Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - The Message of Snow and Ice

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. As Max has resigned from 1050 and has not yet resurfaced on the NY area radio waves, I have decided to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

The Winter Olympics has always had a special meaning to me. My earliest memories of any Olympics is the miracle of Lake Placid and the country's momentary fascination with patriotism at a time when the economy was underwater. The recent Disney movie ("Miracle") gives some color to what was going on at the time by weaving old newscasts into a dramatization of the events of the Lake Placid games. My recollection of the era is more general in nature as I remember that people started displaying the American flag and chanting USA, USA. I can recall being at a hockey game between the NY Rangers and the Winnipeg Jets when the fans started chanting USA (yes the Rangers were losing).

The miracle of Lake Placid was more than just about patriotism. Those of you who are not hockey oriented or were born after the mid 80's, many not be aware that the Olympics used to be about the US and Canada sending their amateurs to play against the grizzled veterans of Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Soviet bloc countries. The North Americans would field teams comprised of college and Junior level players. Meanwhile, the teams they were playing against were made up of players who had played together for years at a time.

In 1998, Olympic hockey, perhaps motivated by the success of the basketball "dream team" began allowing the use of professional players in the Olympics. The games became an All Star game of sorts, although the teams with the most professionals did not always win. Indeed, the first games to use professional hockey players saw Canada lose a semi-final game to the Czech Republic and the Bronze medal game to Finland.

I recently heard a recording of a shmuz from R' Mattisyahu Solomon of Lakewood, who discussed a different miracle of snow and ice. R' Solomon said over a story he had heard from his Rebbi, R' Leib Guerwitz about an extended winter in Brisk. R' Guerwitz had been sent along with a number of boys from the Mirrer yeshiva to learn under the Brisker Rav. That year, the winter continued beyond the traditional season and when spring came the river was still frozen over and the ground covered with snow. R' Solomon mentioned that people were having weddings on the frozen river so that they could write in the kesubah that the wedding was held on the river.

One day, R' Guerwitz was walking when he passed the Brisker Rav's house. The Rav called him and asked him if he knew why the river and ground was still frozen so late in the year. Knowing that this was a rhetorical question, R' Guerwitz waited for the explanation. The Brisker Rav answered his own question by stating - the people of the world have changed their nature and are acting ways that make Hashem unhappy. As a result he is changing his nature by allowing the snow and ice to remain well beyond their normal time of year.

R' Solomon closed by stating that when we see a newspaper story about something out of the ordinary, we need to stop and think about the message in the story. If Hashem has allowed the teva to change, even if only briefly, there is certainly a message means for us to find.

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