Thursday, February 8, 2024

Parshas Mishpatim 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Yisro

23 Shevat 5784/ February 2, 2024

Mevorchim Chodesh Adar I




My personal breakfast of champions each morning includes a bowl of Cheerios. Not honey nut, frosted, banana, chocolate or even mayonnaise flavored Cheerios, but good ol’ regular cheerios.

Recently, when I finished a box of Cheerios, I brought the empty box into my ninth grade Shiur room. I asked my students why they thought when I finished the box, I didn’t spike the box and scream “let’s goooooooo” like guys often do when they make a great play in sports. (They actually thought I should have done so…) The consensus was that it was because finishing a box of Cheerios wasn’t a major accomplishment. Only when one accomplishes something arduous or against the odds does he feel the need to celebrate ostentatiously.

In the second quarter of a football game played at Yankees Stadium in 1965, Homer Jones, a speedy Giants wide receiver, caught an 89-yard touchdown pass from QB Earl Morrall. He was on the verge of tossing the ball into the crowd, as his teammates liked to do, but at the last second, he remembered that doing so had been banned by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Not wanting to be fined, Jones stopped short and threw the ball down on the grass instead. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, and it was repeated by other players. Jones later coined what he had just done a “spike” – and the name stuck.

Today, touchdown celebrations have become de rigueur. Players choreograph and rehearse their victory bravado dance in advance for if and when they score a touchdown. The sports ignoramus seeing such a dance would likely think the dancing player was unwell or in need of psychological help. Nevertheless, it has become a coveted part of the game, though it definitely doesn’t add sportsmanship to it. Still the original celebratory gesture remains spiking the football.

I have often thought that there is symbolic meaning to spiking a football. To score a touchdown or win a football game, every player seeks to drive the football downfield into the opposing team’s end zone while defending their own turf. That football - where it is and who has it - dictates what everyone on that field will be doing. When a player scores a touchdown, he throws down the football with conviction, demonstrating that he dominates the football, and not vice versa. He spikes the football subconsciously declaring to it, “I own you! I dictate where you go, and not vice versa!”

Contrast that with our approach to Torah study. No matter how much we learn and how many masechtos we have mastered, we always maintain a sense of humility towards it. The Torah dictates every facet of our lives and always remains our guide.

When we master a game of football, we throw the football down. When we complete studying Torah, we lift ourselves up with song and dance. One is a celebration of mastery of the body; the other, mastery of the spirit and soul.


Chodesh Tov & Gut Chodesh

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

          R’ Dani and Chani Staum