Friday, December 16, 2011

“Like baseball or chess, Judaism is…”

"Like baseball or chess, Judaism is…"

From The Heart

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor


Jonathan Mark is a much respected Jewish columnist whose articles are printed in The Jewish Week of New York. I stay informed of the events and dynamics  of the wide Jewish world through many sources such as this newspaper. Several years ago it created a "Jewish magazine" called "Text/Context: Fresh Encounters With Jewish Tradition." Available in quantities to congregational Rabbis,  I distribute copies to my classes, in the Okun Chapel, at the school and at the Mikveh.


In the December 2nd edition, Jonathan Marks wrote an article entitled "Rav Kingfish: The Problem with 'dynamic' Rabbis." It is a fascinating article, well-written, deeply researched and insightful about the existence of the synagogue and of the Rabbinate. I truly appreciate his focus. Aside from his main thesis, he wrote a sentence that was high-lighted in the hard-copy edition. It literally 'jumped off the page.'


"Like baseball or chess, Judaism is slow and boring – until it isn't, or until the observer learns to see the beauty and understand the mysteries inherent in the cerebral stillness and anticipation."


I read that sentence over and over. Jonathan "nailed it."


We live in a world that forces our decreased attention, diminishes quality because we are inundated with quantity. There is no time to dwell on anything. We deal with sound-bites. The TV raises the volume on commercials to get our attention (that should be changing, thank God!), and all I hear advertised are cell phones that can do everything and each one can go faster than the next. What a life!


Judaism says: slow down, ponder, contemplate, imagine. Judaism is a religion of words that you need to savor, roll around on tongue and in head so it can touch the heart. When we go to a museum and stand before the works of the masters, do we just rush by? Or do we stand back, come close, look from one angle and then another, and then stand back looking at it as a whole or focusing on one part? If we do it right, we stand there for some time and allow us to be impacted. Then we can walk on to the next experience.


Judaism is the art of looking at life through a divine prism. It takes time to peer into eternity, to gaze into existence, to examine the ebb and flow of life, with Torah and tefilah as the fulcrum upon which we lift each piece. You can't do it at 4G speed. Even my old Atari is much too fast.


I can fall asleep watching a baseball game. It seems like each pitcher is determined to through as many pitches as he can and the batter will foul off many of those. It is very slow going, especially when I watch baseball on TV. The media selects what I will see and how long I can see it. But at the game! Ah, then I can watch intently, deeply, to each orchestrated move, each glance, the arc of each pitch and the return path of hit. There is beauty in the intricacy, of the head and the heart at work governing the body.


Judaism is filled with joy and celebration, happiness and festivity. But to be my faith,  Judaism takes time, investment, attention, my heart and head going slowly, thinking, feeling, slowly, meaningfully, deeply.


"Like baseball or chess, Judaism is…"




Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

Temple Beth-El

3330 Grove Avenue

Richmond, VA 23221

Phone 804-355-3564

Fax 804-257-7152