As each of you come to know me, you will quickly find my Judaism and my family are most important to me. My next love is baseball and the New York Yankees, in particular. There is a relationship between this week'sparsha, Mas'ei, and baseball. Baseball relies heavily on numbers. Ask any fan (especially a Yankee one) what 56, 60 and 61 represent, and they will gladly enlighten you.
My favorite player is Yankee, Derek Jeter. He engenders the same kind of respect and adulation that Tim Duncan does. Sadly, he has announced his retirement and is making a final soiree around the baseball world this season. I am still reveling in the emotional introduction he got at last week's All Star Game. As is my wont, I began to reflect on the relationship of that to this week's parsha.
Moses is at the end of his time as he leads the Israelites to the banks of the Jordan River. Moses, like Jeter, knows his time is up. Moses recounts the 42 sites through which the Israelites traveled and then speaks of the six cities of refuge. This comes on the heels of another census. Just like baseball, numbers apparently really do matter.
Is there any significance to the 42 stops? Forty two are the initials which form the secret 42 letter Name of God. The people are getting ready to enter the Land. Heretofore they had the divine assistance of God to provide everything, among them the manna, the clouds to keep them from getting scorched, and actually hearing the voice of God. Upon entering the Land, they will be in an agrarian society-on their own, is one well-known assessment.
In some synagogues right before Lechah Dodi, the prayer Ana B'choach is recited. It is seven lines with six words on each line, the same 42! Six days of creation and with rest on the seventh. As we go from the work week to Shabbat Friday night, we are making a demarcation, just like our forefathers did when they entered the Land.
How does this parsha further dovetail with Derek Jeter? Like Tim Duncan, his character and demeanor are at the highest level for what seems like forever and ever. His name is above reproach, both on and off the field. Many of you are not baseball fans, but there are well-known players who have unquestionably had their names sullied, such as Roger Clemens, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGuire, serving only to make Derek Jeter look even more sterling.
Our names are extremely precious. We have to live and behave "by the Book" to make and keep them valuable. As we read in the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 7:1, "A good name is better than fragrant oil and the day of death than the day of birth." [i]
In light of the recent events in Israel, Am Yisrael Chai!
(Click Here to see a video from 2010 to sing along!)
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham
[i] What does oil have to do with one's name? I did not initially know. A good name is compared to oil more than to other liquids. When you put oil into water it floats or rises and is recognizable. With other liquids when you put water into them, they absorb it. It is only upon death the real assessment is made.