Friday, January 30, 2009

Annual Super Bowl Prediction - Using Jewish Sources

It’s not easy for me to make a prediction in this, a rare non-Patriot year. But since I’ve almost always been right (my personal favorite being Pats-Rams in 2002), I must meet the challenge.

So who will it be: Steelers or Cardinals?

I find myself scanning for clues: How about the Ten Commandments? “Thou shalt not steel…” seems to be imploring me to lean Arizona’s way. But further inquiry is required.

First - the Steelers:

The modern Hebrew word for steel is “Peled,” from the three letter root meaning “to consume in flames,” based on Nahum 2:3: “For the LORD restores the pride of Jacob, as the pride of Israel; for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine-branches. The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet; the chariots are fire of steel in the day of his preparation, and the cypress spears are made to quiver.”

Now…wait a second here. What color is that shield again? What color are those valiant men? Red….Cardinal Red.

Is the steel then fiery or is the Pittsburge secondary being burnt by the valiant Cardinals? With the skill of the Arizona receivers, that is entirely possible.

Steel, as we know it, didn’t exist in biblical times. Looking at the concordance, we find a connection to the Hebrew word for copper, nechoshet, a word familiar from the song “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Think of that song… “Yerushalyim shel zahav (Gold), v’shel nechoshet v’shel ORE.” “Ore” means light, but the English transliteration of the word points to something else. To quote from the Wikipedia: Iron ore is the raw material used to make pig iron, which is one of the main raw materials to make steel.

Pig iron? Does this correspond to the football or to Steeler Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham?

In the Bible, the word for iron is typically barzel. The “Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols” informs us that iron has long been seen as a powerful protector against demons. One explanation has it that the first plague on Egpyt, blood, impacted water in vessels of wood and vessels of stone, but not water found in vessels of iron. The four letters of that word also correspond to the first letters of the names of the Jacob’s four wives, Bilhah, Rachel, Zilpah and Leah. “Rock is hard,” says the Talmud (Bava Batra 10a), “but Iron cuts it.”

So if we were playing “Rock, Paper , Scissors,” no doubt the Steelers would win – but it’s a Super Bowl.

So now let’s take a look at Arizona:

According to “Birds of the Bible,” nearly 400 different kinds of birds can be found in the region of Israel, of which about 25 are found only in Israel. Birds are mentioned widely throughout The Bible, with literal and metaphorical usage. But nary a cardinal can be found.

While there is to my knowledge no “cardinal” in the Bible, other NFL bird teams are well represented: seahawks, falcons, ravens and eagles appear together among the unkosher birds listed in Leviticus, chapter 11. The hawk is listed among unclean (unkosher) birds of prey, just below the raven. Falcons also appear there, in some translations.

Interestingly, the Cardinals supplanted the Seahawks as NFC West champions, and then had to defeat both the Falcons and Eagles in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Steelers beat the Ravens three times on their way to the Super Bowl. But the Cardinals bested more birds, so on that alone, they might be considered to be flying higher this week.

The word “cardinal” as an adjective means “fundamental,” as in the Hebrew – “Yesodi” or “Ikari.” (A “Mispar Yesodi” is a cardinal number). Nachman of Bratzlav stated, famously, “All the world is a narrow bridge; but the IKAR – the cardinal rule – is never to be afraid.”

Cardinals are fearless.

“Yesod” is also one of the divine emanations in the Kabbalistic system known as the Sefirot. It is the most masculine of these emanations, corresponding to the phallus. Given the fact that Super Sunday could well be dubbed “National Testosterone Day,” that seems to give the Cards another edge.

Given that the team is based in the Pheonix area and plays at a stadium named for the “University of Pheonix,” it is interesting to note the mythological bird known as the Pheonix is red in color. What is the symbolism of the phoenix?

The phoenix symbolizes long-life, re-birth, transformation or immortality. It can also mean to 'rise from the ashes." In Jewish folklore, it is said that the phoenix was the only animal not to join Adam in his banishment from the Garden of Eden. So it might still be found there.( If not there, then maybe on golf course in Scottsdale.

Like the Cards’ ageless quarterback and the team itself, the Pheonix is immortal. In Western legend, the phoenix, or Red Bird, rises from the ashes of its own funeral pyre to live again. What other team could look so lousy in December and yet rise from the dead a month later?

Check out the Immortal Red Bird at this British Museum site.

Speaking of red, check out this verse from Exodus 35:7: "And rams' skins tanned red, and skins of dolphins or porpoise.” Sure enough, this year the Cardinals this year “tanned” (beat) both the Rams and the Dolphins – although admittedly they lost to the 'Skins.

Finally, there is Psalm 18. In verse 34 it states: “He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.” So it looks as if the Steelers will be broken.

By whom? Verse 10: “And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.”

That bird-like imagery seems to favor Pheonix. While my head says Pittsburgh, the texts seem to be “Raising Arizona.” And the verses here indicate a final score of 34-10. As astounding as that would be, it’s no less amazing than the Cardinal’s being in this game in the first place.

To quote from that Coen Brothers movie, “And this here's the TV. Two hours a day, either educational or football, so you don't ruin your appreciation of the finer things.”

Enjoy the game.

…of course it must be stated that in no way do I condone gambling, and past performance should not be an indicator of future results…

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