Like the rest of the country, Jewish LearningWorks is deeply divided, each side unable to understand the other. This division is, of course, between the baseball fans and the non-baseball fans. Though the gulf may appear un-bridgeable, we find the common humanity in all of us.
Giants fans began this season with high hopes. Our team made important acquisitions, filled some holes. Moreover, it's an even year - we won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014 (Yeah, "
won." Like, religion, baseball is a team sport - I'm all in with the Jewish people and I'm all in with the Giants.).
The season started out well. At the All-Star Break, we had the best record in baseball.
Then, the bottom fell out. As good as the first half was, that's how bad the second half went. It appeared the season would be lost. The team rallied in the last week and just barely crawled into the playoffs.
First - a do or die game in New York against the Mets. It's a pitchers' duel, 0-0. In the 9
inning, Conor Gillaspie comes to bat with two runners on and two out.
A highly regarded college player; the Giants drafted Gillaspie with great expectations. He flamed out, bounced around for the next few years and never made it at the big league level. By last winter, he was out of baseball - another prospect who never lived up to his promise.
This year, Gillaspie signed a minor league contract with the Giants - one final shot at making it. Gillaspie reflected on his career and his attitude - "I did some soul-searching," he said. He was a cocky over-achiever when he came up as a rookie. The game humbled him and he was determined to approach it and his teammates differently.
in Hebrew) is considered a foundational
(virtue). We tend to think of humility as diminishment - the person with low self-esteem who never speaks up. In contrast, Jewish tradition aligns humility with balance - lose the arrogance that places us above others (and thus, unable to learn from them) as well as excessive humbleness that places us below others (and thus, unable to use our power to repair the world). "
No more than my space, no less than my place
," says Alan Morinis of The Mussar Institute.
The arrogant Gillaspie would not have properly prepared for the moment and likely would've struck out. An overly humble Gillaspie wouldn't have swung, and would have missed his opportunity. Properly balanced with
, Gillaspie was ready for the moment, swung at a hanging slider, and knocked it over the fence for a three run homer - winning the game for the Giants.
We've all been on Gillaspie's journey. Who among us has not experienced failure, disappointment, missteps, regret? Indeed, we experience them EVERY YEAR. Our tradition affords us the means to reflect, recalibrate, and overcome them. Now's the time.
Yonatan Sredni, an Israeli who grew up here (and attended South Peninsula Hebrew Day School) writes
a weekly blog on the Torah portion
. I was taken with this week's entry:
...the headline from the NY Times is telling, "
Conor Gillaspie's Winning Homer Culminated a Journey of Soul-Searching"
After all, what is this period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur all about? The headline for this time of year should be:
"Yom Kippur Culminates a Journey of Soul-Searching for all Jews."
Conor Gillaspie was a ballplayer who had lost his way. But, he never gave up. He worked hard, he had people who believed in him and encouraged him, and when given the opportunity to do something great, he delivered (big time!).
We may not be major league baseball players, but
we have lost our way over the past year
. Regardless of our deeds over the course of the last year, during this period God gives us a chance to step into the batter's box on the biggest day of the year, Yom Kippur.
And unlike in baseball, God doesn't throw us any curveballs, he gives us pitches we can handle, all we need to do is swing the bat as hard as we can and make sincere contact (he'll do the rest).
So, what are we waiting for? Batter up!