Happy New Year..OR..The Theology of “If Only…….”

OK, for the purpose of full disclosure, this reflection is very biased. It is April 6. Happy “new year”! And for those of you who know me, you know I refer to opening day of the baseball season, a sacred day for some of us. Ok, so stop giggling because many of you will react by saying what is the big deal this year in Philly. Vegas has us like 250:1 to win the Series (the longest odds ever) and our starting outfield has a total, last year, of I think 5 home runs. We have 1 proven pitcher, and everyone expects he will be traded. The farm system is, by all accounts, pretty dry. So, why the celebration?
Well, as baseball fans know, “ya never know!”. If only the third baseman has a breakout year, if only a few of the kids get to play and mature, if only Cliff Lee’s elbow miraculously heals…if only!! And yes, I have paid for my Sunday season ticket plan. You see, it really is more than “just” a game. There is a sense of tradition. Just as my dad took me, and I have taken my kids, and now my grand-children (their Afikomen prize was a Spring training T-shirt), there is something about bonding with your children while discussing the strategy of hit away or bunt. In fact, that alone time with those children, in reality and in retrospect, actually trumps the game.
And then there is the Jewish value of hope. Because, “ya never know!”. Like life (and that is one of the reaons why there seems to be an affinity between rabbis and baseball, I think), you never know what will happen. You can plan and plot, but once the “game” starts, it is, in many ways, out of your control. And the test is, of course, how you handle that random life event or play. In all of this is embedded the idea of hope; maybe things will be OK, if only we can manage this or that, then maybe all will work out. Maybe things will work out, if only a few things fall into place. And,if they do not? Well, there is always next year.
A lot has been, and will be written on the symbolism of baseball , life and even Judaism. Why, we actually used the new Baseball Hagaddah at one of our seders this year. I do not intend to wax metaphoric on all of this. It is opening day and the weather is good and the sun is shining and the Phillies are tied for 1st (at least until about 7pm). So why not enjoy it, enjoy the moment and hope. After all, if only……..
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min
Citizens Bank Park. Section 317

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