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Visions and Baseball Gloves

Thursday, 15 July, 2010 - 10:00 pm

My two sons are at the ages where sports reign supreme. They are finally ready for their own baseball gloves.  And they have let my wife and me know that.

We decided that receiving the mitts would be contingent on how well they studied. It’s especially important to create incentives for academic diligence, in particular Torah study, during the summer months. 

I was about to tell them that when they learned a specific amount of Tanya by heart, we would purchase the gloves for them. But then my wife reminded me of the meaning of this Shabbat. It is the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av, the day of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. It is considered a tragic day in Jewish history and is marked by mourning and fasting.

The Shabbat before Tisha B’Av is referred to as Shabbat Chazon. The name is deduced from the opening words of the special Haftorah read this week. But tradition teaches us that the word “chazon,” literally “vision,” is not just a reference to prophecy in general, but a specific message to the week ahead. To be sure, the Haftorah speaks of the future redemption – a sort of consolation before the mourning fully sets in. Thus, Chassidic tradition teaches that on this Shabbat G-d shows the Jewish people a mystical vision of the Third Beit HaMikdash (Temple), reminding us that it will ultimately be rebuilt.

The famed Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev used the following analogy in reference to this Shabbat:

A father bought his child a fine suit. The son, not realizing the great value of this garment, proceeded to play in it and ruined it. His compassionate father replaced it with a suit of equal quality. Soon enough, it too was relegated to the recycle bin. At this point the father went and bought a third suit. Needless to say, it too was of superior quality. But this time he did not present it to his son for use. Rather he showed it to his son and proclaimed, “When you demonstrate that you can respect the attire by wearing your clothing properly, I will see that you are suitable for this suit. At that point only will I give it to you to wear.”

Similarly, taught Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, we were privileged to have two homes for G-d here on Earth. Unfortunately, we were deemed unworthy of retaining them. But G-d desperately wants to reunite with us. Every year, prior to the anniversary of the Temples’ destruction, He reminds us of His love affair with the Jewish people, by once again taking that suit (Temple) out of the closet to show us, “When you are deserving, it will be yours.”

So instead of making promises to my kids, I went to the store and bought two baseball gloves.  I proudly displayed them to the boys, with the message that I was eager to give them the gloves – just as soon as they showed they were ready. And now, they are eager to study some Tanya.

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