Several years ago, I watched the Super Bowl with a group of students
at Tel-Aviv University. What can I tell you? Football has been in my blood
since birth, and Chassidus only since my own college days.
As the two teams crashed together at midfield, I racked my brain to think
of some words of Torah I could present at half-time to inspire the students
and turn the affair into a holy gathering. I thought about the famous
quote attributed to Tom Lasorda that if you cut his veins he would bleed
Dodger Blue, and how 150 years earlier it had been said about the second
Lubavitcher Rebbe that if you cut his veins he would bleed Chassidic topics.
There are other parallels too.
I opened my remarks by saying that the most important thing on a football
team is unity and a support system. The many individuals have to make
sacrifices for the good of the whole team. As an ex-offensive tackle,
I can attest to that strongly! Similarly, Chassidus demands of us that
kind of self-sacrifice and humility, even for a Jew that you have never
met before, and tells us that Ahavas Yisroel (love for every Jew)
is the basis of the whole Torah. The lack of unity among the Jewish people
today is the main impediment to the coming of Moshiach.
Here is another parallel. Chassidus teaches us about lessening our bodily
needs as a way to get closer to our spiritual potential. In football too,
you sometimes have to "give up your body" to break the wedge
or throw a down-field block, which is a kind of self-sacrifice for the
Another parallel is that the coach of the team must have the control
and respect of his players in order for the game plan to be carried out
in its finest detail. Our coach is the Rebbe, who has to have the control
and obedience of his chassidim to carry the message of Torah and Mitzvot
to all the Jewish people, without compromising even the smallest detail.
The Rebbe sees the importance of every Jew, even the "wood choppers
and the water carriers" (see Deut. 29:8-9), just like a coach realizes
the need for even the special teams' personnel, who get only limited playing
There is also an idea in football that in order to advance the ball,
you may have to take a step back or go on an end-around in order to run
a long distance just to get back to cross the line of scrimmage where
you started, and hopefully gain some yardage. Chassidic doctrine explains
that the soul has to make a descent into a body in order to accomplish
an ascent after 120 years in this world. There is also an idea that although
you may take one step back by failing a test in Judaism, you can then
go two steps forward. We should always be in the process of moving even
if it temporarily knocks us down, rather than just try to remain at the
Finally there is an idea in football (and all sports) of a comeback,
the "cardiac kids" who never give up, or ever think that all
hope is lost. Chassidus tells us that a Jew is never lost no matter how
far away from the Torah team he or she seems to be. The soul spark inside
always remains pure and holy and is never disconnected from its source.
This also applies for any level of teshuva (return); it is never
too late...even after Yom Kippur!
All the times I've watched football I could never really understand why
it captivated me so totally. Now, after putting together a parallel between
football and chassidus that the kids at Tel-Aviv University could understand
and relate to, it all comes together. I realize that we all have to learn
to see how all aspects of our lives are inter-connected, and how G-d is
a part of every one of these aspects, even the most mundane. We need to
integrate, harmoniously and in a practical manner, the spiritual and physical
in our lives.
May G-d Al-mighty bless us all with a great year both physically and
spiritually in a revealed way. Moshiach Now!