During the summer, the Wall Street Journal published two fascinating stories. One front-page story addressed why at some happy events, "Hava Nagila" isn't invited; and the other, how the rise of Israeli baseball starts in New York.
I had multiple reactions to the articles. First and foremost, I was relieved to have my "journal time" not being spent on the usual more frightening topics of present-day life.
When Jews can cite as their greatest journalistic concern whether or not "Hava Nagila" is losing its place in our normative celebratory musical repertoire, this is a good place to be.
Even better would be if we could just focus on how baseball can be more effectively exported to the Jewish State, instead of constantly worrying about the Jewish State's safety and security.
My first major connections to "Hava Nagila" and baseball came within close proximity to one another.
When I was in third grade, my mother decided that I needed to learn to play a musical instrument. The closest musical resource to my house was the guitar instruction being offered by Sister Mary, at the Our Lady of the Rosary Church, just around the corner from our home.
I knew the church grounds somewhat intimately, because they allowed the neighbor kids to play daily pick-up baseball games on their grounds.
I had seen Sister Mary, wearing her black and white nun's habit, on a few occasions and knew who she was because one of my childhood friends (and fellow baseball players) went to the church every Sunday for services and was taught by Sister Mary at Sunday school.
She used to wave at us when we were playing, and I always thought she seemed pretty nice.
When my mother brought me to formally meet the Sister I was somewhat taken aback.
I became aware for the first time of what a crucifix looked like, seeing it on the wall of her music room, and I didn't care much for how Sister Mary was describing her expectation that if I were going to study with her, I would practice guitar 30 minutes every day.
She did, however, cheer me up when she said I could always practice after the ball game finished.
Studying with Sister Mary, I began my exploration of interfaith dialogue. I learned about some of the traditions of the church, and Sister Mary always was telling me how important it was that I should go to synagogue.
For the first annual concert of her students, Sister Mary decided that I would perform "Hava Nagila."
She told me that I might like playing a song from my tradition and asked, "Did I know it?" I told her I knew of it, but didn't really know what the words meant.
She then showed me the sheet music and the translation: "Let's rejoice, let's rejoice, let's rejoice and be happy. Let's sing, let's sing, let's sing and be happy. Awake, awake, brothers; awake brothers with a happy heart. Awake brothers, awake brothers with a happy heart."
Then she proudly took out her Harry Belafonte record and played his version of "Hava Nagila."
I've always has a soft spot for "Hava Nagila," but what is most special of all is that I learned to appreciate this song from "my" nun.
I know the song is seen as musically simple. After all, it's the song I learned to play after six months of learning the guitar.
But it was a beautiful song to me, nevertheless. A simple clapping melody, that I further appreciated, because at the San Francisco Giants and Oakland As games of my childhood the organist always played the catchy tune during one of the innings, and I felt an innate pride in these uniquely Jewish moments.
I recall being lifted in the chair at my bar mitzvah during "Hava Nagila,"and I remember the fun and joy of what it was to be a Jew.
Living in the 21st century, I can't help but hope for my children, and God willing, some day, my Jewish grandchildren, that they will innately know this fun and joy of being Jewish.
Ironically, I learned "Hava Nagila" from Sister Mary. Over the years, she used to come out more and watch us play baseball in the field at the church.
She'd always tell my friend that she'd see him in church on Sunday, and then she'd always say to me "Don't forget to go to the synagogue on Saturday, and make sure you practice today after finishing with the ballgame."
This confluence of "Hava Nagila" and Jews in sports came to a happy place this summer with the gold medal victory of Jewish gymnast Aly Reisman, who performed her floor exercise routine to an orchestral arrangement of "Hava Nagila."
As her teammates and family members cheered, I know that I felt just a little more joy -- just a tiny bit more victorious -- to know that one of our own people was bringing home a gold medal.
Thus, this song has real meaning beyond being just a cliche of melody for the Jewish people.
When we hear those immortal words: "Let's rejoice and be happy. ... Let's sing and be happy. ... Awake brothers and sisters, with a happy heart," whether we are at the ballpark, a ballroom, a bar or bat mitzvah or even a balance beam -- we know, as Jews, that it is time for us to kvell.
Rabbi Mitchell M. Hurvitz is senior rabbi at Temple Sholom of Greenwich, co-founder of the Sholom Center for Interfaith Learning and Fellowship and a past president of the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy. He can be reached at email@example.com, and a collection of his columns may be found on the temple website at www.templesholom.com