Friday, January 31, 2014

Shabbat-O-Gram for Jan. 31

I hope to see everyone here for Temple Rock on Saturday night.  It is unbelievable how hard the committee has been working to make this evening the great success it always is – a real highlight of our calendar year.  I hope to see you here!  

I also hope you noticed the email we sent out earlier today about our new young couples group.  Over a dozen very enthusiastic individuals have taken on leadership of this new venture.  They aren’t all members of TBE, but that doesn’t matter.  This group is open to everyone – including interfaith and other non traditional couples, with and without kids.  If you are looking to expand your social horizons, here’s your chance.  We find that people are so busy these days that it’s hard to break away and just be a human being for a couple of hours.  Here’s a chance to step back from the rat race and meet other crazed, incredibly busy people looking to do the same thing.  If you (or your adult kids) want to join them for their movie and bar night this Tuesday, contact Matt Miller at   

Join us on Shabbat morning as we celebrate our TBE BCDS 8th graders as they prepare to leave for their Israel experience.  We look forward to sending off Eddie Weinstein, Matt Greenbaum, Matt Zweibel, Danny Goldblum, Hudson Price and Steven Yudell  - and also thank those of their families who will be sponsoring our lunch tomorrow.  ‘

Speaking of Israel, my son Dan is now at Hebrew U for spring semester, and he is continuing to blog about his travels at  Mara and I look forward to visiting him in March.

Speaking of my family, my dad’s music was featured in a recent radio show that highlights classic cantorial music.  If you are interested, you can find it here. Go to the program of Jan. 20, 2014 (#233), and drag the mouse along the recording bar to side 2, about 35:25 minutes in.  It’s a little complicated, but instructions are there.  The person interviewed who spoke about my father got a number of the facts wrong, but it was still very moving to me to hear from someone who knew him long before I was born (and in fact was bar mitzvah on the day my dad came to Brookline for his audition).  And then, of course, to hear  him chant reminds us that although Jewish liturgical has moved, by necessity, to a new place, there is something magical about the great hazzanut of yesteryear. (If you want to hear more, you can also hear some of my dad’s music that I’ve collected here).

Speaking of Shabbat morning, tomorrow I’ll be continuing my series of Learners’ Shabbats, where a key theme of contemporary Jewish life is wedded to both the portion of the week and a prayer from the liturgy.  Tomorrow’s theme is Love, Unity and the Tabernacle – as we’ll look at the Sh’ma and the portion of Terumah, exploring themes of Jewish unity and God’s Oneness.  One, we’ll discover, is definitely not the loneliest number.  You can get a sneak peak at the parsha packet here.  And you can also look back last week’s packet, on the topic Commandment and Choice: How should Post-Modern Jews Relate to Jewish Law? part one is here and click here for part two.

And speaking about send-offs, this evening at Kabbalat Shabbat services we’ll have a send-off of sorts for Pete Seeger, who died this week.  Among his many other his contributions, he brought Israel to the forefront of American popular imagination in a very positive ways, back in the 1950s.  His relationship with Israel later became more complicated, but through his efforts, an Israeli song actually made it up to #2 on the American charts in 1950. 

Now, for my annual Super Bowl Prediction (Using Jewish Sources):

It’s not easy for me to make my Jewish Super Bowl prediction this year, still in mourning for my New England Patriots. But since I’ve almost always been right, as a public service I must meet the challenge. 

So who will it be: Broncos or Seahawks?

Let’s start with geography. I’ve always liked Seattle, and the Native American leader Chief Seattle was known for his pearls of environmental wisdom.  But not even the lovely Cascades can beat the Rockies for sheer natural beauty.  But it’s not just about mountains.  When Gershwin wrote “the Rockies may tumble, Gibraltar may crumble, they're only made of clay; but our love is here to stay,” he was paraphrasing Isaiah 54:10: “For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from you.”  Was God speaking to Bronco fans in that verse? 

Or how about this?  In Joshua 24, we read that Joshua was buried north of Mount Ga’ash, which was known to be a volcano.  Seattle is situated north of North America’s most famous volcano, Mount St. Helens. It so happens that Ga’ash today is known as a nude beach north of Tel Aviv.  Seattle, like Israel, has nude beaches (sorry, no hyperlink.  Just trust me, it does).  Denver doesn’t have nude beaches.  So the needle seems to be leaning Seahawks here. 

Since both teams come from states that have legalized marijuana, neither gets the edge derived from Genesis 9:3, where God says, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” 

Coffee?  Howard Schultz, owner of Starbucks, is Jewish.  But there is no Starbucks Haggadah. That honor is reserved for Maxwell House, and there’s a Maxwell’s Coffee House in Denver.  Plus Golda Meir once lived in Denver and she was known to drink a dozen cups of coffee a day.  But she is best known for fixing a steamiong pot of tea for guestsJewish folklore favors tea.  Jewish history favors Golda.  Edge to the Broncos. 

Oh yes, and there are also more Jews in Denver than Seattle.  Another plus for the Broncs.

There is to my knowledge no “seahawk” in the bible, but hawks do appear.  In Leviticus, chapter 11, the hawk is listed among unkosher birds.  Interestingly, the hawk is listed just below the raven and indeed, the Ravens won last year’s Super Bowl.   

The Eagles also appear there, both before and after, possibly indicating that while the Eagles would GET to the big game before the Seahawks, which they did, they wouldn’t win it until later, which, if Seattle wins this week, will indeed be true.

Hawk in Hebrew is “Netz.” (I thought they played in Brooklyn!)  Commentaries about the bird focus on its blinding speed.  And if we are comparing the two quarterbacks in this game, the Seahawks hold a definitive speed edge. 

The rabbis commented on the hawk’s keen eyesight, saying in the Talmud, “It can live in Babylon and see everything that people are doing wrong in the land of Israel.”  That speaks to excellent scouting and Seattle’s superior pass defense to stop long range throws.

As for the Broncos.  Horses don’t typically do well in water - unless they are seahorses, of course.  A few weeks ago in the Torah, we chanted the triumphant Song of the Sea… triumphant for Israelites, I should clarify, but not good for horses. 

 “Ashira L’Adonai Ki Gaoh Ga’ah,” it begins, “(“I will sing to God, who has triumphed gloriously,” “Soos v’rochvo ramah va’yam” (“Horse and driver have been hurled into the Sea”).  Considering the fact that the game is taking place in the Jersey swamps, it is tempting to toss in all the cards at this point and proclaim that the Seahawks will sink Denver in a rout.  

Especially when you figure in how “Ga’ah sounds like “Ga’ash” and there are no nude beaches in Denver.

But the Broncos were incredibly impressive in their win over my Patriots (sigh) two weeks ago.  And there are some positive signs in our sources.

There is even a biblical character (Numbers 13) whose last name is “Soosi.”  The root meaning of “soos,”(horse)  incidentally, is “swift,” which pretty much describes the Broncos, both offensively and defensively.  They are built for speed.

 According to an online concordance, the word soos appears 283 times in the Bible. With the land of Israel being so mountainous, horses were not as useful as mules and oxen and therefore not as plentiful as they were in flatter places, like Egypt and Arabia.  On the plain, horses and chariots were formidable, but you can ask the Canaanite general Sisera how things went once it got hilly and wet.  Or ask Pharaoh.  And they never had to play in the swamps of New Jersey.

Bottom line – a wet, muddy field favors Seattle.  A snowy field all the more.

Typically, horses are seen as instruments of war, typically employed by the enemies of Israel See (Deut 20:1) Despite their threatening status (and how often in history have Jews been chased down by the horses of Cossacks, Roman soldiers and Crusaders), they are also admired, especially for their speed (see Isaiah 30:16).  Clearly, the biblical authors were aware of the Broncos’ lightning fast attack.  Horses are also symbols of dignity and honor (Esther 6:11).  Think of that scene in the book of Esther when Mordechai, not Haman, got to ride through town on horseback – one of those great “gotcha” moments in Jewish history.  

But a horse is also a symbol of vanity and false hopes.  Psalm 33;17 is rather indicative of the Broncos’ recent history:  “A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.” 

So, what will happen on Sunday?

Check Job 39:26: “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south? 

The numerical equivalent of the word “netz” (hawk) is 140.  That is equivalent to the word “koom,” “arise” (without the vowel).   Perhaps the numerical equivalence is hinting at something here. The Hawks will arise late in the game – and it might come down to whether the Seahawks are headed toward the south side of the field in the fourth quarter.

Interestingly, only a few verses earlier in Job, in verse 39:20, we read: “Have you given the horse his strength? Have you clothed his neck with fierceness?”  Could this juxtaposition of hawk and horse verses be the Bible’s way of informing us their positioning on the scoreboard, that the hawks will score 26 and the horses 20?  If you need more proof, check out verse 18: “When the time cometh, she raises her wings on high, and scorns the horse and his rider.”

And how will it end?

In Hebrew, the name of Seattle’s quarterback, Russell, is an acronym for sergeant. With military precision and a strong ground game, Wilson will lead the Seahawks down the field for a go ahead score late in the fourth quarter. 

The Hebrew word Peyton (“pie-tan”) means “poet,” or the composer of a prayer (a piyyut).  So Denver’s Manning will throw up a prayer in the game’s final seconds, a “hail Mary,” as it were.

It will fall incomplete.  Horse and driver will be hurled into the swamp.

Only one thing can save them.  The Talmud prescribes a magical amulet where suspending the tail of a fox between the eyes of a horse wards off evil. In order to win, then, Bronco coach John Fox must head to the end zone before the game and squat between the eyes of the Bronco logo.  Apparently, only the coach’s tush can save the team.

Otherwise, I’ll go with the Joban verse discrepancy and say that the final score will be 26-20, Seahawks.

…of course it must be stated that in no way do I condone gambling, and past performance should not be an indicator of future results

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