OK, we’re using “halachot” (Jewish laws) in jest, but think of these Sports Fan “halachot” as a meaningful parable for Jewish involvement:
Good fans know their teams. They are aware of their playing schedules, know their rosters, have a good sense of their teams strength and weaknesses. There’s no standardized test for fans, and no one is expecting you to be a super-maven that can roll stats and records off their tongues, but to paraphrase Ethics of Our Fathers: You can’t be an ignorant fan. You have to know something. And the more you know, the richer the experience.
Knowledge alone can be abstract or indifferent. Real fans have passion, they are interested, concerned, invested. It’s not just stats. They actually care about who wins. Some fans take this passion to crazy extremes, but even ordinary run-of-the-mill fans need to have some passion.
3) Be Present
Not all fans are able to go to the games, but you have to be present in some way, either digitally or in person, at a good number of their games. Some fans are season-ticket holders, there for every opportunity, but even regular fans have to watch many games on TV, follow online or something. You gotta be present, fans have to show up.
There’s a reason people wear sports gear: hats, jerseys, etc. It is a proud sign of affiliation and demonstratable sense of connection. You don’t have to wear it 24/7 but if you are a fan you will have gear that you wear – even in a bad year.
5) All Season, W/L
If you just show up for the wins or big games, you are not a fan. Fans are there through good times and bad, through wins and losses, even whole seasons which go belly-up. Real fans are dedicated, they are there for their teams, hold out some hope, they are there for everything. No matter what (well, pretty much).
I’m not such a sports fan myself, so why I am sharing this? I think there are great Jewish involvement messages here.
Think of how empowering Jewish knowledge (“halacha #1) can be. Yes, you can be Jewish without it, but it’s not the same. But academic knowledge alone without emotional feeling (“halacha” #2) is too cold, it lacks connection, it’s too distant or impersonal. On the other hand, emotional passion alone can be unbridled, irrational, get out of hand. It can be empty or shallow. Knowledge lends gravitas, depth, a better understanding, its based on real stuff not just hype and feelings. Judaism thrives on that balance of knowledge and emotion, Chabad Chassidus speaks a lot about how we need both.
Yes, we can be Jewish at heart, but being Jewish without doing Jewish (“halacha” #3) is empty and vague. Jewish kids who are involved with Jewish life on campus have a much richer full-bodied engaging and transforming Jewish experience. It’s about coming out to events (like games), staying in touch, being connected. Being a part of it. Doing something, not just talking the talk.
Identifying (“halacha” #4) is also a big key in Judaism. Think kippas, chai necklaces, Jewish stars, Chabad tshirts, something from Israel – being proud of who we are and doing our best to well represent it.
And “Halacha” #5 is important, too. Some Jews just show up on Yom-Kippur, like those people who turn on their TV to watch the Superbowl but don’t see any football all year. And there are those who come for fun times but don’t stick it out for when things are harder.
We’re not tearing up anyone’s fan card, or Jewish card for that matter. All fans and all Jews are welcome! But the sports fan analogy has some lessons to teach us about what Jewish involvement can be like if we’re more invested in these 5 “halachot” as a good sports fan would be!