Friday, June 28, 2013

In Tribute to Met Fans

Are you a sports fan? Do you have a favorite team? Recently two of my grandsons visited me in Eretz Yisrael. They are 8 and 6 years old respectively.I asked them those questions. And to both questions they answered in the affirmative. Prouldy they declared they are fans of the New York Yankees. On hearing these tidings I was of two minds. On the one hand I, having grown up a fan of the then Brooklyn Dodgers, hate the Yankees. The news of their favorite brought me no joy. But on the other hand I was also happy for them. They at least would not know the pain of identifying their whole lives with a losing underdog. They would identify with a winner. I have often thought how much different my life would have been, and perhaps more "successful", if I had been a Yankee fan, like most of my friends, and not a Brooklyn Dodger and then Met fan, perpetual losers.

In relearning the parsha of this Shabbat, that of Pinchas, I am beginning to think maybe being a Met fan (and at the same time a Jet fan, oy!) may have had its purpose in my life. What fan would Pinchas have been? I think he too would have chosen the Mets.
And why?

Well think about it. How was it that this man Pinchas was able to do what no one else could, rise up and slay a prince in Israel before the entire camp for his egregious sin? How did Pinchas find it within him to do what even Moshe could not and thereby save the nation from utter devestartion?

The answer is that Pinchas was always an outsider,not one of the establishment. Unlike the other decendents of Aharon he did not serve as kohen in the sanctuary. Though a child of Elazar, the kohen gadol, high priest, and most worthy of character, he was never slated to serve in that capacity. Pinchas was of a distinguished blood line and of personal stature yet he remained on the margins.
It is precisely Pinchas, because he did not belong, because he was estranged, that he could do the unthinkable and the vigilante act that wound up saving the nation.

People are of one of two personality types. Some want to belong, become part of the establishment and support it. They spend their lives identifying with the norms and working to maintain what is in the best way possible. They will more typically identify with the favorite and the winner. Others, the minority, want to challenge the establishment. They see themselves as outsiders with the mission to call to conscience the norms of the group. They are often called "rebels". They are the Met fans, and if they were to prevail they would have to identify with another team.

The sages of the Talmud tell us that Pinchas was none other than Eliyahu the prophet. Eliyahu was a prophet who was known for his feistiness. He railed against the prevailing mediocrity of his time. He was an outsider. He had to flee the wrath of the king into the wilderness. Even when successful he never belonged.

Truth is many of us feel our call in life is to challenge what exists rather than support it and make it better. And when the rebel prevails, when s/he is victorious s/he never ia as happy as when s/he is in opposition and on the outside.

Look at the story of so many political leaders who when fighting for their cause had a magical quality about them. They were full of idealism, like Pinchas and Eliyahu. And yet in their success in becoming the establishment they lost the mystique. They seemed sapped of energy. They knew how to challenge but not how to rule. They were meant for the margins, not to belong or become mainstream.
While some might argue with me, look at all the leaders of the Likud as examples. Begin and Sharon, idealists in the extreme when servinng as opposition, to many they were true zealots, yet they became mediocre and mainstream in success. They lost their compass.

Each one of us has a purpose consistant with out personality. For some of us our 'tachlis' is to work with the system, to belong and grow from within. That is a holy work. Kings and High Priests are of our ilk. We identify with the Yankees of the world. For some of us our tachlis is to live on the outside and challenge what is. We have the blood of the prophets that runs through our veins. We will never be popular. We are the Met fans of the world. We are not meant to win. But we are every bit as necessary even in our striving and our angst.

It may be true that "winning is everything" but for all of us to "win" some of us need to be the losers who challenge and goad on the rest to their excellence.

Shabbat Shalom

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