Something to think about during the Shofar blowing

Thursday, 14 September, 2023 - 7:36 pm

Several weeks ago we celebrated a Bar Mitzvah at Chabad and the Bar Mitzvah boy Dani shared a great speech. The content of his remarks emerged from a conversation we had in one of our learning sessions before the big day.

Dani’s favorite sport is basketball and since Judaism believes everything in this world can serve as a lesson in our divine service, we examined what we can learn from basketball to become better Jews and appreciate the meaning of Bar Mitzvah.

Here’s an idea we came up with. Every player playing on the court does many things. They take shots, block shots from the other team, steal the ball, dribble, run, jump - you get the picture. The NBA keeps track of all the essential things players do throughout the game and ranks them accordingly.

Shots and steals are obviously recorded, but it’s interesting to note that assists are recorded as well. In basketball, an assist is attributed to a player who passes the ball to a teammate in a way that leads directly to a score, meaning that they were "assisting" in the basket.

How does this all connect to Bar Mitzvah?

The word Mitzvah means a commandment. G-d is the commander and we are the receivers of the command. These commands are not random. When done correctly, every Mitzvah is like a slam dunk or a three-pointer, and some of them are like shots made from downtown. Every time we do something G-d wants us to do, we make the world a better place, and becoming Bar Mitzvah means becoming a professional player on the court of life, charged with the mission of making as many points as possible.

But we must always remember we are not playing alone. We are part of a team, and an integral part of the mission is to make “assists.” Instead of focusing exclusively on our own Judaism, we must emphasize assisting others as well so we can get the entire team to the winning shot at the buzzer.

Now I realize this speech fits beautifully with Rosh Hashanah and the blowing of the Shofar. On the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah we always read the Torah portion of Nitzavim which begins with these words:

“You are all standing this day before the L-rd, your G-d the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel. Your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water drawers, that you may enter the covenant of the L-rd, your G-d…”

Jewish mysticism explains, that while these words were said by Moshe during the month of Adar, “this day” refers to Rosh Hashanah and the covenant referenced here, which encompasses all Jews from the highest levels to the lowest levels, repeats itself each year on Rosh Hashanah.

The Shofar blowing is described as G-d’s coronation ceremony when we accept His sovereignty and commit to living according to His instructions, as well as a rallying call for unity. So if you like Dani’s basketball analogy here’s a thought to keep in mind as we blow the Shofar on Sunday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah. The new year 5784 marks a new game on the court of our universe and we’re all on the same team. Let’s resolve to play good offense - by doing more mitzvot this year; play good defense - by abstaining from prohibitions this year; and most importantly to assist, assist and assist.

May you and yours be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet new year!

Chag Sameach and Shana Tova!

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