Well today is Friday, and as the good book says in this week’s parsha Yitro, “Let them be ready on the third day…” Friday-Shabbat-Super Bowl Sunday. And so I have the game on my mind but I will still offer a little Torah that may be of interest to you.
My first point is about not rushing a moment…
God says to Moshe in chapter 19 (verses 11 and 12), “Let them be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down, in the sight of all the people, on Mount Sinai. You shall set the bounds for the people round about saying, beware of going up the mountain or touching the border of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.”
For right now I am going to ignore Moses’ problematic and inaccurate relay of God’s message, and I will focus on God’s words of not going near the mountain. I was looking for a good explanation of why such a strict boundary needed to be set up and why the penalty for crossing it would be so severe. S’forno, a 16th century Italian Torah commentator, shares this insight:
“… a warning to deter the people from being harmed in the event they would trample the boundary markers around the mountain in their eagerness to catch a glimpse of God. Such people, if they were to become victims of their own folly, would mar the entire joyful experience…”
S’forno is saying that the significance of a moment can be so pronounced, that everything about it (time, place, and people) is by design. To rush any aspect of the experience, would cause a person to forfeit their own ability to take-in the “realness” of the actual encounter. Lifecycle events, holidays, reunions, and even Super Bowls, are there for us to look forward to (we can read about them, by food for them, plan where we are going to be for them), but we must respect that often these things comes at their proper time and thus the opportune moment is worth waiting for.
My second point is about superstitions…
God and Moses agree that the people should wash their clothes and get themselves ready for the big event. All of us have special preparations we do for upcoming things, but what is the line between custom and superstition? Do our preparations and choices really impact the outcome, especially when we are not direct participants? Maimonides says that all superstitions are falsehoods and lies. And yet when it comes to areas like sports, nothing is too outlandish. There is a story out there that the Patriots are choosing to wear their white uniforms for the game rather than their blue uniforms because they are 3-0 in white and 2-2 in blue. I am choosing to watch the game this year with my parents, despite the fact that my family’s record watching the Super Bowl together is 0-2. We have yet to watch the Patriots win one together.
This year, as it was thirteen years ago, a large contingent of my family is from Phili and they will be routing for the Eagles. That first time these two teams played I didn’t watch the game with my dad because these Phili fans were from his side of the family and I thought he might have divided loyalties. Even though our team won, that was a mistake. So this year, if the choices we make in preparation for things that are really beyond our control can really impact things, perhaps the Patriots will win because I am making the right choice to be with my family despite our ominous Super Bowl viewing record.
Rabbi Daniel Victor
P.S If you have a team you are really routing for, it can’t hurt to come to shul the weekend of the big game and say a little prayer. My senior rabbi when I was in Syracuse used to tell his congregants that it might help the Orange if they came to shul Saturday evenings before heading over to the game.