CSJL Logo Center for Sport and Jewish Life
Home About Us Articles Health & Fitness Teens Youth Sports Auction Donate Links Contact
Page Font Size:

Articles > Has YOUR Favorite Team Got a Prayer?

By Adina Erdfarb

Fans will go to desperate measures to ensure their favorite team’s victory, be it a professional team or a school team. Sports lovers have fabricated superstitions, curses and anything else, both plausible and implausible. We, as Jews, know that all superstitions are empty gestures or beliefs in the face of HaShem. The only way to possibly get what we want is through davening. But does HaShem even listen to the prayers that we say on behalf of our sports teams? Does he consider fulfilling our requests for something so insignificant? Danielle S., (15) says, “You cannot just make a deal with HaShem to win.’

Let us think about it: according to Judah Halevi’s statement in Sefer Ha’Kuzari (1506), prayer is our way to escape the materialistic world, and a gateway into a more spiritual world. Can you think of a more materialistic aspect of our modern world than sports? Inflated salaries and greedy athletes are only a small part of the organization that just keeps inhaling more and more money. In addition, if HaShem would listen to our prayers and grant victory to our beloved pro sports teams, we would end up just feeding them more money; bonuses for overachieving are common in today’s world of professional sports.

Furthermore, prayer is supposed to spur happiness. If HaShem, for whatever reason, chooses not to lead the team we pray for to victory, anything but happiness will result. Depression, frustration, and many other negative emotions will be displayed as a result of unanswered prayers. One who davens and expects Hashem to answer the prayer regardless of the request might invest so much confidence and hope in the matter being prayed for - and in HaShem - that lack of fulfillment may bring disastrous results.

Which brings us back to the question: will Hashem actually listen to these types of prayers? According to Esti N., age 15, Hashem always listens to what we say. Whether He chooses to answer is up to him. Danielle L. (15) contends that “He gives us what we deserve.” So it is not a question of listening; it is a question of deserving it.

Not only should we question ourselves whether or not we deserve for our prayers for our teams to be answered, but we must also wonder whether or not we should “waste” our prayers on something so insignificant as winning a game. Are there not more important things to worry about, such as health and world events? Sports can play a major role in teenagers’ lives, but it should not take over one’s values and priorities.

Says fifteen-year-old Aviva S.: HaShem is not really going to answer your prayers for sports and stuff like that because it’s not a main priority. But people will still pray anyways because they feel that if their team loses it’s because they didn’t daven. And if their team wins, they feel it’s because HaShem listened to them. So despite all of our conclusions that it is not worthwhile to waste prayer on trivial matters such as sports, people still feel their prayers makes a difference. Is that right?

We, being humans, cannot determine HaShem’s reasons for doing what He does. Not everything needs to be rationalized and logical. If HaShem chooses to make the top-ranked team in any league lose to an underdog, so be it. We cannot give explanations for Hashem’s mysterious ways.

So the next time you are davening “Sh’monah Esrei” on the day of a big game, think before opening your mouth to HaShem. If you plan on asking from Him to guide your team to victory, you must first realize what you are doing. There is a notion that humans have a limited amount of words in this world. Would you really choose to use your words to pray for a team’s victory, which in the scheme of things is really not all that important? Once you say something you cannot take it back. Once a team loses, the loss cannot be undone. Prayer does not ensure the answer you want. HaShem knows what He is doing, and everything happens for a reason. There is a reason that a number one seed may lose to a number 16 seed. Let the world run as HaShem wants, and do not try to interfere. Your efforts may end up being in vain, and you may, G-d forbid, hint that you disapprove of HaShem’s way of the running the world. Who wants to listen to that? Nobody. By davening for something so insignificant, you cannot win in HaShem’s eyes.

Notes:

HaShem: literally, “the Name”, is a way that some Jews refer to the Almighty, as a sign of utmost respect, based on the belief that the holy name of the Lord could only be spoken by the High Priest on Yom Kippur.

Daven: a Yiddish term for praying

Judah Halevi: Spanish-Jewish poet and philosopher 91075-1141) who wrote in Hebrew, known for his poems of adoration for the Land of Israel, and his philosophical work entitled Ha’Kuzari, after the king of the Khazars, whose conversion to Judaism provides the background for the book and its exploration of Jewish beliefs.

Adina Erdfarb, age 15, of Highland Park, NJ, is currently a tenth grader at Bruriah High School in Elizabeth, NJ. She is the starting third baseman of her school softball team. She loves playing and watching baseball, basketball, and football, and is an avid New York Yankees fan.

Copyright 2004-2014 by The Center for Sport and Jewish Life.  All rights reserved.