I love being Jewish, and I’m a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. At first, the two don’t seem incompatible.
I can be both Jewish and a Packers fan at the same time. I know which one takes precedence in life, or at least I should — Judaism, of course.
Then why is it so much easier for me to be revved-up for a Packers game than to be excited about spirituality? I inherently know spirituality is more fulfilling and important than football, and I have tried to be more spiritual.
I go to synagogue every Shabbat. I study the weekly Torah portion. I read articles on Jewish websites. Daily I put on tefillin (prayer boxes). Several years ago my wife and I even decided to keep the Jewish dietary laws. I’m not shirking my Jewish responsibilities.
Yet, there has to be something missing in my spiritual service when I’m more interested in watching a Packers game than going to a prayer service. I admit, albeit ashamedly, that I even opt to watch the Packers over spending those three hours on a Sunday with my son.
I guess there’s nothing wrong with having some me-time. It’s not as if I’m neglecting my son the rest of the week.
Even during Packer games, I’ve forced myself to have family time. My family and I went apple-picking in mid October during the Packers/St. Louis Rams game.
Yet, I felt like I was missing a monumental event when I couldn’t watch the game. Someone else picking apples was listening to the game on his mini-radio, so I bent my neck to listen to the score instead of being in the moment with my son.
Why do the Packers have such a hold over me?
Harder to find
I’m glad the Packers have winning seasons, yet it really upsets me when the Packers lose. In seasons past, when the Packers lose it ruins my Sunday and brings about a gloomier Monday.
Logically, there is no reason that a ball game should affect my emotions. A few days ago I forgot to put on tefillin, and at night when I realized this I was upset because I missed the chance to do a mitzvah (commandment). Yet, I’m not convinced that I am more upset by that than I am if the Packers lose.
In the beginning of December, my immediate family and I together watched the Packers beat the New York Giants with a last second field goal. The tension in our house before the field goal was enormous, my heart was through my throat, and we breathed the biggest sigh of relief and exalted as the ball went through the uprights.
On the one hand, it was a bonding experience for us. On the other, I still wish I could be as excited about learning a new Torah concept as I am about a game-winning field goal.
I’m not a sports psychologist, if such a profession actually exists, so I can’t expertly talk about why people get so enamored by sports, but I do know a little bit about Torah. (Dare I say I even know more about Judaism than about football?)
G-d does not bombard us with obvious overt signs of spirituality. It’s more concealed, hidden.
When I go to the mall, every other person is wearing a Packers shirt. When I turn on TV, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is advertising for a truck. When I listen to disc jockeys during my morning commute, even non-sports talk radio, the focus is on the Packers. When I return to work Monday morning, my coworkers ask, “Did you see that interception?” It’s pervasive.
Although spirituality can also be found everywhere, it’s harder to find. You really have to look for it.
G-d does this on purpose. G-d purposely does not make overt spirituality as easily seen as advertisements on TV and billboards.
It has been said that if G-d were to bombard us with spirituality like we’re bombarded with advertisements, and reserved the advertisements for dusty books on the shelf, our spiritual lives would be much greater. Yet, it’s through the hard work of delving into spirituality that we become more spiritual.
If spirituality were as obvious and pervasive as the Packers are in Wisconsin, then we would not get the satisfaction of working and achieving through spirituality.
With the Packers, I’m vicariously living each game through the players. With my own spirituality, it’s my own work that determines my fulfillment in life.
I’m still under the Packers spell. But if I work hard enough at it, maybe someday a Packers loss will not be so traumatic. Maybe I could spend more time with my son on Sunday afternoons. Maybe part of my mood on Mondays won’t be determined by how well the Packers did on Sunday.
If I work hard enough at it, maybe I can recognize the spirituality in everything and make spirituality in my life more pervasive. If I can do that, then the Packers truly did uplift me to a new spiritual level.
Joshua Becker is a Spanish teacher for Shorewood Public Schools and a freelance writer.