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Post  Admin on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 12:43 pm

5 Life-Changing Lessons From the Super Bowl
Because sports are human life in microcosm.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
This article about the incredible 2017 Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was published last year. Its lessons are still timely.

The Super Bowl this past Sunday is being called one of, if not the, most memorable football games in history. Not only was it the first overtime game ever, with both the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons tied at the end of regulation time, but it was marked by an impossible-to-believe finish with the Patriots pulling out a stunning last moment victory in spite of almost being routed almost to the very end.

The upset was staggering in its improbability. With but two minutes and twelve seconds remaining in the third quarter the Patriots trailed by 25 points. Odds makers at that point confidently said it was impossible for them to win. And yet they did. Tom Brady, their legendary quarterback, managed to somehow turn certain defeat into impossible victory.

What happened on the field in Houston transcends by far the game of football. Howard Cosell, the famous sportscaster, put it best when he said “sports are human life in microcosm.” We live out our lives in years; sports do it in hours and minutes. But the beauty of sports is that they can teach us in compressed time the things we desperately need to know in order to be winners in the game of life.

George Sheehan was both a prominent physician and athlete. He summed it up beautifully: “Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours, where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on an acre or two of ground, where a person can suffer and die and rise again; ….where the past and the future can fuse with the present. Sport is singularly able to give us peak experiences where we feel completely one with the world and transcend all conflicts as we finally become our own potential.”

Let me share with you five lessons of this past Sunday’s Super Bowl that are reflected in insightful quotes which, by virtue of their vision, mirror truths to be found in our own Jewish tradition:

1. “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown” -Ross Perot
With a 25-point deficit, any “sane” person would have given up and acknowledged defeat. But losing is not what happens while the game is still going on. Even if there is the slightest chance of turning the game around – something that seemed almost a mathematical impossibility for the New England Patriots – losers can become winners. It doesn’t matter what the score was throughout the game, the only thing that counts is the ending.

Our lives can be filled with minor defeats. The Talmud reassures us that “it is possible for someone to acquire eternal reward in a final hour.”

Life never closes the door to victory in the eyes of God. In the words of the famous prayer on the high holy days, “repentance, prayer, and charity can overcome an evil decree from above.”

Even as we stand on the 1 yard line we can transform a life of meaninglessness into a legacy of blessing.

2. I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. Michael Jordan
Let’s face it: Tom Brady played a miserable first half of the game. He was sacked unceremoniously, he threw a pass that was intercepted; he just didn’t have it. So what makes him a true hero? Not that he was perfect, but that he had the guts, the courage, the mental stamina and the willpower to come back from failure and fulfill his potential.

He didn’t think of himself as a failure but merely as someone who temporarily failed. He knew he was better than that – and so he made that come true.

As servants of God, trying to lead a good life, we are often overcome by the awareness of our spiritual imperfections. We are tempted to conclude that a religious life is just too difficult for us. And so the Talmud hastens to advise us, “do not be wicked in your own eyes.” Don’t sell yourself short. Be aware of your potential for greatness. Don’t let mistakes drive you to self-professed defeat.

“Who is strong?” asked Ben Zoma in Ethics of the Fathers. The answer: “One who overcomes his own inclination.” Self-discipline is the key to success and it is within the power of all of us. Franz Beckenbauer said it well: “The strong one doesn't win; the one that wins is strong.”

Billie Jean King, the world’s number one professional tennis player who won 39 grand slam titles, summed it up this way: “Champions keep playing until they get it right.” And that goes for life just as it goes for sports.

3. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”– Wayne Gretzky
“I can’t” is just another way of saying “I won’t”. Not to try is to admit defeat even before facing an opponent. And what defeats most of us is not the real difficulty of the task but the refusal even to attempt it. We are sabotaged by the fear that by trying and not succeeding we are demonstrating our weakness when in truth by failing to attempt what we know we ought to do we’re just proving our inadequacy.

Tom Brady tried a lot of passes that didn’t make it. That didn’t deter him from trying again.

Our lives present us with many challenges. The Talmud tells us, “All beginnings are difficult.” For many, that thought alone stops them in their tracks. They won’t even try to learn something new, start a different project, accept upon themselves additional personal or communal responsibilities. They will miss 100 percent of the shots they don’t take – and never make the touchdown passes that Brady did among those that were unsuccessful.

4. Getting ready for the Super Bowl is a lot like studying for the Talmud, as both require intense effort and concentration – Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots
What was the most important key to the success of the winning team in the Super Bowl? Any athlete will tell you. Mark Spitz, nine-time Olympic swimming champion, said it well: “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” If you think victory is nothing more than good luck, listen to Jerry Barber, PGA professional golfer: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

Once again, the sages of the Talmud understood this well. The Mishnah teaches: “In accord with the pain is the gain.” Effort is what is rewarded above all else. And success, be it in Torah study or athletic pursuits, is the direct result of the hours devoted to practice – as Malcolm Gladwell so brilliantly proved in his book, “The Outliers: The Story Of Success”.

Robert Kraft, the Patriots owner, was ecstatic that his team won. But he knew what to emphasize as the reason.” “We try to prepare very hard, study very hard,” Kraft, 75, said in an interview. “You know, it’s like studying Talmud or Torah – it’s not just simplistic, it’s deep. We prepare as a team very well, we practice hard.”

And that is what life demands of us not only when we take the field in a football game but far more when we want to be remembered for lives of meaning and purpose.

5. “It ain't over 'til it's over.” – Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra was a great catcher for the New York Yankees. But some people think his greatest talent was with words – words that were misspoken and often hilarious, yet at the same time possessing profound and brilliant truths. Near the very top certainly must rank his famous observation that “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

The Atlanta Falcons know that as a bitter truth. The Patriots made the world recognize it as a beacon of hope when faced with a seemingly insurmountable situation.

For all those who face moments of despair, desolation and hopelessness what happened this past Sunday in a sports arena deserves to be recognized as a paradigm of the possible in spite of impossible odds.

Allow me to be personal. Some weeks ago the aish.com editor chose to reprint an article I had previously written. In it I described my confrontation with death. My doctor had diagnosed me with an incurable illness which, upon checking on the Internet with the most recent medical literature, told me I had at the most approximately six months to live.

What many readers didn’t realize is that I wrote that piece almost seven years ago!

I am still here, thank God. Doctors do not understand it. But what I know and they seemed to forget is that “it ain’t over till it’s over” – and it is only God who is entitled to make the decision as to when that is.

Just as the Super Bowl can go into overtime, our own lives can be extended. I choose to believe it is because I have strengthened my commitment to serve God and the Jewish people that God in turn decided it was in his interest to keep me around a little while longer.

That is true for all of us as well. The Super Bowl wasn’t over at halftime, or even three minutes before the end when the experts all felt there was no more hope for the Patriots. They were wrong. And it is our spiritual obligation to never give up hope. Sunday proved it for football. Our lives need to confirm it for faith in the future and for the way in which we choose to live our lives as proud members of the Jewish people.

Super Bowl 2018: 6 Jewish Facts
Including three Jewish owners and the Jewish general manager..
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots are facing each other in the 2018 Super Bowl. Both teams have surprising Jewish connections. Here are six facts you might not have known about Super Bowl LII.

1. Jewish Team Owners
For the third time since 2012, both Super Bowl teams have Jewish owners: Jeffrey Lurie of the Eagles, and Robert Kraft of the Patriots. In fact, a whopping nine of the NFL’s 32 team owners are Jewish, a testament to the deep love of football among American Jews.

New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft:
Robert Kraft is known as a major Jewish philanthropist. The CEO of the Kraft Group, Robert has donated over $100 million to charity, many to Jewish causes. The Hillel at Columbia University, his alma mater, is housed in the Kraft Center for Jewish Student Life. Its beautiful facade is covered in golden Jerusalem stone and brings a taste of the Holy Land to Manhattan.

Robert grew up in an observant home in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father Harry was a dressmaker who also taught Hebrew School in the Krafts’ synagogue, and wanted Robert to become a rabbi. In high school, Robert never played on sports teams because he didn’t want to attend games on Shabbat. As an adult, Robert and his late wife Myra became philanthropists, supporting dozens of Jewish and non-Jewish causes throughout the United States and Israel.

The couple had a particular affinity for the Jewish State, investing in Israel and even sending players from Patriots to tour the country on numerous occasions. Jerusalem’s new state of the art sports stadium is the Kraft Family Stadium, a tribute to Robert and Myra’s generosity. Myra also supported Israel’s national women’s flag football team, supported Ethiopian immigrant absorption projects in Israel, and helped Robert encourage Boston to be a sister city with Haifa.

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jeffrey Lurie:
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is also Jewish. He describes himself as primarily culturally Jewish, though he does seem to cling to one Jewish tradition: every year, he makes the track to his father’s grave in the Temple Israel Cemetery near Boston, honoring his father’s memory and legacy. There, he pours out his heart, silently speaking to his father, reviewing all that’s going on with his life, and communing with his father’s memory. Jeffrey Lurie’s father died when he was just nine years old; for decades, Jeffrey has kept up the tradition of visiting his Jewish cemetery.

2. Jewish Superfan in Philadelphia
In the run-up to the Super Bowl, one 99-year-old Jewish man has emerged as the Philadelphia Eagles’ superfan: “Philadelphia Phil”. Phil Basser attended his first NFL game in 1936 and has been a die-hard Eagles since he was 15 when the Eagles became a team in 1933. He follows the fortunes of his beloved Eagles weekly, often taking a nap before games now so he can stay awake.

Phil Basser

During the Vikings-Eagles playoff game January 21, 99-year-old Vikings fan Millie Wall attended her first playoff game and became a social media sensation. Phil Basser’s 18-year-old grandson, Josh Potter, responded with a tweet about his grandfather, noting that he was a staunch Eagles fan: “Looks like we got a battle of the centenarians!” Josh wrote, and his post soon went viral. Within days, Phil Basser appeared in Sports Illustrated, was interviewed on the local news, and became a social media sensation in his native Philadelphia.

Born into a poor Philadelphia Jewish family in 1918, Phil’s mother died when Phil was just four years old. His sister died when he was eight. Unable to make ends meet, Phil’s father entrusted him to a local Jewish orphanage during the week, bringing him home only on weekends. Phil went on to serve overseas during World War II and also served during the Korean War.

Grandpa Phil and his grandson Josh

After his military career, Phil founded an advertising agency in Philadelphia and had a successful career. He and his wife Pearl had four children and 14 grandchildren. After Pearl died last year, Phil moved to New York to live with his daughter. Nevertheless, he remains an Eagles fan and plans to attend the Super Bowl, his first ever. “One could look at my life and see the hurdles and the tragedy,” he told the Philly Voice. “These were all devastating, but I choose to wake up each and every day seeing the best that life has to offer.”

3. Jewish welcome in Minneapolis
For only the third time in NFL history, not only are the owners of both Super Bowl teams Jewish, but so is the owner of the team in whose stadium the big game will be played: Mark Wilf of the Minnesota Vikings. Wilf’s parents are Holocaust survivors, and he recalls, “They always were tremendous Zionists and had a tremendous love of Israel, but also just such a love of America – what it has meant for our family, what it has meant for the world.”

When Mark and his brother were kids, he recalls feeling crushed when his beloved childhood team (the New York Giants) would lose. His father would say, “Look at it this way, things could be worse. You could be the owners.” Mark laughs warmly at that memory today.

Over the past 50 years, the Wilf Family Foundation has donated over $200 million to Jewish and Israeli causes. The Wilfs are some of the main benefactors of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and have endowed the Wilf Children’s Hospital at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, the Harry Wilf (Independence) Park in Jerusalem, the Wilf Campus at Yeshiva University in New York, the Wilf Center at the Jewish Family Service complex in New Jersey, and many other causes.

Visitors flying to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl will view a powerful Jewish-themed exhibit when they arrive in Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport: “Transfer of Memory”, featuring 44 photos of Holocaust survivors from the Minneapolis area. The powerful exhibit has been touring since 2012, and was installed in Minneapolis’ airport for the period leading up to the Super Bowl. “Given the incredible amount of people who will be coming through the Twin Cities area, it’s an issue that needs increased awareness, not just in the Jewish community but in society in general,” Mark Wilf said of the Holocaust installation.

4. Eagles’ General Manager Learning from his Mistakes
The Eagles’ General Manager, Howie Roseman, is Jewish, and in recent years he has also personified a key Jewish teaching: a willingness to learn from past mistakes. After volunteering with the Eagles as an unpaid intern straight out of law school, Howie was eventually appointed the team’s youngest ever General Manager at age 35. He made a number of trades, more than any other manager in the league, but many of his decisions failed to pay off. In 2015, he was relieved of his duties, and was only reinstated a year later, when he began to shape the team that would eventually head into the 2018 Super Bowl.

Despite his professional vindication and being voted NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers Association, Roseman has been modest about the Eagles’ success, stressing the efforts of his coworkers and players and eschewing interviews. Whatever the results of Super Bowl LII, Roseman’s newfound willingness to learn from his mistakes and his current modesty in the face of success is an example for everyone in the game.

5. Super Bowl Shabbat
With fans flying into Minneapolis from all over the world, Minneapolis’ Jewish community has opened their doors, offering Shabbat hospitality the day before the big game.

“We bleed purple around here,” explains Wendy Khabie, the marketing director of Darchei Noam, an Orthodox synagogue in Minneapolis, referring to her community’s deep ties with the Minnesota Vikings. Even though many are still disappointed that the Eagles beat the Vikings to gain a spot in the Super Bowl, her synagogue has announced it is opening its doors to any fans in town for the game. About a dozen fans have already called the synagogue, making arrangements for Shabbat services, meals and socializing.

6. Wagers for Tzedakah
With tensions between Philadelphia and New England running high, some Jewish communities are placing bets on the outcome – with local charities the big winners. Philadelphia’s Congregation Rodeph Shalom and Boston’s Temple Israel – which Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie attended as a child – have made a wager. The synagogue whose team loses will donate 18 times the point difference in the game’s final score to charity, and both synagogues are urging members to donate individually as well.

In California, two rabbis who work ten miles apart but who hail from Boston and Philadelphia, have entered into a very public wager: the loser will bring delicacies from their hometown (Philadelphia soft pretzels or Dunkin Donuts, which originated in Boston) to the Saturday morning kiddush of the other congregation. As the big game gets closer, the rabbis, Paul Kipnes and Joshua Aaronson, have also pledged charitable donations if their teams lose. And at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland, Headmaster Joshua Levisohn has made a wager with school President Dave Sloan, promising the students Boston Creme donuts (if the Patriots win) or Philadelphia soft pretzels if the Eagles emerge victorious.

Last edited by Admin on Sat 10 Feb 2018, 12:46 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : ADD more)

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