Message from November 4, 2016
Shabbat Shalom everyone! Prior to Wednesday night, there were very few people in the world who were alive the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. That’s a big part of why Wednesday night’s game was so exciting. The Cubs had the dubious honor of being the major league sports team, in any sport, that had waited the longest to win a championship. They had not won the World Series since 1908. And like the Red Socks before 2004, it felt like some kind of curse. But that drought ended on Wednesday night with one of the most exciting Game 7’s in history. The Cubs took an early lead of 5-1 and then 6-3, but Cleveland tied it in the 8th with the Cubs only needing 4 outs to win. Now it was 6-6 and about to go into extra innings. The momentum had totally shifted to Cleveland. Cubs fans were deflated after feeling fairly confident that it was finally going to happen. And the Cubs players were feeling the same way, deflated if not defeated. And then….it started to rain. It was raining so hard, the officials decided to cover the field and called a rain delay. The teams were tied and about to enter the 10th inning when this rain delay occurred. It lasted only 17 minutes, but in those 17 minutes the Chicago Cubs regained their energy and their momentum. When they came back, they scored twice in the top of the 10th and won the game after keeping the Indians to 1 run in the bottom of the 10th. So what happened in that rain delay? You would think that a rain delay would be frustrating and draining while you wait with anxiety to finish your game. But in this rain delay, experienced Cubs player Jason Heyward called a team meeting in the weight room. There were no coaches or upper management present, just the team. “I just wanted them to remember how good they were, how good we are,” Heyward said as his team celebrated around him after the win. He went on to say, “I just wanted them to know how proud of them I was and that I loved them. That I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” And after that rain delay reminder, the Cubs won.
This exciting contest made me wonder, what would have happened if there had been a rain delay in biblical times? In this week’s Parshah, the rain has begun and God has preserved the future of life on this planet by instructing Noah, a righteous man in a world of corruption, to build an ark so that he and his wife, 3 sons and their wives along with pairs of different species of animals will survive the flood. They are on the ark for a year: 40 days and nights of rain, then another 150 days for the waters to calm and another 175 days for the ground to completely dry out and for Noah to see a rainbow and know that a new covenant for the world has been entered upon. But what would have happened if Noah had called the people of the earth together for a Heyward-esque talk, before the ark had to sail, and had reminded them how good they were and that they could love and forgive each other. Maybe the Great Flood would have instead been known as the Great Rain Delay. Because it is not only due to the world’s corrupted deeds that the flood happened, it was because we could not pull together as a team and love and support each other. During the High Holy Days we hear that it is time to repent to God of our misdeeds once we have forgiven and been forgiven by our fellow people. When the people of Noah’s time were unable to forgive each other or even recognize that forgiveness was needed, God decided to wash everything clean as He would not forgive until they could. Noah is known as a righteous man, but not as a great leader, because he neglected to take the corrupt population of the world to the proverbial weight room and remind them of who they could be.
When Noah and his family return to the new, shiny world, the work is not over. They now have to pull together and rebuild the world. And even that does not go smoothly, but it does at least go.
So despite the weather outside, it feels a bit like it’s raining. The conflict between people who have different beliefs seems to grow and the rain falls even harder. We fight, call each other names, degrade each other and whole groups and basically promote discord, and it really begins to storm. We don’t forgive each other for real and perceived slights and continue to look for someone to blame and the waters rise. We may not be on an ark or on a major league sports team, but we are fellow citizens on a big blue ball and as we float through space together we must pull together to repair the world, tikkun olam. And if we can manage to be both righteous and leaders, we may not need to set sail but instead create peace around us where we are.
So as we face our week, let’s keep this feeling of community and perspective top of mind and try to apply it in our dealings with the people we love and the people we may not like so much, with the people we agree with and the people we disagree with, with our friends and family and the people we don’t even know because we are all on this earth together and it’s raining. Water rises gradually so let’s remind ourselves how good we are and how good we can be. We were made in God’s image. We are designed for goodness. And let’s also remind ourselves and each other that we are deeply loved.