Thursday, January 24, 2019

PARSHAS YISRO 5779


“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro  
19 Shevat 5779/January 25, 2019

Joe McConnen was a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, activist, and philanthropist. But above all, he was legendary as an absolutely diehard New York Giants fan. They said he bled (big) blue. He was obsessed with everything football and his schedule surrounded the NFL schedule.
Joe’s father Phil had raised him on football. Though all their friends were more into the Yankees and baseball, Phil and Joe’s first love was football. But as fanatical as Phil had been about football, Joe was far more invested.
All week long he would talk about the games. He was the quintessential Monday morning quarterback. He would review every play ad nauseum and was a regular caller on all the local sports talk shows.
Joe was meticulous about casting his predictions for the coming week, after hours of contemplation and agonizing over every statistic and strategy. On Saturday and Sunday, no one was able to talk to Joe about anything else. He had season tickets and didn’t miss a game, no matter whether the Giants were playing at home or anywhere else in the country. He didn’t miss a Super Bowl since he was eight years old. Even when Jenna, his beloved wife of sixty-three years, died two days before the big game, Joe made it to the game. He knew that that’s what Jenna would have wanted him to do.
Joe invested tremendous amounts of his wealth in various football endeavors. The strange thing about Joe was that despite his incredible love for football, he never included his son Mike in any of his football dealings. He never took him to a game and never discussed the game with him. In fact, Mike didn’t know the difference between a fullback and a wide receiver.
On his death bed, when Joe begged Mike to carry on the McConnen family’s devotion to football Mike begrudgingly agreed.
The problem was that after years of being neglected by his father because of football, Mike didn’t have any love for the game. Still, despite his resentment towards football he loved his father, and so after Joe’s passing, Mike began to attend every game. He would come late and leave early, and during most of the game he kept busy texting and checking social media. He never cared to discuss the games and he cast his predictions without giving them much thought. As per his father’s final request, Mike also made sure to bring his own sons, Eric and Joe Jr., to every game.
To Mike’s chagrin, as his boys reached adolescence, they began to refuse to attend the games. All of Mike’s reasoning, yelling, cajoling and discussion about family tradition and respect fell on deaf ears. They were simply not interested.
Mike tried everything. He got them special passes to be on the field, and even to meet some star players, but it was all to no avail. Even the frenzied excitement of the playoffs and Super Bowl did nothing for them. The more he pushed the more they seemed to resist.
One day, Mike was speaking with one of his father’s close friends. After reminiscing about his father and his unquenchable love for the game, Mike poured out his heart. He tearfully related how frustrated he was with his children for not valuing the family tradition. He admitted that he was at wits end and didn’t know what else to do.
The friend replied that he wasn’t really surprised. After all, it wasn’t really hard to see that Mike himself didn’t care much for football and was only interested in assuaging his guilt and fulfilling his promise to his father. His children didn’t want to have any part in a time-consuming superficial endeavor.
If he really wanted his children to value the game, then he had to value the game. If he got into it and didn’t just attend passively and disinterestedly, he would become emotionally attached to the game like his father was. Then his children may begin to love the game too.
We don’t give over values with words, lectures, or guilt trips. We convey values through living them and demonstrating emotional attachment and personal connection. When we see that others find meaning and purpose from their involvement in something then we yearn for that connection as well. This is surely true about parents as well.
While Mike McCannon and his issue may be fictitious, our ultimate desire to instill love and deep connection to Torah and Judaism is very real.
We want our children to “go long” in transmitting the Torah to their children, and to always “remain in bounds” of halacha. (The desire to always get the “quarter back” is just a nasty joke....)
To accomplish that we must make sure that our observance is not just a matter of doing what we were taught and fulfilling our obligations, but something we are passionate about because we recognize that it is where fulfillment lies. 
Our ancestors emotionally called out “na’aseh v’nishma”. Their words have remained ingrained within us until today, thousands of years later and worlds apart.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom,
R’ Dani and Chani Staum  

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