Monday, April 12, 2010

Holding on to our Memories

היום שלשה עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד
וששה ימים בעמר
Today is the thirteenth day, making one week
and six days of the omer
יסוד שבגבורה

A day of foundation in a week of strength

I emailed the "Rabbi Alan Lew on Baseball" post to my friend Roger, who has a Zen Buddhist practice and is an avid baseball fan--so I figured he would get many of the nuances of Rabbi Lew's writing. But it turned out he got a nuance that I had been unaware of, even with all the times I've read those words.

Roger liked the sermon, but remarked, "wow--he was really angry about the strike." I had never noticed any anger--to me, he was just describing the feelings of fans at that time, and was vintage Rabbi Lew. But Roger, someone who knew of Rabbi Lew but never met or studied with him, felt the heat of emotion. "Maybe it's a Jewish thing," he concluded. And you know, maybe it is.

As Jews, we have a long history and very full memories which imbue our ritual practice. We relive our past moments as a people--in Passover seders, in Purim schpiels, in reading and studying Torah each week. We relive our past moments in our lives--in taking stock each year on Yom Kippur, in remembering our loved ones on the anniversary of their passing. This rituals hold our memories--they bond us and sustain us through the years, through the centuries.

So in his sermon, Rabbi Lew was invoking that long tradition. Just as we re-enact the liberation from slavery each year, feeling the joy of freedom and the angst of the uncertainty that lies ahead, Rabbi Lew would always remember the hurt caused by the loss of trust in a game he held so dear. But it makes the healing brought by Cal Ripken's record that much more powerful. As he said:
"Cal Ripken had never failed to show up, and this achievement seemed to me to penetrate right to the marrow of the mysterious spirituality of Baseball and its power to transform us."
So thank you Roger, for showing me a nuance I'd never seen. And, of course, thanks always to Rabbi Lew, who would surely appreciate Roger's insight--one fan to another.

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