Friday, February 3, 2012

Shabbat-O-Gram for Feb. 3 - Super Bowl and Shabbat Shira

"How good it is to wrap oneself in
prayer, spinning a deep softness of
gratitude to God around all thoughts,
   enveloping oneself in the silken veil of song."
                                   Abraham Joshua Heschel

A perfect quote with which to begin an O-gram marking both Shabbat Shira (the Sabbath of Song) and this Sunday's World Wide Wrap, where our 7th graders will be learning to put ontefillin.  This annual program is sponsored by our Men's Club and the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs.  It begins at 9 AM and is open to all.

On Shabbat Shira, we read the Torah portion, Beshallach, which includes the crossing of the Red Sea and the Song of the Sea.  Plus, the haftarah features the Song of Deborah.  Lots of songs this weekend: Great singing on Friday night, biblical chants on Shabbat morning, and at night, we Temple Rock!  Join is for our annual Temple Rock bash!  It promises to be spectacular. On Shabbat we are spiritualists, and on Sat. night we'll feature a mentalist.

Mazal tov to Anya Castle and to her family, as she becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat.  AndL'hitra'ot to our 8th Grade students at BCDS, who leave for Israel this week! We'll be honoring them with an aliyah this Shabbat morning.  On Shabbat morning I'll also be teaching some Halacha for Halftime, a "Jewish alternative to the commercials" put together by the Rabbinical Assembly for this Super Bowl weekend, exploring the myth of the pigskin football and the rabbinic attitude toward being a spectator at Roman gladiator matches.

If that doesn't satiate your appetite for all things Jewish and Super Bowl, take a look at Jews in Super Bowl History, appearing in this week's Jewish Ledger. And see also Super Bowl features super Jewish Philanthropists.

I know that I usually make a grand prediction when Super Bowl weekend comes around.  But this year's matchup hits too close to home - and, more to the point, my prediction before Super Bowl 42 (of a Pats win) did not work out too well.  So, because I prefer not to jinx my team, no prediction this year.

Just before Super Bowl 42, you recall, the Patriots were busted for spying.  In my prediction before that Super Bowl, which I am not repeating here, I noted that in the book of Numbers when the Israelite spies confronted "giants" as the scouted out the land, they reported back that they felt "like grasshoppers."  I noted that anyone who has ever been to Boston knows that high above that home of the original Patriots, Faneuil Hall, there sits a weathervane in the shape of, you guessed it, a grasshopper! 

I also noted (in that prediction, which I'm not repeating here) that the Patriots wandered for just over 40 years before winning the first championship in 2002.  So they had already served their time for the sin of the spies, which, as you recall from Numbers, was 40 years.  For 40 years, the Patriotic spies were never able to stand up to the Giants...or the Raiders or Steelers or Dolphins, for that matter.  But no more.  First they sacrificed the Rams in Super Bowl 36, then they pillaged the Panthers and flew on wings of Eagles.  Now, coached by a former Giant, they have become giants - in their own eyes, and the eyes of the other teams in the league.

I then noted (but am not repeating here) that Giants are called both Nefilim and Anakim in the Torah.  The Nefilim were mythic humanoids that filled the earth before the flood, much like the Titans of Greek mythology (a Giant-Titan Super Bowl would have been a doozy), while the Anakim were the ones who petrified the Israelite spies.  There is one other giant of note in the Bible: Goliath.  But it isn't just Goliath who bit the dust, folks.  When Rashi tried to explain the term Nifilim, he related it to the Hebrew word "nafal," "to fall."  As Rashi (he was so good at predicting games that they called him "Rashi the Greek") understood it, the Giants fell. 

Based on Rashi, I concluded then that the Giants would fall.  What I didn't account for was the heroism of an unexpected David, whose last name is Tyree, who also happened to be a Giant.

That was then, this is now.  I can't repeat my prior prediction, lest I tempt fate and repeat the result. 

But I can predict this: the victor will win by three points.  That's been the margin in all four Patriot Super Bowls this century.  Who will that victor be? 

Ask me Monday.

The due date for reservations for our TBE Israel Adventure is rapidly approaching.  So fill out those registration forms and get those deposits in.  Everything can be accessed from - including the interactive itinerary that actually "takes" you to most of the places we'll be visiting, like the Inbal hotel, which was recently voted the top hotel in Israel (and one of the top ten in the Middle East) by Conde Nast Traveler.  Check it out!

And sign up for AIPAC!  Mara will be joining me and other TBE members at this year's Policy Conference, along with Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, many Congressional leaders and most likely every significant Presidential candidate from both parties.  Sign up here.  And join us next Friday night, Feb. 10, for an update on the current situation in Israel from AIPAC's Southern Connecticut director, Elana Lichtenstein.

Speaking of Israel, check out this week's Letter from Netanya from Jan Gaines.  Jan writes from a country that has actually experienced winter!  The rainiest January on record.  But that will lead to a greener Israel , which brings us to next week's holiday, Tu B'Shevat, whch begins Tuesday night.  Read The Greening of Tu B'Shevat, which includes many Tu B'Shevat links and resources.

After Temple Rock, you'll be hearing a lot about some really big things upcoming, including a five part series called ConTEXT, where we'll be partnering with the Jewish Theological Seminary to bring top-notch Jewish scholars here to teach about Passover from a variety of perspectives.  Meanwhile, join me and Dr. Harry Romanowitz next Thursday for toe first session of a two part mini-course on Jewish Medical Ethics.

Shabbat Shalom and see you at Temple Rock!

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