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The Super Bowl, Linsanity and the Pursuit of Meaning

02/26/2012 12:57:02 PM


Since I last wrote about a month back, the NY Giants won the Super Bowl in dramatic fashion and a slightly built, Harvard educated, Asian American has taken the International sports world by storm (if anybody reading this e-mail doesn't know what Linsanity is I'm actually quite impressed and a little jealous). These events coming in tandem; a super bowl watched by 120 million Americans and the craziness over Jeremy Lin, stimulates one to ask why does sports have such a hold on the public's emotions and imagination. What is it about professional sports, which often showcases athletes whose greatest concern is collecting a paycheck, that brings intelligent, successful and educated men and women to forge such deep emotional connections with the teams they route for?

I believe that in many ways much of what draws us to sports is in fact noble. For me personally, my affection for baseball stems from years of warm memories spent with my father in old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, or listening on a warm summer night to Orioles games on my transistor radio, and I relish the opportunity to connect with my children in much the same fashion. Additionally one is drawn to sports because of the inspiring human element dramas that often play out. Who can't find inspiration from the Jeremy Lin's of the world who through hard work, humility, faith and self belief has managed to elevate himself to International stardom. Sports often provides the models and moments that can ignite a person to rise to the occasion in their own personal quest.

There is probably another element that draws people towards athletics that is far more simple. I believe that Sports is an outlet that allows people to punctuate their lives with a certain vicarious excitement. The great Ba'alei machshava (the Piazecner Rebbe chief among them) spoke of a child's basic and fundamental need to experience excitement, and I believe that need is no less fundamental for adults. For a person who feels encapsulated by dullness and monotony, Sports provides some respite, something to look forward to.

In that light one recognizes the fundamental challenge of parents and mechanchim who seek to draw their children and students towards Yahadus. Are there moments as a Jew that carry with it excitement and electricity? Absolutely. But what is also equally true is that meaning in the service of G-d emanates not from those grand moments but from the consistent infusion of meaning into daily life. Meaning comes from the sense that one's life has become uplifted and sanctified through dedication to the Torah's principles. While we hopefully recognize this as being true, how does this consistent search for meaning coincide with man's innate need for excitement? How do we feel impassioned about our lives as committed Jews while recognizing that moments of transcendence and uplift are sometimes few and far between.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I do know that this quandry demands constant attention and dedication. I firmly believe that we can find beauty and meaning in our daily lives and if we ourselves experience that meaning that we will be able to convey that feeling to our children and grandchildren. Will that be enough for a sixteen year old more drawn to the excitement that the world has to offer? Maybe not. But we hope and daven that the meaning that we attain in our own lives will serve as the impetus for our children to ultimately build lives infused with the spirit of the Mishkan.

Fri, May 7 2021 25 Iyyar 5781