Friday, January 05, 2007


This Table Talk is dedicated to the memory of Dovid ben Gershon, one of the great “shleimut” oriented people who ever walked this planet (explanation below). To dedicate a future Table Talk, send an email.


The question of the week is this: When you’re playing a football, basketball or baseball game (or any game), what do you want to happen?

If you ask that to an average person, especially a young person, he or she will probably look at you as if to say, “That’s the dumbest question I heard this week!” If someone reacts that way to the question, tell them this story.

This story has been going around the Jewish world for a few years.

It’s about a boy named Shaya. Shaya was “special”. He was slower than the other boys. His brain worked slower and his body worked slower.

Shaya attended a Jewish boys’ school and he played with his classmates on a Jewish baseball league. Their team was called the Allstars.

Shaya wasn’t very good. He couldn’t hit the ball, he couldn’t catch the ball, he always forgot which way to run.

But his classmates were nice to him, always gave him a high-five and he loved being part of the team, wearing the uniform and getting his turn at bat just like the other boys.

At the end of the sixth-grade season, the Allstars had made it into the championship game against the Whitesox. At the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, the Allstars were down by two points, there was one man on base and guess what....Shaya was up.

If I told you that they put someone else up in his place that would be untrue. His team put Shaya up in the normal batting order (rules are rules after all...). They all realized that they were not going to win the game, but they encouraged Shaya anyway, why shouldn’t he have fun? “Go gettem, Shaya!” Who knows, maybe there would be a miracle?

When the Whitesox pitcher saw who was up to bat, he smiled and walked halfway to home plate. Then he pitched the slowest underhand pitch he could. Shaya swung and missed.

“That’s OK, Shaya,” his teammates shouted. “Keep your eye on that ball!”

The pitcher took a few steps closer and pitched again, as gingerly as he could launch that ball. Shaya swung and missed.

Then one of Shaya’s teammates stepped up behind him and helped him hold the bat. The Whitesox pitcher tossed a third lazy ball, right over the strike zone. With help, Shaya made contact on the ball and it went in a lazy arch right towards the pitcher.

This is when the excitement started. The Whitesox pitcher dodged the ball and let it land on the ground. Seeing that it was a fair ball, Shaya’s teammates yelled, “Run, Shaya, run!!” Shaya started to run the wrong way and his batting-buddy steered him towards first base.

Meanwhile, the Whitesox pitcher picked up the ball and through it towards first base. But he threw it in such a high arc that it went way over the head of the firstbaseman and landed near the edge of the field. Shaya was still running, and his teammates were all yelling, “Run Shaya, run!!” When Shaya got to first, he hesitated but his coach pointed him towards second. Meanwhile, the firstbaseman had retrieved the ball and was throwing it towards second. But he, too, overthrew his teammate by a mile, allowing Shaya to make it to second. Already Shaya’s two teammates who had been on base made it home and the score was tied. By now, everyone, not only the Allstars but even the Whitesox, they were going crazy, yelling “Run, Shaya, run!” Shaya was running for his life!

The same thing happened at third – the outfielder who picked up the ball threw it over the head of the thirdbaseman and Shaya rounded third! He was on his way home and all of the parents in the stands were on their feet, everyone was yelling, “Run, Shaya, run!!”

When Shaya made it home, he was swarmed by both teams, the Allstars and the Whitesox, who lifted him up on their shoulders and chanted, “Shaya, Shaya, Shaya!”

Some people hear this story and they are put off, because sports is about winning, right?

Those boys reached sheleimut that day. Same root as shalom. Maybe you can define it. More important, can this value be taught? Or does it just happen?

By the way, in case you don’t believe that such a story would ever happen, watch this amazing newsreel from Rochester, NY:

Then ask yourself, again: Can this value be taught, or does it just happen?

Shabbat Shalom.

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