On Sunday night, February 13, while the Super Bowl drew a lot of attention, there was something much more attention-grabbing and meaningful. “Halftime for Torah” kicked off a rousing touchdown into the viewers’ hearts. First, Charlie Harary, well-known motivational speaker, shared that we tend to forget the journey of those playing in the Super Bowl. He noted how the Torah instructs us to procure pure olive oil crushed for illumination to raise up the Ner Tamid. The question is that we know the olives have to be crushed in order to produce oil. Why does the Torah say crushed for illumination to elevate? Olive oil represents fruit that is bitter. This symbolizes hard times. Hashem is teaching us to take hard times, crush them – work them – and from it we will raise ourselves in life.
We have to recognize that within the challenge, we will work it to illuminate. “You know this will light you up.” Mr. Harary taught that these olives are crushed to illuminate. That’s the power of the challenge. You’re going to raise up. Don’t let the challenge take over! “In the challenge is liquid that will lift you up in life.”
He added, “You need to know that challenges make you great.” He then pointed out that Joe Burrow, a quarterback on the Cincinnati Bengals, is a superstar. Yet, no one drafted him, and scouts told him he did not have a shot at being a star player. He overcame challenge after challenge. He was passed over in Ohio State and other places. Mr. Harary emphasized, “Watch his resilience. You can smell it. He never gave up on himself and his dreams.” Watch him play. You can learn from it. He worked himself because he knew he was going to illuminate. “Every time they bench him, he gets back up again.” He pointed out, “If you’re alive, you’ve got challenges.” When you’re in a challenge, say to yourself, “There will be something to light me up.” Charlie Harary explained, “So, you’re playing in your own Super Bowl. You have to know in your core that Hashem brings you challenges to make you great.”
Next, Rabbi Paysach Krohn, well-known mohel, author, and speaker, shared three important super lessons for life from the Super Bowl. In 2017, the New England Patriots were losing in the Super Bowl, 28-3. Remarkably, Tom Brady, football quarterback, brought the team back against all odds and they won, 34-28. This proved that you could come back if you surround yourself with good people and you are determined that you can do anything. He drew a comparison to davening. If you want to daven with more kavanah, then work on it one play at a time, meaning one t’filah at a time. Also, surround yourself with good mentors.
The second lesson was taught by a short goal kicker on the Miami Dolphins, Garo Yapremian. In the Super Bowl of 1973, this kicker made one of the worst mistakes in football because he wasn’t prepared to receive the ball after a blocked kick. Miami had a perfect season. There were a few minutes left to the game. The score was Miami 14 and the Washington Redskins 0. Mr. Yapremian tried to kick a field goal but it was blocked and the football came right back to him. He panicked and tried to throw the football, which he had never done before. It was intercepted and led to a touchdown for the Washington Redskins. The score became 14-7. The lesson here is that if you are not prepared for a pressure situation, you will have trouble. In the first pasuk in T’hilim, it says, “Don’t go in the way of evil people. Be prepared.” In other words, don’t go with people who go to the wrong places. Prepare in advance for difficult situations.
Rabbi Krohn added that the two-minute warning was instituted in football in 1942, right before halftime and at the end of the game so both teams can regroup. Rav Pam once wrote a get-well letter to a man who was in the hospital. That man proudly showed the letter to everyone, and it gave him great chizuk. Rav Pam said that this was frightening, because it only took two minutes to write that letter; that highlights that there is so much more that one could be accomplishing in two minutes. Rabbi Krohn suggested that we use two minutes for reciting T’hilim, calling a lonely person, learning, etc. Sarah Schenirer had a famous quote from T’hilim: “Count our days. Make every day count. Make every second count.” We all live in the field of life. To score the ultimate field goal, take these three lessons and apply them.
Following this, Rabbi Gavriel Friedman, motivational speaker, spoke about John Havlicek who played basketball on the Boston Celtics. He was a serious worker, and he was always the first one at practice. In the Gemara (Maseches Megillah), Rav Preida’s students ask him why he merited such a long life. He replied that in his whole life, no one ever beat him to being first in the beis midrash. Bil’am woke in the morning and saddled his own donkey. He had servants, but he did it to show how much he hated klal Yisrael. In contrast, Avraham woke early in the morning and saddled his own donkey in order to serve Hashem. Avraham put spiritual DNA into klal Yisrael. We need to tap into this and get up early in the morning to draw close to Hashem. Hashem should give us this brachah to tap into this amazing gift.
Next, Rabbi Yoel Gold, well-known speaker, shared the story of Yonatan Razel. Yonatan Razel is an Israeli singer, writer, composer, musical arranger, and conductor. In 2009, he received a dream offer to come to New York and become a musical star. He was excited, but there were some halachic difficulties and he consulted with his rav. Based on his rav’s advice, he decided to turn down the offer.
Shortly after this, he wrote a song, which he played for a few people, but no one seemed excited about it so he put it away. Shortly after this, Yaakov Shwekey was in Israel and met with him and asked if he had any new songs. He played the song for him and then magic happened. Yaakov Shwekey performed it with him and “V’Hi SheAmdah” was successful and won an award as “Song of the Decade” from the religious Israeli radio station “Kol Chai.”
The story shows how Yonatan stuck to his religious beliefs and followed his rav’s advice even when it appeared he was losing out on the biggest opportunity of his musical career. Hashem repaid him with fame through a holy way, and his musical talent was showcased in this way. Rabbi Gold said that Hashem sent a kosher offer with kiddush Hashem. This is a reminder that we should never compromise our values to gain success. Hashem has many ways to bring us success.
This wonderful program can be viewed on TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber