Prayers and Players


I received this email rather late in the evening the other day.  I’m guessing you all got it, but just in case, I thought you might be interested.

Shabbat Shalom




Dear Hevreh,

I know this must be weird, an email from God… Let’s face it, this is so not my style.  Ever since the big miracle days I prefer signs and omens.  I go with the subtle approach, the corner of the eye kind of sign that makes you guys do double takes.  You know, those, “Hey did you see that?  Huh?  Did you?”  See and now I realize I used the word ‘guys’ as an all-inclusive noun.  Is the word ‘guys’ colloquial or do women hate it? I don’t really like words – they tend to cause more problems than they’re worth.  Language…

Anyway, let me share with you the reason for my writing.  This whole Super Bowl XLVI thing has Me a bit, well, I guess bewildered would be the right word.  What’s all this talk, what’re all of these words about the Super Bowl and praying? Cute Gisele Bundchen emailing friends to say a prayer for her equally cute husband Tom Brady is just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve been mulling this over ever since all the hoopla about that kid Tim Tebow or Tivo or whatever his name is.  I mean, seriously, human beings, why are you bugging me about games?  Look, I know you like games.  You’ve always liked to play: feats of strength, wrestling, running in circles, throwing spears and javelins and discuses and balls and shot puts (you do love to throw), curling, broomball, Thunderdome, cricket (which I still don’t understand – and I’m God…), and so many more.  You seem to have so much fun with them, though the cruelty of some games is crazy.  Anyway, go in good health – gei gezunter heit.

But do you really think I have any interest in your games at all?  If I were a human, which I’m not, and I know that’s going to cause some problems with my Christian friends, but so be it, I’d be one of those folks going to the movies this Sunday night – even if I lived in Foxboro.  Games are all and only about you.  I’m honored when that big David Ortiz fellow points up to the Heavens when he crosses home plate (ok, I follow the game a little bit).  I think all that crossing some Catholic athletes do before swinging, catching, riding or punching someone is authentic and honorable, but utterly without the faintest connection to Me. 

If David Ortiz makes a homerun, don’t thank Me.  I had nothing to do with it.  If Tom Brady throws for 400 yards and 7 touchdowns on Sunday, I’ll be happy for him.  But it won’t be because his cute wife did a chainmail prayer circle.  Hand-eye coordination, amazing skill, is all you.  How does a quarterback throw a ball 25 yards and have it end up in the arms of a man running at top speed who’s not even looking for the ball?  Do you think I really understand that?  Do you think I gave Mozart his composing genius?  Do think I had anything to do with how Coltrane created sheets of sound from one horn?  Do think I endowed Stephen Hawking with his genius?  That’s not Me.  My genius – and here I’m not being very humble – my genius is that I made certain you are replicas of no one else. Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, that Facebook kid, Sister Theresa, Billie Holiday, Marie Curie, etc., etc… You’re all unique treasures.  I spend no more time on the NFL than I do on the softball time from Cromwell, CT or the lizard bladder contest in Belize.  I love the hopelessly disabled man institutionalized in a small boarding facility with the same love I shower upon Heidi Klum AND Seal.

While I agree that there is a prayer for the Czar, there’s no prayer for winning a game – or losing one, for that matter.  So stop asking rabbis and ministers and priests and imams and sorcerers and Zen masters to pray for a win.  It’s not going to work.

Here’s what you can do.  Recite these words before the Super Bowl, and before the end of every day: Thank you for my life and my consciousness and my perception and the opportunity I have to live my life with joy and thanks for those around me who make my life complete.  Thank you for Tom Brady and his teammates.  Thanks for the cooks at Blue Ribbon Barbeque.  Thanks for the fire fighter who is prepared to save me and mine.  Thank you for the people who make this world crazy, magnificent, and confusing.  Thank you for inspiration to be my best self.

You’re welcome.






Temple Beth Avodah

45 puddingstone lane, newton, massachusetts 02459

617.527.0045  Email Rabbi Stern  




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