Perashat Ki Tesse 5779
Perashat Ki Tesse 5779Friday, September 13, 2019
I love the New York Giants!
Right now that might make me seem like a glutton for punishment. Our team was the worst in the league last year, and we don't seem to have far better prospects this season, even if, as a fan, I am obligated by some unwritten code to remain illogically and wistfully hopeful.
I've been a fan since I was a child. I absolutely love the game. The hold-your-breath tension of the long pass, the surprise of the flea flick and the sheer panic of the blitz. Watching a game with someone who doesn't understand the sport is difficult. It is a very complicated game. And that's before the accursed "surviving the ground" rule.
I remember reading once that a French general visited the United States on a diplomatic mission. As a nice way to relax between meetings, they took him to see an NFL football game. The general sat and watched the game utterly confused. He couldn't understand what was going on at all. until his eyes lit up in understanding, and he exclaimed, "Ah, It's just like WAR!". Being a general he actually appreciated the tactics, strategy and thought process behind advancing and retreating lines of offense and defense. Rushing the ball with a strong running back reminded him of sending strong horses to break through the ranks of defenders. The players blocking in unison to the right side, while a move was made down the left side of the field behind them was what he did every single day.
And it's what we do every day as well.
We read about the idea of a Yifat Toar, the beautiful woman found at war, an exceedingly complex passage in the Torah. It talks about when a soldier is in the throes of battle, when man is reduced to his most base element, forced to act instinctually, to become completely primal, in order to stay alive. And from that place he encounters something that in no other time would ever cross his mind, something beneath his stature as a Jew and as a human being. So the Torah goes to that place and enacts rules and guidelines there too.
This is an extremely powerful lesson. We are all at war all the time, trying to push forward what we know we want for ourselves and our families. We explain, cajole, threaten and plead to get what we want. And sometimes when we don't we shift into such an angry stage that we lose control completely over ourselves, acting from that place of anger, desperation or hurt. We've all been there.
The Torah teaches us a novel idea, even when the game changes and even when you're angry and not at your best behavior. Even when you're hurt, there are still rules and guidelines. A human being must always remain a human being no matter the circumstances. Perhaps an interesting terminology would be, "Worst Case Torah".
Just because the Torah is ideal doesn't mean that when things aren't ideal there is no Torah.
We have a missva for the animalistic soldier, a missva for the thief and a missva for the sinner along with the saint.
Watching my Giants trying to battle from behind all season long has taught me a lesson more important than winning. It has taught me that in a war, you never stop fighting, no matter how many setbacks you've suffered, inching your way forward, trying to accept your reality without ever surrendering to it. Playing one more down. One day sober might be simple for some but the fight of a lifetime for an addict. Saving money responsibly comes naturally for some people I know but is a literal battle for others. Still, down, set, hike yet again. There is something so valiant about watching a team down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter huddle, plan and play, it's almost heroic. Struggling to reach a level that for others is simple, is still beautiful, because that doesn't mean it isn't still a meaningful and important PERSONAL BEST.
In life and in football that's what makes a Giant.
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
May 28 2020
Sivan 5 5780