that is helping in the fight to bring their story to light in a blog from The Times of Israel HERE.

With a recent op ed article by Palestinian Marwan Barghouti published in the New York Times, the paper has again demonstrated its bias against Israel. Read about it in the Jerusalem Post, HERE.

A heartwarming story about friendship. Watch the video HERE.

The next Palestinian leader, Marwan Barghouti, wrote a letter addressed to all Palestinian students instructing that studies and terrorism go together. This does not bode well for hopes for peace. Read about it HERE.

Hamas hid explosives in medical supplies accompanying two sisters crossing from Gaza into Israel for cancer treatment. Read the story HERE.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, writes that the greatest threat to world Jewry is the campaign to delegitimize Israel by UN agencies. Read his article HERE.

Read a Wall Street Journal article by a Syrian, discouraged by the inaction of the Obama administration and hopeful by Trump's bombing in Syria last week, yet wondering where the protesters are to remove Assad, HERE.

Are your Israeli donations going where you think? Many investments are going to Qatar, UAE, Malaysia and Indonesia instead. Read about it HERE.

Read about a brave anti-Hamas writer in Turkey HERE.

Watch a YouTube video of Rabbi Sacks on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign HERE. 

Read an article by Alan Dershowitz demonstrating the illogical and demonizing agenda of the far left "intersectionality" movement HERE.

Protest a UN petition denying Israel any part of Jerusalem. Demand the UN recognize Jewish history in Jerusalem and stop the anti-Israel campaign of hate HERE.

Read The Truth Behind Bar Mitzvah Tears, by Wendy Jaffe. A reflection that says it all perfectly, HERE.

Learn the proper protocol to handle Palestinian activists on campuses as exemplified by Georgetown University HERE.

A video about all the wonderful aid Israel provides worldwide, that will bring a tear to your eyes HERE.

 

 

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