Musings on Jewish Education and Jewish Living

I am an Olympics junkie.  For two weeks every two years, I spend every possible moment watching the Olympics.  My favorite summer Olympic sports are gymnastics and diving, however I will also watch soccer, taekwondo, beach volleyball, archery, basketball, track & field, boating of all sorts, even weightlifting!  I can’t get enough of it.

There is something about the Opening Ceremonies in particular that I find truly awe inspiring.  It’s not the show-stopping performances and fireworks that do it for me; it’s something else entirely.  It’s the coming together of an incredibly dedicated group of people, all from different backgrounds, all with different interests and talents, about to embark on a common journey, all with a similar goal.  I love seeing the returning athletes, and the many new faces as well.  I especially love the ritual and the tradition.  When the Olympic torch is finally lit, we know we’re in for an exciting two weeks.

In many ways, my anticipation in the weeks leading up to the Olympics mirrors my anticipation of a new school year.  Only our Opening Ceremony (of sorts) is our Faculty Orientation, where we assemble an incredibly dedicated group of people, all from different backgrounds, all with different interests and talents, about to embark on a common journey, all with a similar goal.  I can’t wait to see our returning teachers – my colleagues, my friends.  And there are always some new faces to welcome into this circle, as there will be this year.  I especially love the traditions – the welcoming of students on the first day and seeing how much they’ve grown over the summer, the Opening Assembly and teachers meeting their new students.  As I watch our students and their parents fill the seats of the Wulfe sanctuary, I know we’re going to have another great school year!

As the Olympics approach, I’m thinking about what we can learn from the Olympics that can apply to Jewish life.  In other words, what values that are important to Olympic athletes are also important to us as Jews?

I invite you to share your comments and suggestions.

Comments on: "Judaism and the Olympics" (7)

  1. Not being an Olympic athlete or a Jew it would be tough to be authoritative :p . But, as someone who is involved in athletics and is studying Judaism, I would think determination. There are so many forces that can pull one away from their path. Staying the course and true to oneself is a decision that must be made over and over again.

  2. Lisa,
    the comparison and commentary you shared with us is inspiring.
    Thank You.

  3. They have the Olympic torch; we have the Or Tamid. They have the best athletes in the world; we have the best kids! Actually, I personally always get to have the best kids. Go, 9th grade! But seriously, folks- every year we work hard- kids, teachers, secretary, director, etc., and we do it as a team in order to learn as much as we can about our tradition, our faith, and G-d.

  4. Renee Walker said:

    I enjoyed reading this post.However, I have a question – I read that the torch relay part of the opening ceremonies was Nazi propaganda and was not part of the Olympics prior to Hitler’s regime. Do you know if this is true and, if it is, how do you feel about it? Does it affect your feelings about the opening ceremony or do you feel like the origin of the tradition is no longer relevant/has taken on a new meaning? Just curious about your thoughts.

    • Renee,

      Thanks for the question. I hadn’t heard this before but based on your question I did some research and discovered that it is true! If you’d like to learn more about it, here are a few links:

      I’m not sure if I feel differently about it. I guess I will find out when the torch enters the arena. I do believe that we can find new and relevant meaning in rituals whose origins are vastly different than what they have become. An obvious example is the Olympic Games themselves. Their based in ancient Greek mythology are significant different from how we understand the purpose of today’s modern Olympics. The Torah is another great example. We do not follow many of the rituals and rites that are described in the Torah, yet we can still derive meaning and relevance from them by interpreting them through the filter of today’s society and our own life’s experiences.

      Even though the ancient Olympic flame represented the theft of fire from Zeus, and the modern torch relay was created as a form of Nazi propaganda, I believe that today we can find meaning and relevance in both. The passing of the torch from one runner to the next can represent one generation of athletes mentoring and encouraging new, younger athletes to aspire to greatness. In our own personal lives, it can represent the passing of the mantle of learning, leadership and responsibility from one generation to the next. The flame itself can represent the flame that burns within each of us to persevere, to do our best, to strive for greater achievements. It can also represent our dreams that cannot be extinguished by others. I truly hope that when the torch runner enters the arena and the cauldron is lit, that I will still feel that excitement and spark of inspiration.


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