The Words that Sparked a Revolution: Yom Kippur Lessons in Football

nfl protest

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

Over a year ago, the starting QB for the 49ers, Colin Kapernick, protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. He created a movement that slowly began to grow and a few vocal members of the NFL joined in protest as well. However, when President Trump lashed out against those that disrespect the flag, the movement became a revolution. According to some accounts, over 1/3 of the league was involved in some sort of protest or demonstration of unity. Some teams did not come on the field at all and coaches, owners, singers, and players joined in a mass demonstration of dissatisfaction with the words of our President.
Regardless of your personal political stance, one point is clear from this developing story and that is until the President spoke his mind, there were only a few protests. Those few words are what began this movement.
Yom Kippur is fast approaching and although it is important to be aware of how powerful our actions are, there is a specific stress placed on the power of words. The first prayer and one of the climaxes of Yom Kippur is the Kol Nidrei prayer. One would expect a meaningful prayer for forgiveness but instead the introduction to the services is a declaration about the nullifying of any vows or oaths. It seems a little out of place.
The ability to creatively express your thoughts is a trait that is uniquely human. No other being can convey such complex thoughts and ideas with the vehicle of speech. Our Rabbis teach us that this is a manifestation of the G-dliness within us. When G-d created man, He gathered together some dirt and blew a small piece of Himself into Adam, the result being the capability for speech. Our job is to utilize that G-dliness to better ourselves and better the world around us. We can chose to use our unique characteristics to hurt people and bring them down, to humiliate and slander, to curse and speak inappropriately, or we can channel this amazing tool to capitalize on relationships, strengthen our bonds with our families and communities, inspire others and express our appreciation for others.
That is why Yom Kippur starts off with a prayer about oaths and vows because it teaches us the energy we can create if we use our gift of speech properly.

A Powerful Leader: Torah Lessons in Fantasy Football

cardinals arizona

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

Week one of the NFL season brought devastating news to at least one member of every fantasy league in the nation and also to the Arizona Cardinals. David Johnson, the third year back and fantasy league superstar, dislocated his wrist on a 24-yard catch against the Lions in the third quarter and had surgery to repair it. He was placed in IR and cannot return until week 8, earliest. Fantasy league owners that picked Johnson and assumed they had the RB position locked down now are scrambling to attempt to fill his void. The Cardinals are also in really bad shape and barely eked out a win against the “Luck”less Colts in OT, relying heavily on the aging Carson Palmer.
There is a powerful lesson in this story line. The effect of a leader is obvious and as we approach the holy day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, a day that G-d takes stock of the world He runs, we should work at internalizing this message. If it is clear that you are crucial to those around you and they count on you to be better, more productive people, than G-d will grant you health and comfort to keep you going strong. If you can ensure that in your family, community, or synagogue that you are a key player to assisting those around you to be effective in their maximizing their potential and helping them connect to G-d, then that itself is reason for another season in the league of life.
May we all merit a healthy, happy, and successful year together!

Breaking Your Fighting Pattern: Torah Lessons in Boxing

boxing ring

By Rabbi Yaakov Silverman

On August 26th, just a few weeks ago, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr finally squared off for a much anticipated fight. Mayweather, one of the best boxers to ever play the game, squaring off against an amateur boxer in his first-ever professional match. How did rookie McGregor survive for 10 rounds in the ring? As a boxer, or any other athlete for that manner, perfects his or her trade, they recognize even the the slightest of their opponents movements as indications as to what will be coming their way. This is due to the repetitious nature of the training and playing for so many years. Since McGregor was not a real boxer, his unorthodox approach and style and the fact that he was an outsider to boxing, was actually an advantage for him until Mayweather figured him out. As we approach the High Holidays, it is a great time to to rethink interactions with our friends, families and God. There is a tendency that we all have to remain in our comfort zone, continuing what we have always been doing for many years. Sometimes we create healthy habits but our relationships need serious tinkering and we are unaware. This is a result of a long lifetime of building and developing our character. If we can take a step back, and see ourselves almost as an outsider to our own lives, we can challenge the patterns we have formed for ourselves, and strive to be better spouses, friends, children, parents, community members and members of the Jewish nation.