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Pull a Tim Tebow.

on Wednesday, November 23 2011. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
If you notice dozens of grown men limping sorely around on Shabbos morning there is an excellent chance they competed in this year’s Hodu Bowl. On Thursday morning, 14 teams comprised of 120 men in total from around South Florida will gather to compete in the 6th Annual BRS Hodo Bowl, a flag football tournament. Great credit is due to Eric Pinkis and the Men’s Club for their outstanding leadership and hard work on this event. Remarkably, all the proceeds from the tournament entrance fees are donated to Tomchei Shabbos to support the 25 families currently being provided with food on a regular basis.

As the quarterback for our team, I have had something very important on my mind these last few days. No, it isn’t which plays to run, or what kind of defense to play. Instead, I have been thinking about my touchdown celebration. Should I do a little dance, spike the ball, sign an autograph or perhaps recite a chapter of tehillim and point up to the Heavens?

In all seriousness, for some time, athletes have been kneeling in prayer, crossing themselves or pointing to the sky after hitting a home run, scoring a touchdown, or kicking a goal. There are two observations that have always crossed my mind when watching a religious celebration to an athletic feat. Firstly, there is no other profession where we witness such antics. When is the last time you saw a lawyer in a courtroom, a doctor in his office, a tollbooth collector, a cashier, or a bank teller publicly celebrate after doing their job? But secondly, I have never seen an athlete acknowledge God demonstrably after striking out, dropping the ball in the end zone or kicking the ball wide of the net.

Is God only responsible for our successes or should we attribute our failures to Him as well? After all, the Jewish tradition teaches k’sheim she’mevorchim al ha’tovah, kach mevorchim al ha’rah, just as we bless God and acknowledge Him when things go well, we must recognize Him and realize that even those things that we perceive as negative come from Him as well. Because of that inconsistency, I have always concluded that athlete’s religious expressions on the field are likely more about superstition than they are about Divine attribution.

And then I heard an interview with Tim Tebow. This young NFL quarterback, who literally struggles to throw the ball, nevertheless keeps winning. The sports world is lit up with reaction to the fact that every time he scores and after each game whether he wins or losses, he kneels in prayer and speaks of God as often as he can. Many are cynical and dismissive while others are intrigued and even inspired. When asked about it, Tebow explained:

“If you’re married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife, I love her, the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have the opportunity? And that’s how I feel about my relationship with (God),” Tebow said in an ESPN interview. “It is the most important thing in my life, so every opportunity I have to tell him I love him, or I’m given an opportunity to shout him out on national TV, I’m going to take that opportunity…I look at it as a relationship I have with him, I want to give him the honor and glory every time I get the opportunity.”

When Yaakov presents himself to his father Yitzchak as his brother Esav, Yitzchak is startled and says “come here, let me feel your skin.” What tipped him off that something suspicious was going on? Rashi explains that when Yaakov entered the room and Yitzchak observed how quickly he was able to hunt down food, Yaakov responded by acknowledging God’s assistance. Yitzchak knew that it was very unlike Esav to mention God, let alone to attribute anything to Him and so he knew something was fishy.

Perhaps it is inappropriate to start making hand gestures towards the sky in the courtroom, emergency room, supermarket or office place, but each one of us can and perhaps should publicly celebrate God’s role in our success and in so doing let everyone know how much we love Him. Simple words like “please God,” or “with God’s help,” or “thank God,” can go a long way in introducing spirituality to an otherwise mundane setting and may even inspire others.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving

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