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Finding Your “Playoff Beard”

playoff beard

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

A custom has developed in many sports that as playoffs begin so does the beard. Facial hair has become an indication that a team or player is playoff bound. The originator is said to be Butch Goring of the New York Islanders in the 80’s. He may have gotten the idea from Swedish tennis star Bjorn Borg. He used to stop shaving at the beginning of Wimbeldon. The 2009 Redwings did it, 2013 Red Sox (against the Cardinals), and the Ben Roethlesberger did it for Super Bowl XL. What is the significance of this strange practice? There is the idea of unity, that each member of the team puts on beards together and kind of adds that to their uniform. However, I think the more compelling explanation is that when there is a beard growing on your face and you are not accustomed to to it, the first thing you notice when you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, eat a meal, and walk outside is that new addition to your face. That serves as a constant reminder to severity and seriousness of playoffs. We all need to grow our proverbial playoff beards in our personal lives. Pick one part of Judaism, your connection to G-d, to your community, to your fellow members of the tribe and work on that focus, dedicate yourself to that cause with a drive that is playoff-like. By doing this we can make a bigger and more profound impact on our lives and our communities and help build and affect others and create a better Jewish nation and world.

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Staying Young: Torah Lessons from Baseball

Yankees2017

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

As the World Series is coming to a close, I noticed something strange about my feelings for the loser of the ALCS. Growing up in Atlanta, I have developed a strong hatred for the pinstriped Bronx bombers. Year after year, I would find myself hopeful of another championship for my city only to have those hopes ruined by the invincible, powerful, and deep-pocketed Yankees. This feeling is shared with many baseball fans across the country. You either love the Yankees or hate them, there is no neutral feelings. This year, however, I noticed a change. I no longer felt any animosity or frustration even as they started winning games and made the playoffs. It seems that I am not alone. The youth and infectious exuberance that Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and co. brought to the table throughout the season swept many Yankee haters off their feet and opened up a new era of baseball. Gone is the professionalism and seriousness. The constant addition of established veterans is no more. There is this core of energetic, friendly, and fun-loving kids guiding and setting the tone for New York. We all go through the natural procession of life beginning full of energy, passion, and dreams and then slowly maturing as we grow more serious and responsible. Youth carries with it a tremendous amount of potential. As a group of young professionals, we need to be aware that now is our time to shine. Act when you still have the strength and energy to do so. Your decisions now will affect your future in a profound and important way. Do not wait until you are over the hill and take on something new. Reach out to your synagogue and offer a hand, be there for your community, develop and cultivate meaningful relationships with your families, friends and G-d. Be like the Yankees and take on the world with your youth and reap the benefits of this time period of our lives that is slowly ebbing away.

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Perseverance: Torah Lessons from Football

rocks_R Akiva

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

As if the Browns season was not bad enough. LT Joe Thomas, the consistent beacon of hope and slight ray of success tore his tricep and is out for the rest of the season. After 167 straight starts since his rookie season in 2007, 10 Pro Bowl appearances, and an impressive 10,363 uninterrupted snaps, Thomas was finally slowed down and forced to watch from the sideline for the first time in his career. Keep in mind, this streak was done for a Browns team that went through 18 quarterbacks and held a 48-119 record. In our history, we had a leader that impacted our entire nation in a powerful way. Rabbi Akiva began his studying of Torah at the age of 40. He did not have the background and upbringing that are so important to become a Jewish leader. The story is told that he passed by a rock that had water dripping on the same spot over and over and it had bore a hole deep into the rock. When Rabbi Akiva saw that he recognized that, although it may take a long time, even the most impenetrable mind could succeed in the study of Torah as long as there is a consistent and continual attempt at learning. He continued to live by this mantra and after all 24,000 of his students perished, he started again and recreated the next link in the chain of our heritage that we still hold on to today. In our personal lives, we tend to give up and sometimes avoid trying something that may be in our best interest because of the magnitude of the project and the difficulty of reaching the goal. Rabbi Akiva’s lesson rings true and we can do our best to take small steps, with short gains, one snap at a time until we succeed in accomplishing our goals and being better and more elevated people.