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Jewish Pass Interference 

01/25/2019 11:52:53 AM

Jan25

Rabbi Steven Suson

To be clear: I am not a sports fan and can scarcely have an informed conversation on the subject. But what happened in this week’s playoff game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints caused even this football outsider to say…wow. In my ignorance about the game, I do understand that if a player is reaching to catch a pass, he is considered defenseless to an oncoming attack and he may not be tackled. To do so would constitute “pass interference,” if the referee signaled a penalty. Even the NFL acknowledged that this is exactly what happened in Sunday’s game - except the referees failed to call the penalty.

The lack of the call cost the Saints a first down and an almost certain victory which would escalate them to the Super Bowl. Instead, the infraction was not called, and the Rams went on to win in overtime. 

The Torah portion this week features the giving of the law, as Moses ascends Mt. Sinai and the entire nation of Israel assembles below. The people, in their fear, ask Moses to relate God’s law to them lest they be overwhelmed by the holy presence.

Although the law as described is of divine origin, the Talmud argues Lo Bashamayim H- that the Torah does not reside in the heavens (Bava Metzia). Rather, it is now with us here on earth for mortals to study, preserve, and interpret. The rabbis recognize that as we struggle with the application of law and how it is practiced, the struggle itself has merit. It requires us to measure our practice in the context of our values.

The NFL may decide to refine the rules of the game, possibly to include automatic review of close calls or non-calls. For now, the only satisfaction for New Orleans fans is to know that their loss will impact sensitivity and change in the future, even as they suffer. From the League’s perspective, the rules will be reviewed to improve the fairness and integrity of every future game.

It is an important reminder of our individual responsibility to constantly compare our actions to the ideals by which we strive to live. We will not always make perfect calls. Sometimes we fumble. But we can learn from our mistakes, pickup the pieces of the shattered tablets, and find comfort and guidance in our principles. May our values shine through in all we do and may we always strive to improve in our understanding of Torah and its application to improve the quality and integrity of our lives.


Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Suson

Thu, February 21 2019 16 Adar I 5779