Thought for Shabbat – May 24, 2019
Sometimes the best sports stories are not the ones that happen on the field, court or ice. As a fan, I am often more moved by the human interest stories, the back stories, the ones that don’t appear in a box score. Often these stories are about faith, family and challenges. One of those stories appeared and gave me pause during the Western Conference semi-finals of the NBA playoffs, when we learned the story of Enis Kanter, a Portland Trailblazer who also happens to be Muslim.
As it turns out, the basketball playoffs take place during the Muslim observance of Ramadan, a time of fasting that does not allow Kanter to eat or drink during the daytime. ESPN detailed how he would get up very early in the dark hours of the morning to take in some calories before the game that would be played much later that night. While his teammates drank water during the game and rehydrated, Kanter did not drink until the time for fasting was over. I was reminded of Morrie Arnovich, a 1930’s era major league baseball player who worked hard to keep kosher while staying in the major leagues with the Phillies, Reds and Giants, and of course Sandy Koufax who declined to pitch on Yom Kippur in the 1965 World Series. I thought of Eric Lidell whose story of refusing to run on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, was made famous in the movie, Chariots of Fire.
I thought about Kanter and the others a few nights ago when I sat alongside several of our Adat Shalom members at the Muslim Association of Pittsburgh for an interfaith Ramadan experience. We listened to religious leaders and politicians speak in words of welcome and common goals. References were made to the tragedies at Tree of Life and Christchurch and how communities came together. When the imam spoke, he said that he was tired of talking about coming together after tragedy, of creating circles of peace around congregations of all kinds. This was not because he did not appreciate it, but because he was praying for an end to these tragedies and having to talk about them.
We were welcomed further to break the Ramadan fast that night following the program. We sat with Muslims, Christians and other Jews and ate together. And as we sat there, we realized that we had so much in common. As people of faith, we often make sacrifices to honor our faith while living in the modern world. We give ourselves over to something higher. We are brothers and sisters in faith.
We don’t need to agree with someone to respect their beliefs. We can honor their devotion. Shared faith, even when it is not the same faith, strengthens our world. It is only when faith is used to divide, when it claims superiority and exclusive truth, that all communities of faith are demeaned.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer
As we come to a holiday weekend, your support for our Sunday morning minyan would be greatly appreciated at 9 am this Sunday.
Word/Phrase for the week – Shemitah – the every seven year period during which the land in Israel is supposed to go unplanted and debts are forgiven. We are reminded here that our ownership of land is still subject to the laws of God and that economic fairness is a cornerstone of our faith.