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The Power of Tradition: Chanuka Lessons from Football

coach walsh

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

As we wrap up the festival of Chanuka, I would like to thank everyone that joined us or wanted to join us for our party and hope to see you all soon. In honor of the last day of Chanuka I would like to share a quick thought that the legendary Bill Walsh really helped me understand. The originator of what is now known as the West Coast Offense, Walsh really created a revolution that drastically altered the course of the NFL and formed the game we follow and play. Starting with the weak-armed Virgil Carter of the Bengals, Coach Walsh devised a series of plays to embrace the low-risk short passing game that turned Carter into the most accurate passer in the NFL. From that point on, he successfully turned the least talented of QBs into the best of their respective leagues and colleges. His tenure with the 49ers included one of the greatest of them all, Joe Montana and his successor, HOFer Steve Young. The impact this one man had on the game of football is particularly noticeable when you take stock of the current Head Coaches in the NFL and college. Some of the biggest names are students, both directly and indirectly of Walsh and they include: Andy Reid, John and Jim Harbaugh, John Gruden, Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, Tony Dungy, Jack Del Rio, Lovie Smith, and Mike Tomlin. This style of play developed by this one brilliant man has affected so many players and teams in the broad football world. The festival of Chanuka is different than Passover or Rosh Hashana in the sense that there is no mention of it in the Torah. The events that led to the establishment of these 8 days of celebration and thanks to  G-d for all He does in our lives, happened thousands of years after the Torah was already given to our nation at Sinai. That being said, it is a holiday that is only celebrated because of the tradition our Rabbis began following the miracle of Chanuka. As we celebrate and enjoy our holiday this year, it is crucial to reflect on the difference this tradition has on our lives. Our Rabbis have guided us and changed our relationship with G-d by introducing this time to enjoy with our families and connect to our nation and to G-d with a new level of profundity each year. We need to treasure that tradition for it is what shaped us and created the nation we are today. It is in our best interest to cherish and do whatever we can to learn more about our heritage and pass it on to the next generation in our families and communities so we can continue the great gift of Judaism we have for posterity.

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Context Makes the Man: Torah Thoughts from Football

keenum

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

Case Keenum has been enjoying the 2017 season more than anyone ever dreamed. Not only is he starting, but he is playing fantastic football. I do not think anyone saw this coming and as St. Louisans it is particularly hard to believe this is the same guy we had here just a few seasons ago. How is he doing it? He started as an undrafted free agent and now is leading the Vikings with an impressive 9-2 record. His salary of $2 million is low even for a backup yet his QBR second in the league. It seems that what has changed for him is his surroundings. He now benefits from superb coaching under OC Pat Shurmer, a former QB coach for Andy Reid’s Eagles and QB coach Kevin Stefanski, a talented football mind that has coached every offensive position for the Vikings. Also, the Vikings bolstered their offensive line this offseason, utilizing the space left by Adrian Peterson and others to protect Keenum. He has great receivers and a solid ground attack and has powered the Vikings through troubled times. This is such a profound lesson for life. As human beings we create limitations for ourselves based on our projected capabilities. We subconsciously set a bar for ourselves and expect only to succeed to an extent. Context can be a gamechanger. If we surround ourselves with moral people, strive to be involved with organizations and communities that are focused on G-d and making the world a better place, and keep close to those that share aspirations for growing Jewishly we can transcend those expectations. Our coaches and supporting staff can propel us way beyond anything we ever thought we could achieve. Chanuka is around the corner. The first night is on Tuesday December 12th. We commemorate and relive a period of time in which the Greek society threatened to ruin everything we held near and dear as a nation. It is a time to reflect on the potency of context and how putting ourselves among other like-minded teammates we can become better people than we ever imagined.

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From Side Lines to Center Stage: Torah Lessons from Sports

denzel

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman
After an incredible first half of the season, Deshaun Watson’s torn ACL stopped him in his tracks. Texans fans and fantasy owners that had vested interest in this young, exciting, and talented QB, must now face the uncomfortable realization that his rookie season is over. All those records he could have broken will remain intact and his success cut short. Injuries like this one happen often in the NFL and usually have devastating results. Seasons end prematurely, fans lose interest, and teams watch promising beginnings dissipate. However, in some instances, the opposite happens. Sometimes when all looks bleak, the surprise rookie, the unknown player, or the struggling journeyman find themselves in the limelight, a position they never had before, and thrive like no one could have ever imagined. Think of one of the greatest QBs of all time, the ageless Tom Brady. He was on the Patriots sidelines in the shadow of one of the greatest New England had ever seen, Drew Bledsode. After Mo Lewis of the New York Jets put a punishing hit on Bledsode, a hit that almost killed him, the Tom Brady era and the Patriots dynasty began. When Bledsode went down, the feeling in Foxborough was one of despair and then this unnamed kid got his chance and is still making the best of it. In the darkest of times there can be the greatest revelations of light. Our Rabbis teach us that before a leader dies, his successor is already born and developing. With a loss comes an opportunity for rebuilding and growth through new paths and untapped potential. As we encounter difficulties in our daily life, be it at work, home, or in our inter-personal relationships, we can view setbacks as challenges, allowing us to have new possibilities for growth and the ability to be people we have always wanted to be. It can strengthen us as Jews and members of the community and can be your calling to take the step from backstage right into the spotlight.