Rabbi's Message: Volume 25, No. 2: Sep. 2007 - Tishri 5768


Volume 25, No. 2: Sep. 2007 - Tishri 5768

Subject: Rabbi's Message: Sep. 2007 - Tishri 5768: Take Stock and "Bonds"

As Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run and takes exclusive possession of the title, "Baseball's all-time home run king," the controversy about his record continues among most baseball fans and even by some who don't care about baseball. What are the boundaries of fairness? Did the Vanderbilts play fair when they made it to the top in the railroad business? Did John D. Rockefeller play fair when he made it to the top in the oil business? Or to return to baseball, should the great spit-baller, Gaylord Perry, be relegated to some kind of historical trash pile for his many successes using illegal methods?

What motivates these individuals to attempt to succeed at stratospheric levels? I don't have one answer, but I propose the following:

1. As individuals, we love our Andy Warhol "15-minutes of fame." Why else will people do the most preposterous things to get listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records?"

2. As a society, we love records and every time a record is broken, a new person aspires to be the all-time best. What are the boundaries of "legal?" If I am a swimmer and shave my body before a race to reduce friction: legal or not? If I am a bobsledder and I turn my sled toward the sun to pre-heat the runners: legal or not? As long as our society values these kinds of records, there will always be someone who will seek a new method by which to achieve the record.

As to Bonds, faced with lesser players elevating their performances and no enforcement, what is he to do? Is he like the guy filling out his income taxes "knowingly incorrect" and saying, "everybody else is doing it."

I'd like to suggest that this time of year is a time to reflect and take stock of where we are and what we aspire to be. Ultimately, what I believe that I teach and what Judaism teaches, play fair (i.e. do mitsvot). For most of us that will lead to enough "stocks and bonds" on which to retire rather than taking stock of our "Bonds' moments."

From Karen and me, best wishes for a happy, sweet, healthy and prosperous New Year and in have that great year by having a "fair year."


Joshua L. Segal

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