Question: What is God's favorite sport? Answer: "Baseball. Because the Torah begins (in English) in the big inning." That's from Rabbi Ken White http://scheinerman.net/judais/humor/riddles.html
Although Judaism may be a bit older than baseball, the religion and the sport seem to have much in common — at least if you do a search on the Internet.
Despite occasional friction between the two, there are far more references to their unique bond and even to the lessons the rabbis have derived from the game. Today: Judaism and baseball on the World Wide Web.
For Neil Rubin, the timing of the start of the baseball season says it all. "Funny how it always coincides with Passover, which is about our birth as a nation with one focus — reaching the Promised Land (the World Series), and about coming from the evils of Egypt (a dark, wet winter)." And then there are the personal memories of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. While everyone else is feasting on soft pretzels and Coke, Neil munched on matzah, macaroons and Passover soda. "If you can keep the faith on opening day, we all agreed, you can be a Jew anywhere, any time," he writes in a column at www.
Half a century ago, even the Lubavitcher rebbe taught a lesson about Yiddishkeit, with the help of baseball. According to an essay at www.lchaimweekly.org/lchaim/5757/474.htm the rebbe asked a visiting bar mitzvah boy about his favorite game. When he responded "baseball," the rebbe explained the special lesson to a boy coming of age. "In your heart you have a big field. The two sides are the yetzer tov, the good inclination, and the yetzer hara, the negative drives. Until now they played kids' stuff, but from now on the game's for real. Remember, just as in baseball, the side which plays best will win. If you only want to, you can always overcome your yetzer hara."
Rabbi Richard D. Angler of Boca Raton's Congregation B'nai Israel sees many parallels between Judaism and baseball in an essay at www.cbiboca.org/rda/101196.html Both are sophisticated. You can't expect to some to appreciate baseball or Judaism right away. And both are firmly rooted in history. Just as "every baseball game is part of every other baseball game that has ever been played…We say that when a Jew is born we are already 4000 years old…Judaism, like baseball, like family, like everything of value in life works best when we make the long-term commitment to it."
Yosef Abramowitz is a true believer in the Boston Red Sox. (The "Red Sox, like the Jews, have been the historic underdogs of baseball.") But it was with some apprehension that Abramowitz joined his father and his then-5-year-old daughter for their first three-generation baseball outing. Let's just say that things didn't go quite as planned until the game was over and Aliza confronted a bit of reality outside of Fenway Park, far from her own Jewish neighborhood. The story is at www.jewishaz.com/jewishnews/980911/yosi.shtml
For all the heart-warming associations between Judaism and baseball, Rabbi Rami Shapiro saw nothing pleasant a few years ago when the Florida Marlins hosted a playoff game against the Atlanta Braves on Yom Kippur. Shapiro was distressed when he heard about fans trying to decide whether to attend the "Great American Pastime" or the "Great American Fasttime," according to his story at http://makeashorterlink.com/ ?B39012405 He wasn't pleased with Jews who tried to have the best of both worlds by
trying to get the game time changed.
"This is a mistake. Judaism asks us to make choices all the time. The choice is always the same: do I choose for holiness or selfishness? To get the Marlins to eliminate this one choice (even if that were fair or possible) simply misses the point. Serious Jews must make serious choices. And sometimes those choices call for personal sacrifice…If you choose the Marlins over the minyans, I hope your team wins. And I promise you this: our team lost."
When David Bedein read Shapiro's plea, it brought back some old memories for him. Many years before Bedein became Jerusalem bureau chief for the Israel Resources News Agency, he was a Phillies fan in his hometown. Back in 1964, young David took an afternoon detour on the second day of Rosh Hashanah to take in a game at Connie Mack Stadium. You'll have to read the entire piece to find out exactly what happened but let's just say there was no joy in Philly that year…and
Bedein has always felt responsible. His essay is at http://israelbehindthenews.com/Oct-13.htm#Baseball
Next time, the conclusion of our double-header as we look at some great Jewish players and dabble in Kabbalah, baseball-style.