The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Jewish Observer
Commentary


The Jewish Observer

Are You Religious?

I have often pondered the question of what constitutes a religious person and have never felt satisfied with the responses I have heard others give when asked this very personal question. This question usually comes up when someone inquiries about another’s religius affiliation and the response is frequently, “I am Jewish and a member of our Temple, but I really do not believe I am a religious person.” Other common responses include, “I am more of a spiritual person than a religious one,” and, “I am more a secular Jew than a religious one.” So, the big question, is what exactly one has to do to consider themselves a religious person





The Jewish Observer

To be a Steward of the Earth, Live a Life of Radical Amazement

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai said, “If, while holding a sapling in your hand you are told that the Messiah is about to arrive, first plant the sapling and then go out to receive the Messiah.” Much is written in the Torah and the Talmud about trees, and we read even more carefully about them his month when we celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees.





The Jewish Observer

Heart of the Matter

As a new year begins, so does a partnership with the staff of Jewish Family Service and The Observer. The staff will be sharing this new column focused on issues of humanity. We will share with you our thoughts, opinions, and experiences as we continue to support our community through life’s transitions.


The Jewish Observer

Ten Easy Steps to Cheating Death and Living Forever

Three months ago, on the Festival of Simchat Torah we began reading the Book of Genesis. On the first weekend of January 2023, we conclude the Book of Genesis, with the story of our forefather Jacob who lived his final years in the Land of Egypt. The Torah tells us that despite Jacob’s passing at the age of 147 years old, Jacob never actually died. Since he bonded with G-d, and G-d doesn't die, Jacob never really died. His body did, but he did not. Jacob's life didn't die.


The Jewish Observer

Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel

A few days ago, I found an interesting piece written by Rabbi David Golinkin about the origins of the Dreidel and its connection to Hanukkah. According to Rabbi Golinkin, in the past, some Rabbis claimed that the Dreidel was used by children as they were doing their best to fool the Greeks. While the foreign soldiers thought that those kids were wasting their time playing with this four-sided spinning top, in reality they were using all their energy to study Torah. Rabbi Golinkin also quotes an explanation that connects the Dreidel to Hanukkah through gematria. So, for example, the gematria of nun, gimmel, hey and shin equals 358, which is also the numerical equivalent of the word Mashiach. The idea, then, is that when we play with the Dreidel on Hanukkah, we are reminded of the miraculous salvation of those days, hoping for a new redemption in the near future. Finally, Golinkin mentions those who see in the four letters of the Dreidel the hints of the four kingdoms who tried to destroy us throughout history. The nun stands for Nebuchadnetzer, ruler of Babylon. The hey stands for Haman, the bad guy from Persia. The gimmel stands for Gog or for Greece and the shin (or actually sin) for Seir, which is one of the names for what came to be the Roman Empire. The message is clear: In every generation we face enemies willing to wipe us out of the map, but we always find a way to overcome those threats, and we celebrate transforming those bad guys into amusing toys.


The Jewish Observer

Horror. Pain. Grief. Outrage.

The horrific murder of 19 beautiful children and 2 innocent adults rocked our nation and the entire world, a short while ago in Uvalde, Texas. Senseless other shootings have happened since then. Our hearts are heavy, and our eyes are filled with tears. We cry for the Uvalde community and pray for the comfort and healing of all the families, of this and other recent shootings. 


The Jewish Observer

The Secret of Chabad (July 2022)

One day, my phone rang. “Is this Chabad?” “Yes,” I replied. “My name is Lisa from New York. A friend of mine is driving through Nashville and her car won’t start.”