Dec 09 2012

Yogi Red Sea

Published by at 8:39 pm under Uncategorized

The Exodus and the Man who wore Ten Rings



  •  He is one of only four men to manage both the NY Mets and the NY Yankees
  • · One of only four players to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League three times, and one of only six managers to       lead  both American and National League teams to the World Series.
  • ·  He played in 14 World Series contests, his Yankees winning ten of them. Fourteen All Star game appearances, and as if that isn’t enough,    he is the only man to catch a World Series Perfect game.

 But as mind boggling as these accomplishments might be, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, is known more for his quirky observations on life, or “Yogiisms”, than he is for his incredible accomplishments on the field. Yogi has always had a way of phrasing things in his own original manner, a style that few could ever hope to imitate.

Some of his quips, which have made him one of the largest product pitchman for products on TV, include:

·    “Never answer an anonymous letter.”

·    “It’s like déjà vu all over again”

·    “No one goes there anymore – it’s too crowded”

·    “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six”

·    “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to your’s”

But as witty as these lines were, perhaps there is no more famous one as Berra’s battle cry to his NY Mets team of 1973, who trailed the Chicago Cubs by 91/2 games in the National League and won the division on the second to last day of the season.  Berra told his roster of players the remarkably simple, yet not always adhered to phrase, “it ain’t over, till it’s over” This mantra became part of the team’s lexicon, and served to help them persevere despite the immense pressure and the overwhelming odds.

This coming Shabbat and Sunday will mark the final days of this year’s Passover. The Torah tells us, that it was actually on the seventh day of the holiday on which we experienced the miracle of the parting of the sea. The Jewish people fled as far as they could, God told Moses to cast his rod on the sea, the waters parted – we escaped, and the Egyptians drowned and were defeated.

That is the Hebrew school version.

Whenever we encourage someone to learn more about their heritage,  we point out that just as our education in worldly matters; finance, relationships, politics – did not end at the age of twelve or thirteen; so too, we owe it to ourselves to seek deeper meaning into their heritage, and to gain an understanding of our roots, and how it is relevant to us. The lessons we learned in Hebrew School were meant for our primary grade level, as mature, sophisticated adults, we have an opportunity, perhaps a responsibility, to take our exploration to the next step.

The Bible tells us that when Moses cast his rod, initially nothing happened. Immediately, the people of Israel panicked. They proclaimed that it would have been better to have stayed in Egypt, than to perish now at this point. The situation began to deteriorate, until suddenly, one man – Nachshon Ben Aminadav, the head of the tribe of Judah, began to enter the waters. First the waters came up to his ankles, then his knees, his waist, then his shoulders. Finally, as he was in up to his nostrils, to the point at which entering further, he would drown, then and only then, the waters parted and the deliverance occurred.

What emerges from this account is a most powerful lesson. The commentaries offer that Nachshon was confident in doing what he did, because after seeing all the miracles that God had done in Egypt, he knew it was impossible for it all to end now. He also knew however, that ours is a partnership with the Almighty, we must do as much as we possibly can, and then and only then, will God take over.

The story is told of the king who announced a contest throughout the land. He promised his fortune to any who could run up the fifty flights in tallest building in town. Naturally, hundreds entered the contest, but almost all dropped out by floor twenty. As the leaders progressed only one remained, as he scaled the thirtieth floor. He too, however, was running out of steam, but he told himself that if the king offered this reward, it must be a doable task. He decided to push himself five more floors and then to re evaluate his condition. As he reached floor thirty five, and realized he was simply out of gas, he could not believe his eyes, as he saw an elevator, which could take him to the top. He had done his utmost to achieve, and now the king, upon seeing his effort, would help finish the job.

Our world is full of challenges, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is hard to make a living, and even if for some, it isn’t, it is hard for many to stay “out of the office” for too long. We live in a world full of sickness, despair, emotional and physical pains that are too painful to even begin to imagine, and impossible to do so unless they are happening to us. Yet, after all is said and done, we have a tradition, a long history that dates back to our forefathers, to Egypt and to Sinai. It tells us that despite our long exiles, our pain, our frustration, ultimately, both personally and nationally, we will be redeemed. Sometimes, however, that redemption doesn’t come until we have done everything humanely possible on our part, until we have buried ourselves “up to our necks.”

We have just concluded the nights of Seder, the ritual that more Jews celebrate than any other. For so many of us, however, the next time we will greet our Rabbis, will be on the High Holidays, nearly half a year away. Religion is difficult, and observance or at least Torah study seem impossible, in light of our hectic, and often impossible days. Yet, most of us do have priorities, and no matter what, somehow we do manage to fit them in, because of their great importance to us. The gym, business trip, hobbies, etc. Would it be possible, perhaps to take 20 minutes a week to learn Hebrew, Talmud, or whatever else strikes our fancy? It may sound impossible, but perhaps if we start with a small commitment, and enter the waters up to our necks, our Sea will also part, and it will become easier to inculcate Torah into our lifestyle.

As that legendary backstop, with ten rings once said:

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”