Loosen mein chains, so that they might bind me

"One verse says 'Seven days you shall eat matzah' and one verse says 'Six day you shall eat matzah.' How can both of these verses be maintained? The seventh day was included (in the first verse) but then excluded (from the second verse). That which is excluded from a more inclusive statement is meant to teach us about the whole statement. So, just as on the seventh day it is optional (r'shut), so on all of the other days, it is optional. Does this mean that it is optional on the first night also? The verse 'In the first month, on the fourteenth day in the evening, you shall eat matzah' (Exodus 12:18) fixes it as an obligation (hovah) to eat matzah on the first night."-Mekhilta, Pischa 8 (Lauterbach)

The Jews are a people well-informed by divine hassle. We are a nation of multitudinous laws, the very etchers of the web of neurosis that risks the modern man, and so smitten with inconvenience that sex itself feels a problem in need of resolution. It is only fitting that our loftiest days of worship call upon us not to scale the heights of religious experience or prostrate ourselves before the greater Good—instead, we revel in rituals of inconvenience, that most mealy of ecstasies!

We also built this league. The sport nursed itself to big city glory in the harsh environs of our YMCA-sponsored cage matches. We nearly brought the league to its knees through the Faustian heroics of Jack Molinas. The Knicks remain one of the NBA's marquee teams, only because of our spotless devotion. And in case you've forgotten, we've got our man Stern at the helm for life, a short, Frog and Toad lookalike who's more in-public and grudingly beloved than any commish in the history of professional sports.

Every spring, we celebrate the thoroughly irritating festival of Passover, where for twelve days we alter our daily lives without ever assuming the degree of purity, sacrifice, or suffering that Lent is supposed to bring. Bread, most bland of foodstuffs, ubiquitous, humble, and unnoticed. I am fine with two weeks of steak and international cheeses, but in my smaller moments of here-to-there, I am forced to negotiate a breadless existence. It is an endless technicality, one which hardly stirs the soul or causes the conscience to rumble. A pain in the ass you can't keep off your mind but couldn't possible transform into something interesting--the in-between state that defines a people both overwrought and relentlessly fussy.

We have our sport, its casing, the totally irrational boundaries that separate the charismatic first half from the post-season's dragon zoo. In between the two lies a no-man's land of fandom, a DMZ rushed into existence by the ever-widening gulf between Dime and old people that think LeBron looks like a woman. Remember ye, this is a league as Jewish at its heart as it is black on both sides; this lull, this crazing impasse that shatters the sport's unity, can only be properly viewed in the context of my people's Festival of Spring and Lamb Bones.

I have a problem. I giggle and marvel at this first fifty games of the season, buckle down and foreswear life's living meaning for the playoffs. But what of the last thirty games? I understand that this is when teams make run for April and beyond, and medicore .500 teams secretly hope for a shot at the #1 draft pick; it is also when a sense of urgency seeps into these contests, when rivalries bulge, and grouchy uncles of us all get past their superficial gripes and root for their team. But I, man who has staked several months of missing evenings on an appreciation of a hopelessly flawed patch of (the shadow of) competition, what becomes of me? Where goest I in this fever-dream of squiggly feeling?

Passover. I will say it once, and then say it again. The holiday falls at a different time each year, depending on the appreciable magic of the lunar calendar. Usually, it coincides with the playoffs. As a metaphor, however, it's time is now. I am destined to be burdened, conflicted by the way I've learned to watch thus far. Does this open any new doors of significance? Transform my relationship with the game? No, mostly it just ticks me off. Things don't matter that much. I want to see some flying and silliness; then it's gone. The world can act like it's in a race, and I will keep my pace. This will burn, burr, graze against my innards, but I will keep my tune until it is too late. And that, my friends, is the only right time to change it—if you recognize the beauty of the NBA as a Passover theme park for people like me, for the forgotten. I will enjoy my holiday, then join my more upright peers in the landless future of half-court resolve, where questions can and should be answered.

"The Vision of the Quadrupeds in the Desert: In affliction and distress, where are the lion and lion’s whelp, thence come also asps, and the young of flying asps, there shall they be who bore their wealth on asses and camels to a nation which shall not profit them."-Isaiah, 30:6-7


At 2/22/2005 9:44 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

"We also built this league." And no mention of Red Auerbach? And you call yourself a man of the chosen people?

At 2/22/2005 9:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

anyone who coaches the celtics is irish. just like anyone who lives in nyc is jewish

nonetheless, thanks for calling me out. on my birthday, no less!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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