Parashat B’Shalah

Friday, January 26, 2018 /10 Shevat, 5778
Parashat B’Shalah Exodus 13:17-17:16
Dear Friends,
Most of you know that I am an avid sport fan and that when it comes to rooting for my hometown Boston teams, I can be insufferable.  As a native Bostonian, it is part of my genetic makeup.  Needless to say I am very excited that my New England Patriots (yes, they are mine!) are making their third Super Bowl appearance in the last four years.  That they are playing the Philadelphia Eagles (of all teams) is making life interesting for me for this week. That said, I’m just following the lead of Coach Bill Belichick-saying very little and making no predictions.
What do the Patriots, Eagles and the Super Bowl have to do with this week’s Torah portion?  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks provides some insight.  In his d’var Torah this week for his “Covenant and Conversation” series, he speaks of the need to take the long road in order to make it to the Promised Land.  He reminds us that there are no shortcuts and that “the work is hard, and there will be many setbacks and false turnings. You will need grit, resilience, stamina and persistence.”
Granted, the journey to the Promised Land was far more important and consequential in the history of our people and of humankind than the New England Patriots five SuperBowl victories during the Belichick-Brady era.  However my New England Patriots can teach lessons about hard work, grit, persistence and more. I’m sure the Eagles can too, but I’m not as invested in their success.
Four years ago, in the closing minute of SuperBowl  XLIX, when the Seattle Seahawks looked certain to score a game winning touchdown, the Patriots defender intercepted a short pass in the end zone thus sealing the victory for the Patriots.  After the game, Coach Belichick and the Patriots defender, Malcom Butler spoke about how they practiced that very play regularly throughout the season, even during that week of practice, preparing for the possibility that that type of defense at that moment in a game might be needed.  The play was gritty, it was practiced, and it wasn’t lucky; it was planned.  It was the long road.
Last year when the Patriots were down by 25 points with about 15 minutes left in the game, they mounted the greatest comeback in the history of the Superbowl  beating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.  That game was filled with setbacks and false turnings.  However, their grit, resilience, stamina and persistence led to their victory.
Okay, even the Philadelphia Eagles have been surprising. When their star quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury in early December, many pundits thought that they would not be able to make it to the SuperBowl, led by their backup quarterback.  They looked at the obstacles in front of them and persevered, taking the long road (to Minneapolis).
The owners of the Patriots and Eagles are Jewish. I wonder, does either one reads Rabbi Sacks wise lessons and then imparts Sacks’ wisdom to their teams? If they did, they would share Sacks’ lesson that there are no fast tracks. Lasting achievement takes time. You can never get there by the shortest road. The harder it gets, the stronger you become. This could be posted in the Patriots locker room, however, for the rest of us, may we take this wisdom to heart.  Know that taking the long road makes us stronger, more resilient and eventually can lead us to the Promised Land.
The Patriots may find this year’s Promised Land in Minneapolis a week from Sunday.  May they use their grit and determination to find their way.  May we, too, each and every day look down this road as we walk along the right path, or find a different way, as we march step by step towards our Promised Land.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin