Drinking On Purim – Old Lows or New Highs

Rugby and beer go together. There’s nothing like an ice cold beer after a hard rugby game. It soothes your aching, wounded body. It makes you relax. After a couple of beers you feel strong again, almost ready for another game or some other adventure. That’s the problem with alcohol, it clouds your judgment. It makes you think you are a different person than you really are. Maybe that’s part of its appeal. We can escape our lives and be someone else, even it is only for a while. I used to enjoy a beer or two after a game, but I saw too many rugby players and others, become a little too adventurous for my liking, to allow myself to get into that situation.

On Purim, we also drink and we also pretend we are someone else. We dress up in costume. But there’s a very important difference. On Purim, we are trying to find out who we really are. We are trying to strip away the external layers which hold us back from getting closer to G-d. That’s why when a true talmid chacham, a Torah scholar, drinks on Purim, what comes out of his mouth is no different than on a regular day. Because who he is internally, is exactly who he is externally.
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Rugby Judaism and the Weather

It is my philosophy that baalei teshuva should not abandon everything about their past when they become observant. Some life experiences from ‘pre-teshuva’ days are valuable when one is observant too. I use my experiences a rugby player to make this point in a somewhat lighthearted way. As winter settles in here in Chicago, I thought I would write about rugby and the weather.

Rugby is not a game for the timid. That is maybe why it is played in the winter. Which in South Africa is from about May until September. Now winters in South Africa are a lot, lot milder than here in Chicago. I used to swim in the ocean in the middle of winter, growing up in Port Elizabeth. However, it still gets cold, wet and windy. When you only have shorts and a rugby jersey to wear, it can be pretty miserable out there on the field.
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Chanukah, the Maccabi Games and the Pintele Yid in Each of Us

If you think about it, it’s very ironic. The Maccabees at the time of the miracle of Chanukah were willing to give up their lives to protect their Jewish values. Their adversaries were the Greeks. The Greeks’ worship of the human body was epitomized by the Olympic Games. Here is the irony: Israel has her own version of the Olympic Games. What are they called? The Maccabi Games!!

My Rabbis at Ohr Somayach would often share this insight around Chanukah time, highlighting the contrast between the Jewish values of the Maccabees and secular values of the Greeks.

Yet I would always remember my own experiences at the Maccabi Games. How two weeks ignited a spark inside me that changed my life and began a spiritual journey that led to me becoming a Rabbi.
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