Baseball, Passover and Rebirth

Baseball, Passover and Rebirth

Opening Day is special. Everything is before us, everything is potential, everyone starts at the same level. The Miami Marlins, expected to be the worst team in baseball, have the same record as the World Series-winning Houston Astros. Anything can happen right now, and everyone starts fresh.

I’m a Yankee fan, so I’ve been counting down to today for five months. Not just because the Yankees might hit 250 home runs, or might have the best bullpen ever, or have a great chance to win the World Series. No, the reason I’m so excited is that my kids are now old enough to share in the excitement.

Just last night, my four-and-a-half year old was “practicing” for Little League, and I was pitching to her from about five feet away. Her timing was pretty good, but she kept missing the ball, and kept trying again. A few pitches later, she socked a solid line drive and started beaming. And for my two-and-a-half year old, whenever sports are on TV at a restaurant (forget about the fact that it might be basketball or hockey or football), he will look up and go, “Go ‘Ankees! Go ‘Ankees!”

As I look towards this new season with my kids, I also keep thinking about my grandfather. He had been a sportswriter in Detroit in the ’30s and ’40s, and was friends with Hank Greenberg. When I was in elementary, middle and high school, my mom and I would go to Arizona over my spring break. He and I would go to Spring Training games, and we’d discuss the intricacies of the game, and even as a die-hard New York Yankees fan, it didn’t matter that we were watching the minor leaguers from San Diego Padres system. Baseball truly transcends the generations, and I truly feel his presence when I think about baseball, because my son is named after him.

Tomorrow is also Passover, and so many of us will be thinking about this intergenerational link. We’ll be thinking about the people we loved who aren’t with us any more, the people whose recipes we still use, the traditions that have been handed down to us. And some of us will be thinking about how to mark the milestones of a new generation: learning to read, becoming (or preparing to become) bar or bat mitzvah, or looking towards college.

And as we celebrate Passover, we’ll also be thinking about the cyclical nature of time — how we sing many of the same songs, eat much of the same food, and celebrate with many of the same people year after year.

Time, in fact, is like a corkscrew. There’s both its linear nature, moving us from the past to the present to the future, and its circular nature, making us feel the same thing each year. We feel it on Passover as we reflect on where we were at this time last year, and what has stayed the same versus what has changed. And we feel it on Opening Day, as we think about how some of our favorite players may have left but new ones have arrived.

But most of all, both Passover and Opening Day are about rebirth. Both happen as winter moves into spring, and so we see the flowers starting to bloom, and feel the weather getting warmer. We taste the parsley and look at the egg on the seder plate, and we’re reminded that spring is here. New possibilities are open to us, including ones we might never have expected. Just think about where Aaron Judge was last year.

Rebirth is really about potential — for liberation, for growth, and for new opportunities. In the spring, on Passover and on Opening Day, everything feels possible. Everything feels hopeful. It’s a great feeling, because we know that soon, reality will set in. For baseball fans, we’ll have to live through slumps, injuries and losing streaks. And for everyone, we’ll deal with illnesses, loss, and setbacks. But as author and psychologist Tali Sharot reminds us in The Optimism Bias, “Hope, whether internally generated or coming from an outside source, enables people to embrace their goals and stay committed to moving towards them” (58).

So whether you are celebrating Passover, or Easter, or Opening Day, take a moment to enjoy the possibilities in front of you. Will they all come true? Of course not. But even just savoring the rebirth and the potential can help us move forward.

Chag sameach!


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