Monday, May 31, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Lendale White Separates Us From The Animal Kingdom

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. Although Max resigned from 1050 almost one year ago, I have tried to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

Over the weekend, I read with curiosity that the Seattle Seahawks had released Lendale White. This was confusing to me since the Seahawks had just traded for White in April and were planning on using him in conjunction with former Jet Leon Washington in their newly revamped backfield. White seemed to be an integral cog in the Pete Carroll rebuilt offense which had also included drafting a top wide receivers, offensive tackle and tight end.

Not long after the news broke that White had been waived, stories began to circulate that White was facing a four game NFL suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. This was yet another recent blemish on what had been a once promising career. Three years ago, White was an 1100 yard rusher for Tennessee and seemed destined for greatness. But then he came to camp overweight and out of shape and was later branded as not having a good work ethic.

The White drug story and his inability to control his weight reminded me of a vort I recently heard from R' Eli Mansour. In discussing the sin of the slav, the Torah writes that the Jews had created a craving (hitavu ta'avah). R' Mansour asked - what separates man from animal? He answered from quoting a line from Koheles "U mosar ha'adam min habeheima ayin ki hakol hevel" - man is greater than the animal "ayin" because it is all foolishness.

R' Mansour gave two explanations for how "ayin" separates us from animals. The first vort looked at ayin as an acronym - adam yesh nishama - a man has a soul, while an animal does not. The second vort was that man differs from animal because he can say no (ayin) while an animal cannot. By way of example, when an animal sees food, he does not think is this free, or am I stealing it? Similarly, the animal does not worry that it might be an inappropriate time to do its business. Animals obey their instincs and do what ever is natural to them. Humans on the other hand have the capacity for independent thought and should consider whether the option before them to ingest (fill in any blank) is good for them.

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