February 12, 2022
Sports have been an integral part of my life as far back as I can recall. Although I don’t actually remember receiving my first soccer ball while still in my crib, too young to even walk, I do remember being captivated as a child by a photograph of me in that same crib with a soccer ball that was almost as big as I was.
Besides the obvious health and fitness benefits of athletics, I learned over the years that sports have a tremendous influence on our social norms, development of loyalties, and ultimately on embracing the values of responsibility, dedication, and respect, among other important values.
Although in this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, we are not introduced to any winter sports or biblical Superbowls, we do read an interesting account about Aaron’s “uniform” as the High Priest. And like any other uniform, Aaron wore the team’s name on the front of his outfit, “Thus shall Aaron carry the names of the Tribes of Israel … over his heart” (Exodus 28:29), and personalized the uniform on his back where, “Aaron carried [the Tribes’] names … upon his shoulders as a remembrance” (Ex. 28:12).
Some might rightly point out that Aaron’s “jersey” had his team’s name, the “Tribes of Israel”, on both the front and back, and they’d be correct to call out this oddity. However, there are plenty of teams who choose to leave the back of their jerseys blank because of their belief that “it’s about the team, not the individual” (Penn State, USC, Notre Dame, and all the military academies to name a few). In fact, a few years ago my alma mater, Rutgers University football team, wore jerseys that read “F.A.M.I.L.Y.” on the back, which stood for the acronym “Forget About Me I Love You.”
Now, Aaron’s uniform was not intended to be used for sport, however, it did have every intention of being used to project a very specific image, to highlight a very specific responsibility, and to be worn while fulfilling very specific tasks. Global icon and fashion designer Ralph [Lifshitz] Lauren once said, “I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” Similarly, Gd’s design for Aaron’s uniform was to send a clear message that although Aaron would take on the role of High Priest, and possess great responsibility, therefore needing an appropriate uniform to wear while carrying out these duties, Aaron was not Gdly. Aaron was human and represented the people and his uniform was to encourage the people to dream that they too could connect with Gd in their own way.
The takeaway from this week’s words of Torah is that each of us is an independent member of our respective teams. Whether it’s team-family, our work team, spiritual team, or even our fan base, we can be independent, but we cannot operate in isolation. We are social beings.
The past two years have created a drought of volunteers needed to fill hundreds of responsibilities across our community. This week I encourage us all to find some time between cheering on our national teams at the Olympics, or our NFL team during the Superbowl, to dust off our volunteer jerseys and reach out to our local agencies and synagogues. It’s time to connect with our community again, and be…