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Jewish Ball Players and the World Series

This year’s Fall Classic, otherwise known as the World Series, pits two Jewish ballplayers: Joc Pederson of the Dodgers and Alex Bregman of the Astros. Joc, who has played for Team Israel, has a Jewish dad; and Alex is a member of Temple Micah, a Reform congregation in Albuquerque.

2004 was the last time two Jews squared off: Jason Marquis of the Cardinals versus Gabe Kapler of the Red Sox. Also, both Chicago teams have fielded Jewish ballplayers. In 1959, Barry Latman of the White Sox competed against Sandy Koufax and Larry Sherry of the Dodgers. And, in 1945, Cy Block took the field for the Cubs. I love baseball. I am especially proud of Jewish baseball players. And, I am inspired by the Jewish values that baseball perpetuates, even if accidentally.

Baseball, like all team sports really, is a matter of collective responsibility. Players on the diamond practice mutuality, synergy, cooperation and collaboration; or, as we like to call it, teamwork. Through teamwork, they strengthen the friendship that sustains the shared commitment needed for collective success.

The Pirkei Avot (the Wisdom of our Ancestors) teaches: “Two are better than one for they get a greater return for their labor. For should they fall one can lift the other; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and there is no one to lift him!” When teammates know they need each other to achieve shared goals, they look after one another. They learn to trust each other and take risks together. With their friendship strengthened as teammates, they share more effectively the responsibilities necessary for common achievement (nosay b’ol im chaveiro), a level of success we cannot enjoy by ourselves. As they say, a “faithful friend is a powerful defense...a treasure.” (Ben Sira 6:14)

In a news cycle that is dominated by the negative example of Harvey Weinstein, and, as a result, as we are summoned to greater moral courage, accountability and decency, it’s comforting and inspiring to know we can watch this sports event and see a couple of hard-working athletes represent our community and exemplify wholesome and redeeming goals like teamwork and shared triumph.

Here’s wishing good success to Joc and Alex, and their teammates. We thank them for their positive example.

Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!

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