As is our tradition with the help of sports enthusiast students and alumni, we try to come up with a number of interesting and insightful messages to be learned from particulars of the teams or players of that year’s Superbowl (or the game in general) for students, alumni and friends to share at their Superbowl parties, adding a spiritual/meaningful layer or dimension to the big game watch-parties. As the Baal Shem Tov taught, from all that we see and hear we should learn spiritual lessons in our service of G-d! For the many millions watching, Superbowl, too!
Here’s what we have thus far, watch this space leading up to Superbowl LVII, or just following – we hope to add to this with student and alumni help:
THE KELCE BOWL
Some have dubbed this Superbowl “The Kelce Bowl” as it is the first time in Superbowl history to have two brothers face off against each other, Travis Kelce is a tight-end for the Chiefs, and his brother Jason Kelce is an offensive lineman for the Eagles. There are other brother pairs in the NFL, but never before have two brothers played against each other in the biggest game. Their mom is their biggest fan, Donna Kelce will have a Superbowl seat in the commissioners box. She’s rooting for both, and while the Eagles are all Eagles, and Chiefs all Chiefs, she’s the mom with two sons in the Superbowl and she wins either way.
עושה שלום במרומיו – Everyone knows the song (from the end of the Amidah and end of the Kaddish): “Oseh Shalom B’Mromov” Literally, the One who makes peace upon high. But Chassidus understands it to mean: Peace comes from a place that is higher/deeper than the two opposites/extremes, it comes from the essential core where they are both one. In this case, that’s Donna Kelce, who is the source that’s higher and beyond the divisions of Travis vs. Jason, Chiefs vs. Eagles.
This also ties into the Jews at Mt Sinai, which is the Torah reading read on the Shabbat just prior to this Superbowl LVII: The Torah says that when they came to Sinai, the Jews camped and it uses the Hebrew singular for the word camped. Rashi says this teaches us that the Jews camped “like one man with one heart”. Sometimes it takes a Sinai, that degree of revelation and connection to reveal the deepest core connection that we share within.
Yes, there’s much time and place for us to feel on opposing sides. Travis and Jason are going into this Superbowl each with the greatest loyalty and devotion to their team’s win and the other team’s loss. It’s meant to be that way. But we also must keep in mind the Donna Kelce perspective, that higher and beyond approach which is unifying and synthesizing
COME ON, DID THIS PARSHA YITRO REALLY MENTION EAGLES AND CHIEFS!?
Yes, amazingly it did! Eagles are mentioned once but outright, when the verse (Exodus Yitro 19:4) says that “carry you on wings of eagles and bring you to Me”. And Chiefs? Maybe not as direct but multiple times, especially in the verse with Jethro’s advice to delegate and appoint (Exodus Yitro 18:21) “leaders/chief(tans) of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens”. And some Chumashim translate the word “Kohain” in Jethro’s title in the opening verse of this Torah portion as Chief(tan).
THE INJURY IN QUESTION
One of the big unknowns going into the Superbowl is the extent of Mahomes’ ankle injury. He’s playing on it and through it. That itself (whether wise or not speak to a doc) is a testament of willpower and dedication, resilience and perseverance. Some people get thrown off at the slightest pain or setback, others push themselves through it great hardship with tremendous strength.
And while our guys at UAlbany have been talking Mahomes’ ankle injury, it seems that Jalen Hurts has been playing through a shoulder injury as well.
But there’s no question that pain, suffering and difficulty (whether physical, emotional, mental etc) takes a toll and impacts what we do. It’s not absent. But some can power through it, above it, transcend it. What weakness or difficulty are we pushing ourselves to power through? What opportunities are we missing because we’re not in the mood, or feel out of it, or have some emotional hang-up about? It may take a little more out of us, but look where it can take us!
But also, don’t try this at home. Injuries require care, and sometimes stepping back and taking good care of yourself is what needs to be done. And to be clear, this concern applies to both physical and emotional injury or stress. Not always wise or helpful to power through it. Sometimes you need the time, care and focus to heal. And sometimes powering through and being energized by it, can be part of the healing process itself.
Isiah Pachecho is a rookie running back for the Chiefs, who incredibly only has a half-season of NFL starting play. But they say he runs ferocious and burns with passion. During his young teen years he lost both a brother and sister, both killed by violence, lots of trauma to carry, but he’s channeling that deep raw inner anger and energy in constructive ways.
Does our anger and frustration make us run away? Or do we channel it and run with it?
Jalen Hurts is 24, yet already a quarterback in the Superbowl. (He’s not the first, there are about 10 others who were 24 and a few who were even 23 but still a young age to be on that big stage). Reminds me of the student – in our first year back in Fall 1997 when Raizy was the age of the seniors – who thought to herself, wait, I’m partying around town while this girl my age is married with a child and running an organization…
Not that we should be eager to skip our youth, and there’s what to savor and enjoy before assuming more and more responsibility, but its also a reminder that young people can do big things, and can work under pressure, they can get things done. Don’t kid yourself.
SLAY – THE CORNERBACK
They say that Darius Slay on the Eagles is one of the players to watch in the game, as he’s cornered the corner-back position. This is a hard position to corner because its a defensive position that has you running all over the place, covered and hopefully blocking the receivers. Its easier mentally (maybe less so physically) to play defense with a defined line, much harder (mentally at least) to mirror and follow and anticipate the moves and runs of the player you need to defend against.
Generally, the Rebbe was fonder of offense over defense, in Judaism, and focused more on Joys than Oys, more of an emphasis on activity over passivity. But defense plays an important role in Judaism, too! In one of his earliest notes the Rebbe writes that the fins (which propel a fish) and scales (which are a type of armor) which are the Kosher signs of a fish, represent the need for our Judaism to have both offense and defense.
In defending and protecting our values and traditions, its easier to play a position where you draw a line in the sand and hold that line best you can. But often the “ball” sails past and beyond that, and we have to protect and defend while ourselves on the run, with lots of unknowns and variables, responding best we can, to whatever is thrown our way.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
This line makes a huge difference in all football games, but seems to be more so in the case in this Superbowl LVII where quite a few of the major players on both Eagles and Chiefs play the Offensive Line. In this game the Offensive Line may be more important than ever, especially with two injured but tremendously talented quarterbacks.
Interesting, because these guys do not make touchdowns themselves, they don’t complete a pass, or even forward the ball – but they enable all that to happen.
Without an offensive line the quarterback couldn’t get the ball out in time, the running backs might not be able to get through. These big guys hold the line, block the attackers, make space and time to enable the play. In a sense, they are defensive players that enable the offense to do its thing.
It reminds me of the “Patrol Cats” in Dr. Seuss’ “The King Stilts” that ward off the root-eating Nizzards to protect the kingdom (which is under sea-level) from water damage. The quarterback is vulnerable, no matter his talent, the running backs and receivers will be stymied not matter their speed – unless the offensive line holds the line back.
Part of being Jewish at college, Jewish in America, as welcoming and tolerant as it may be, also requires us to hold the line. If we don’t assimilation will rush all over us. We can proceed, make the play, go down the field, and we shoukl – but part of us has to hold the line.
VERY SHORT SPREAD
As our alumni friends made it clear, these are two very elite teams. There’s no underdog here. I’m not a betting man, but they say the spread is 1.5 points, one of the smallest margins ever. Despite our NY’ers deep aversion* for the Philadelphia Eagles (and Philly Sports in general) what people can ask for most is a good tight game that’s fun to watch and has you at the edge of your seat.
Often in life, we’d like to blow away our competition, or leave our enemies behind in the dust, but often our challenges are sized for us, and the struggle is neck in neck. It doesn’t make life easier, of course, but it does push us to do our best, fight our hardest, give it all we got.
* Please note, “some of our best friends” are from or live in Philly. We have a nice group of alumni in that area, and this Winter Break of 2022-2023 we spent a beautiful Shabbos there with them. So, while Shabbos House certainly does empathize with our loyal NY sports fans, we love all of our friends and respect their sports interests… 😉