Tuesday, February 7, 2017

At Touro Synagogue, February 4, 2017

At Touro Synagogue, February 4, 2017
It’s not over until it’s over

by Aaron Ginsburg

When I arrived in Newport after dark on Friday evening, there was a noisy flock of birds on the tree between the Rabbi’s house and the Levi Gale house. A neighbor started banging to frighten away the flock, but in vain. The boistrous  squawking reminded me of The Birds, a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the story by Daphne du Maurier. In the movie, things went from bad to worse, as it did for the Egyptians in the parsha, which continued the story of the plagues.

In Parshat Bo, Exodus 10:1 - 13:16, there was nary a bird, but there were other winged creatures, locusts.  וְאָכַל֙ אֶת־כָּל־הָעֵ֔ץ הַצֹּמֵ֥חַ לָכֶ֖ם מִן־הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃ (And they shall eat away all your trees that grow in the field.) 

There were neither birds nor locusts in shul. But there was a big gorilla, the upcoming Super Bowl, which Rabbi Marc Mandel addressed in his sermon:

“Tomorrow is the big day – Super Bowl Sunday – when millions of people will be tuning in for the big game. Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss from Staten Island wrote an interesting article about the Super Bowl, which I have adapted for Patriot Nation. Rabbi Weiss’s take on football is at http://thevuesonline.com/articles/super-bowl-musings/.

“He said that the Chofetz Chaim taught us that you can learn something from everything. For example, the Chofetz Chaim said, “What can you learn from a telephone? We learn from a telephone that you can say something in one country it can be heard in another country.” (He was talking about the power of speech and lashon hara or gossip.)

"So Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss asked, ‘What can we learn from football? One of the basics of the game is that you always try to get a first down. A first down is a whole new start. This is very important in Jewish life. As Torah Jews, we are always trying to make a fresh start. We say in Ashrei, וַאֲנַחְנוּ, נְבָרֵךְ יָהּ--    מֵעַתָּה וְעַד-עוֹלָם הַלְלוּ-יָהּ  (We will bless God from now until eternity.) We have been doing this for decades. Why from now? Each time is a fresh start! If It's new, from now on it will be more meaningful and heartfelt. We are always going for the first down!’ ”

“In the parsha for today we read הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן (This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months.)The Jewish people are compared to the moon-we are always renewing ourselves. 

“The objective of football is to make a touchdown. That's all that matters! In the last election Hillary Clinton got more votes than Donald Trump. But that wasn’t the point of the election. The point of the election was to win. It's always important not to lose sight of the goal.

“That's an important lesson. In life, we need to focus on goals. We need to set goals, spend the time with our children, giving a certain amount of charity, and learning the parsha each week. Set goals! Life will be more meaningful. With the fulfillment of goals comes the joy and thrills of scoring a touchdown. Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, who is a member at Temple Emanuel in Newton Massachusetts, said, ‘The Patriots prepare very, very hard for each game. It's like studying Torah-it's just not simplistic. It’s deep.’ ” 

Now that the game is over, what else can we learn? We learn that, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

The Family by Samuel Bak
In the Vilna ghetto, there was a young boy who was a precocious artist. His first exhibit was in the ghetto in 1943 at the age of 9 years. Later that year, after the ghetto was liquidated, he and his mother joined his father in a forced labor camp. He survived the liquidation of the children in the camp. 

His desperate mother, about to turn herself and her son into the Nazis, reasoned, “We will all be killed. Why prolong the agony?”  A neighbor understood what was about to happen, and pulled them into her apartment with the words, “You can worry about dying later.”

The boy, Samuel Bak, a renowned artist, lives in Boston. It’s not over until it’s over.

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