Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


What Does Tom and Jerry Teach Us About Studying the Bible?

What TV show would you rather watch? Tom and Jerry or Sponge Bob? One show is virtually silent and consists primarily of a cat chasing around a mouse. The other is fast-paced, funny and well-animated.

tom and jerry

An easy choice? Absolutely. I would watch Tom and Jerry every time. And I would encourage my kids to do the same. Tom and Jerry makes us think. With its lack of constant dialogue, it forces us to imagine what each character is thinking.

Simplicity Begets Creativity

Its simple framework of cat chasing mouse forces the writers to come up with ever more creative ways of telling the same story. And getting the humor demands concentration. The gags usually build up to a crescendo.

Sponge Bob, on the other hand, can be watched mindlessly. Rarely do the scenes build on one another or demand we enter the characters’ heads. The rapid changes in setting make it difficult to concentrate.

Why We Need to Use Our Brains

Why am I sharing this comparison? Because it reminds us of what meaningful learning requires. It reminds us of the skills needed for studying the Bible. As people of faith, we should read texts and experience programs that enlarge the mind.

Texts like the Bible and stories like the Exodus from Egypt are not meant to entertain. They are meant to teach. They are meant to stir the imagination. Like Tom and Jerry, they proceed from a simple framework but illustrate deeper human truths.

In a society that celebrates the mindlessness of Sponge Bob, how do we read and study in a serious way?

1. Ask questions: The Bible is not only an instruction book meant to impart information. Yes, sometimes it does so. More often, however, the lessons and stories demand engagement. Asking why would God inflict the Ten Plagues  on Egypt is more important than knowing exactly what those plagues are.

2. Read commentary: Some denominations discourage reading biblical commentaries. They encourage an unadulterated encounter with the text. I vigorously disagree. While we need to choose commentary carefully, learning from the insights of others enriches our experience of the text.

Jewish creativity often came through the literary form of commentary. The edition of the Hebrew Bible studied in most schools places the original text in the center of the page, surrounded ancient and contemporary commentaries. Each page contains a conversation spanning thousands of years.

3. Look for yourself in the text: The Bible remains holy not only because it is the word of God. Its beauty and meaning lie in the truths it reveals about ourselves. Its story is our story.

We journey toward the Promised Land but often fail to make it. We stumble and fall and find strength in God’s promise. Like Adam and Eve we are not perfect, but we bring new life into the world.

The Talmud, an ancient compendium of Jewish law and wisdom, contains the following precept. “Turn the Torah over and over for everything is in it. Look into it, grow old and worn over it, and never move away from it, for you will find no better portion.” To that we can only say Amen.



  • http://www.rabbimoffic.com Evan Moffic, @chicagorabbi

    Thanks for the comment. You’re right. Tom and Jerry probably is too violent, and it may not be the best example. I was intrigued by the simplicity and lack of dialogue.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment G B

    Curious choice: I find Tom and Jerry curiously uninteresting in that the plot is predictable..two animals trying to hurt one another..violent and crazy..doesn’t need dialogue. The inanity of it is in your face so nothing else is needed. In fact , why not appeal to some higher form of art or literature to make this point? Oh, yeah, I forgot, average American culture doesn’t like to exercise body nor brain nor spirit. Forget I said anything, let’s go get a Big Mac, double fries, and enjoy an afternoon of violent cartoons!

Previous Posts

Why We Still Love Fiddler on the Roof After 50 Years
As I child I could not sit through movies or meals. Sitting through a musical was out of the question. Yet, when I was seven, my parents decided to take me to see Fiddler on the Roof. Looking back now as parent of a seven-year-old, I would not have been so bold. Since that first experienc

posted 6:59:14pm Sep. 16, 2014 | read full post »

The Secret to Healing From Pain
I sat with the two children of a mother who had just passed away. They were recounting her life for me in preparation for the funeral. As we spoke, the mother’s long-time caretaker came into the room. She began to speak about their relationship. Though her English was not perfect, the three

posted 12:35:43pm Sep. 10, 2014 | read full post »

Do You Know What Hurts Me? A Story
  A great rabbi went into a bar. He overheard a conversation between patrons.   One said to the other, “Friend, do you love me?” “Of course I do,” the second man replied. “We’ve known each other our whole lives.”   “Then tell me, friend,” said the first man, “

posted 1:01:07pm Sep. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Does Religion Cause War?
Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end. This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just

posted 12:36:26pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

The Healing Power of Laughter: The Jewish Genius of Robin Williams
In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.  Had I ever met Robin Williams, I would surely have said it. Williams was a singular genius. He brought

posted 2:26:21pm Aug. 12, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.