Jews & Sports

from Big Mo's Sports Desk

Kaddish at Fenway

By Nehemia Schusterman

It took almost two years, but I finally landed at my first Red Sox game as a resident of Massachusetts. I got a call from a colleague about an hour before game time. "I got an extra ticket, Royals versus the Sox, do you want to go?" After receiving approval from the boss, my wife, I was on my way.
The game started out all right. During the second inning, a fellow walks over to where the four of us were sitting, and asked us if we'd join a minyan. I was a little surprised but agreed. As instructed, at the seventh inning stretch, I headed for the agreed upon location, (the ramp, not far from a beer stand) and there it began. We prayed the evening service, and kaddish was said.

I often wonder how we look to others who are watching us do our thing. Such as when I find myself praying with Tefilin on an airplane, or fulfilling some other religious practice in any number of situations that must look unusual.

There is a Chassidic adage, "In the place where one's desire is, there he is to be found." Where your head is, that is where you are. Not physically of course, but conceptually.

I believe that is also true about perceptions. When one is insecure about something, his haircut, tattoo, beard (if you are me), or choice of clothing, then others perceive the discomfort. They pick up on it, instinctively understanding that something is out of place, and take a second glance. That is when they perceive the oddity that you are so insecure about. If I am not comfortable, then I'm almost begging for (negative) attention, since I am not aligned with myself. My heart and my being are in two separate places.

A person who is confident in his manner and stride and about what he represents gives off an aura of security that doesn't force others to do a double take. If my heart is in the right place, and I am secure about what/who/where I am and what I'm doing, then I am truly there, and nothing is out of place.
Just before his death, Moses begins to review much of the Torah's laws and stories. He rebukes the people for their failings and iniquities, and enjoins them to keep the Torah and observe its commandments in the land that G d is giving them as an eternal heritage, into which they shall cross after his death.
Without taking the literal message of Moses out of context, perhaps we can extend what he was saying. He was enjoining them to follow the Torah and observe its commandments since that is their true identity. It is your essence, part of your identity like the native land you inhabit. And if you are to survive and be successful, you need to first be at peace with who and what you are.

* * *

Back to Fenway. We prayed the whole evening service, perhaps ten minutes or so, and no one even batted an eye. We were doing our thing, what we were supposed to, and no one felt like we were out of place. "In the place where one's desire is, there he is to be found."
The Sox came back from behind and took that game, and the whole three-game series for that matter. Go Sox!

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman is director of Chabad of Peabody, Massachusetts.

Reprinted (with corrections) from

From the comments there:

"At Shea stadium in Queens where the Mets play, it's known that during the 7th inning stretch there is always a minyan for Maariv (the Evening Prayer), and usually around 30-40 people come. It is always an amazing thing to see."

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