Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Little Stevie and the Miracles

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 more than a 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 last few weeks, my work schedule has been a little hectic (OK more than a little hectic) and I have been unable to find the time to do the midweek posts. However, I would be remiss if I did not address the Steve Johnson story which came out of Buffalo last week.

On Sunday November 28th, the perennial doormat Buffalo Bills played a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the game was a mismatch on paper, the Bills kept the score close and the game eventually went to overtime. During the extra period, a potential game winning touchdown pass was dropped by Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson. After the game, Johnson tweeted that he "praised " G-d "24-7" and complained about dropping the pass, stating "this is how you do me?" He ended the tweet with a "thanks though."

The Johnson tweet was parodied in the media which included a faux responsive tweet from the Big Guy upstairs in which "He" tweeted to Johnson to "just shut up and catch the ball."

The story itself is demonstrative of man's attempt to see G-d in daily life, while still reconciling when things don't go as planned. I can recall Michael Kay of 1050 ESPN radio going off on a rant about players who say that "G-d was with them" when their team won a game. As I recall, Michael Kay asked - does that mean that G-d was not with the other team?

The answer to the question posed by Michael Kay and the dilemma facing Steve Johnson is that G-d does get involved in every aspect of our daily lives and that he is responsible for the results. The challenge is recognizing His involvement when the result is not a major miracle. When a person reads a news story about how a plane crashed and one person survived, its easy to say that G-d saved the person. But when you are rushing and barely make your train, its much difficult to see His hand.

The holiday of Chanukah which we are currently celebrating offers the same dichotomy. The holiday celebrates two miracles which occurred: (1) that a lone flask of untained oil was found and that it burned for eight days and (2) that the Maccabees were victorious in battle.

The gemara in Shabbos 21b asks - which of the two miracles is the reason for the holiday? The Maharitz Chayos asks - what kind of question is this, we know that the miracle of a small army being victorious over a much more superior force is a major miracle! He answers, that while this is a miracle, it is within the teva (nature) of possibilities that a small army could defeat a larger force. As such, it is not the reason that we say hallel (praise) to Hashem. Therefore the gemara asks -- what is the reason for the holiday, we are not saying hallel because a smaller force defeated a larger army? With this in mind, the gemara answers that the miracle of the oil lasting eight days was supernatural in nature. As such, it is the reason that we have eight days of hallel.

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