Monday, April 4, 2016

Monday's Musings on Sports - Playoff Bound is the Way to Be, Lobster Optional

When the calendar turns to April, its only natural that a young man's thoughts turn to that evocative seasonal moment when the focus becomes less about winter and more about...NHL Playoffs!

Growing up with Mom and Dad KB (OK, maybe not those names since neither of my parents drink beer) the beginning of April was always about which playoff position the NY Rangers would finish in and when they would make their inevitable exit from the playoffs.

Back in the day (i.e. between 1978-1995) almost every team made the NHL playoffs. It was usually not a question whether the Rangers would make the playoffs since between 1978 and 1992 there were only twenty one teams in the league and sixteen teams would make the playoffs. Still, while the NYR would usually be in, there were only three occasions during that period when the Rangers advanced beyond the divisional round (1979, 1986 & 1994). 

During those halcyon days, my Ranger fan friends would loyally root our team on and then commiserate after they were inevitably eliminated. But there was always the thought - if the Rangers only played ___ they could move on to the Conference Finals, if not the Stanley Cup Finals. But since if and buts are not candy and nuts, there never was a Stanley Cup final for my beloved Rangers from 1979 until 1994.

So now, for the first time in the last five years, I find myself again thinking - if only the Rangers played ___ they might move on to the Conference Finals. Because for the first time in this decade, I have no confidence that my team can beat either of the potential matchups in their division (Washington or Pittsburgh). Instead, I find myself hoping that the NYR do not finish in the 2nd or 3rd spot and instead are relegated to the first Wild Card where they will take on one (and if successful, two) teams from the meek Atlantic Division. And if they win those winnable series', they might move on to the Conference Finals and only then take on a beaten or battered Metropolitan Division victor. But again, its not in my hands (or even theirs).

The concept of wishing one could change the rules or control, but understanding that one cannot, has a deep connection to the laws of Kosher as explained by R' Frand. The last pasuk of Parshas Shemini summarizes the kosher laws by stating that they separate between the animals that are eaten (HaNe'echeles) and those which should not be eaten (Asher Lo Se'Achel). The use of these two terms is curious as the tenses/conjugation are not parallel. The Torah could have contrasted the animals that are eaten and those which are not eaten, or those which should be eaten with those which should not be eaten.

R' Frand quoted R' Zweig who explained that according to the Rambam there are some mitzvos which are Sichli - intuitive and those which are Chukim - laws to be followed which we don't understand. 

The laws of Kashrus obviously fall into the realm of Chukim, as we follow them without requiring a logical explanation for the rules. However, merely because the laws forbid certain foods, we as Jews are not required to view the banned food items as disgusting. R' Frand commented about Maryland's great affinity for the crab. While he has no desire to eat crab, it does not mean that the crab should be viewed as vile. Instead, a Jew should look at the crab as appealing, but barred under our kosher rules.

This explains the differences in the tenses - we have food which is eaten and the other food can be food which we desire to eat, but we are barred from doing so because of the kosher laws.

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