Ian Silverman, Rabbi

rabbi10View current news articles, commentary, videos and more that have an impact on Jewish culture, politics and religion at Rabbi Silverman's Sites to See

 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

Three years after publishing an anti-Israel letter in the medical journal, The Lancet, the editor admits he has deep regrets and has dedicated the latest issue to highlighting health care in Israel. Read about it HERE.

Read an article by Chris Coons and Marco Rubio from the Wall Street Journal, "Every Senator Agrees the UN Must Change," HERE.

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

A group of 18 NFL Hall-of-Famers joined New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a trip to Israel that transformed their opinions of Kraft and of Israel, HERE.

Read a terrific article by foreign journalist Hunter Stuart, who, when exposed to the realities of reporting in Israel, found the his and his fellow journalists' pro-Palestinian views were very wrong, HERE.

Israel is the world's oldest victim of "false news," HERE.

Cold Spring Harbor's Judy Davis writes about the advantages of having Israel as an American partner in The Times of Israel, HERE.

Watch a video questioning the double standard when it comes to terrorism in Israel HERE.

Read an important article that rebuts the contention that the Holocaust is the reason the State of Israel exists, HERE.

As a Columbia University alumnus, Rabbi Silverman has written a letter to its president, Lee Bollinger, in protest of the "Nakba Project," an initiative of Columbia's Center for Palestine Studies and Adalah, and anti-Israel NGO. The project promotes extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and provides a platform for BDS-ers. Read about it HERE. 

Your tax dollars paid for an event in Congress, sponsored by Congressman Mark Pocan, with speakers that denied Israel's right to exit and called Israel's founding in 1948 a “catastrophe." Please sign your name to a petition that demands our leaders condemn this hate speech and to ensure that a congressional event like this will not happen again, HERE.

An Israeli rabbi settler who praised attacks on Arabs has been indicted for incitement. While it is troubling that rabbis have come to this, credit should be given to the the Israeli judicial system and mainstream Jewish scholars for disowning such thinking and indicting this rabbi. It would be significant if such legal mechanisms were applied to Palestinian society for similar incitement. Read about it HERE.

It's time for Jewish leadership, the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Services, Hillels, and college students' families to stand up to campus bullying and intimidation directed against Jewish students. Read one man's opinion about where inaction leads, HERE.

Are charity dollars being well directed? The Middle East forum is trying to persuade foundations to stop funding to Islamist institutions in the West that provide platforms for speakers and to organizatins that defend Shariah-sanctioned rape and sex slavery. Read about it HERE.  

50 years ago, at the time of the Six-Day War, another campaign to drive the Jews out of Libya was waging. Read about the Libyan Jews in a blog from The Times of Israel by David Harris HERE.

Watch two short, 5-min videos on the claimes of Palestinians and the error of some "progressive" polemics against the State of Israel. Be sure to watch the second film directly following the first, on the false "indigenous" narrative of Palestinian leaders. 
Israel-hating Latino student finds something unbelievable, HERE.
The 2016 African Debate Champion shares his thoughts on Israel, HERE.

A surprising number of well-known retailers are offering anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian clothing and other items.This is an outrage that requires a strong reaction of displeasure directed right to their Customer service departments. Sears offers "Free Palestine" T-shirts, and Walmart and even Better Homes and Gardens offer "Free Palestine" phone cases (see phone cases HERE). Amazon offers 3 pages of Free Palestine T-shirts, including one for your baby.
Email Sears Customer Service

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Contact Walmart Customer Service HERE; Better Homes and Gardens Customer Service HERE.
You can call Amazon's general help line and ask to speak with management at 1-866-486-2360.

Spreadshirt, the manufacturer of the shirts, says they will continue to make them because "it does not break the law and does not incite violence." You can contact them and ask that they reconsider: https://www.spreadshirt.com/userarea/contact-C1336,  phone number: 1-800-381-0815

Watch an animated video about how anti-Semitism has mutated over time, HERE.

Read a blog by David Harris from The Times of Israel, on Israel at 69 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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