Saturday, April 13, 2024

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Grant Bradley on Tazria - D'var Torah, Zoom Video and Screen Shots

Shabbat Shalom!

Those of you who know me know that I have a real passion for basketball. So before I even get started, I need to give a big shout out to the UCONN Mens and Womens basketball teams for making Connecticut so proud and especially to the Men for winning back to back championships!  Now, how many of YOU know that former NBA player Moses Malone was named after our very own Moshe from the Torah. JUST KIDDING. But how many of you ACTUALLY do know that in 1979, the top rebounder in the NBA was Moses Malone?  At the ripe age of 10 I knew this and that’s how passionate I am about basketball.

But there’s another reason I love basketball, and, it has to do with my Torah portion, Tazria.

Yes, Tazria is all about leprosy!  But the beauty of Torah study is that you can find interesting things to say even about a portion that is all about the grossness of leprosy.  Not only that, but it even ties into my special interest – basketball.

Yes, I know leprosy is kind of disgusting and not everyone’s favorite topic, but I ended up with the portion that deals with disease. For anyone who doesn’t know, leprosy is sort of like Covid before Covid or AIDS before AIDS.  Very scary.  Very deadly. Very mysterious and very contagious.  Just like with both of these diseases, it’s the unknown that scares people so much and often drives people apart.

Basketball, on the other hand, brings people together.  So often, it has proven to be the cure for the disease – not necessarily in a medical sense but in many other ways. I love how basketball has done that, and it’s even done that for me.

Any old pick-up game brings people together who might not have known each other beforehand, and who might have very different backgrounds. Many times I have been on a court and asked people to play… people I don’t know, or don’t know well.  I can just tell they share my love of basketball.  It doesn’t matter whether you are Black or white, American or European, Asian or African – Australian or even Antarctican, young or old, tall or short…

Well, it helps to be tall – but there are some really great short players too.

But with all this good, there are situations in the world of basketball that has had to deal with disease and isolating people, just like in Tazria.

When Magic Johnson told the world that he was HIV positive in 1991, it shocked everyone, but the NBA stood behind him, just like the Kohen in ancient Israel. We learn in the Torah, that one of the jobs of the Kohen was to integrate the sick into the community. According to Eytz Chaim commentary, religion looked to include an inflicted person, not isolate them. Many people were scared of Magic Johnson at the time of his diagnosis. Much like one would be afraid to be around someone inflicted with leprosy. But eventually he was able to play in the 1992 Olympics on the Dream Team. Basketball acted as the Kohen for Magic Johnson, allowing him to integrate back into society.

In 2020, when Covid hit, the NBA was the first league to cancel its season, but they also were very quick to find a solution, by creating a bio-secure bubble to protect their players from catching and spreading this horrible virus.

In ancient Israel, the Kohen would care for the leprosy patient and bring that person back into society.  The Torah teaches us that we heal by not isolating people or treating them like strangers.

Basketball creates an ideal universe. On the court, everyone shares love for the same thing. The beautiful game. Sure there might be fouls and arguments but when you step off that court you shake hands like nothing but a good game happened.  When the messiah comes, I believe everyone will play basketball all the time. Even the mashiach will play basketball.

And you won’t even have to be tall!

I wanted to take my love for basketball and do something good. For my mitzvah project, I’m collecting basketballs and monetary donations to give to the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford. They are always in need of equipment and I want to help keep their sports bins full. Every day, too many kids in Connecticut and around the country leave school with nowhere to go. The Boys and Girls Club of Stamford makes sure that the kids in our city ALWAYS have a place to be with people that care for them. 

Thank you everyone for being here today to celebrate. 

No comments: