Mishpatim Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum February 6, 2005
I would imagine that most of us are aware that tomorrow, Sunday, is the annual American ritual of the NFL Super bowl—it’s Super bowl Sunday—the BIG DAY. People all over the country get together for Super Bowl Parties and anxiously anticipate a good championship game, interesting halftime performance and innovative advertising. The masses get worked up and excited over the entire sports process. But before we all enjoy tomorrow’s game, is there anything we can learn from this event in relation to this week’s Torah Portion—the Mishpatim - Torah laws?
In fact, as I was thinking about this event and sports in general, there are quite a few correlations and lessons we can learn. First of all, we all agree that sports are based on rules. Without rules or guidelines you can’t play the game and it is not enjoyable for players or observers. This Torah portion is all about God’s rules—the Halakah.
First let us look into the game of football -- what happens and how does it work? First of all, you have two teams, and you have players that have different positions and assignments, for example, in football you have quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends, running backs, defensive ends, safeties—all positions are essential for the game. Each team player has their own role and assignment to contribute towards the success of the team.
In order for the team to win there needs to be unity and a collaborative effort. Even though team members are separate units, they need to work in unison in order to make touchdowns and score and win. In this Super Bowl, it is the New England Patriots vs. the Philadelphia Eagles playing the game in sunny Jacksonville, Florida. These are the two teams that persevered and made it through the playoff process to have the privilege of playing in this championship game.
In the game of football, as in all sports, there are not only players, but referees and judges who enforce the rules. In the spiritual sense, we have the Almighty, who is the ultimate referee. Not that life is a game, some of the rules that we learn about are:
1. Love thy follow
2. Take only what belongs to you
3. Help a follow with a good pass
These keep us safe, keep us from getting hurt and from enjoying the life that G-d has planned for us so we can be winners. Without rules, just like in sports, we are penalized, and there is a price to pay for breaking the rules. There would be ensuing chaos not only for individuals but for those on their "team" and society if there were no rules or boundaries.
As we watch the game on Sunday and everyone is rooting for their own team, we also know that there are teams not only in sports, but also in other areas of life, such as in Congress and in politics…..don’t ask me to reveal my team (wink, laugh)….because everyone has their own strong opinions. I don’t want to talk about politics from the pulpit, but we need to be aware that many times there are two sides to the issue and two conflicting views, yet we have to come together and work for a common goal following the road and boundaries that have been set before us by the Almighty.
Here at Kneseth Israel, bringing us down to our community and our own synagogue, may we all go from strength to strength as we are all team players. By keeping Torah and mitzvahs, we all become winners.