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Hurry-Up Offense

Friday, 23 January, 2015 - 1:49 pm

It’s that time of year when people are starting to assess their New Year’s resolutions.  We may have made a few of them, only to discover that – three weeks in – we’re still lacking in fulfilling them. Experts debate the mindset of resolutions, some suggesting that they are great motivators while others argue that they wear us down.

So, what’s the bottom line? How can I do more and be more productive? How can I trim those ten pounds if I still love eating? How can I find the five minutes to put on tefillin daily if I’m always rushed in the morning? How can I set aside a few dollars each day for tzedaka if I haven’t organized my finances?

***

As the football season nears its grand finale, let’s turn to the sport for a useful metaphor.

Scoring is the primary goal of a team’s offense. The defense, on the other hand, tries its best to prevent any scoring by the other team.

Some teams employ a strategy called a hurry-up offense. The goal of the hurry-up offense is to quickly start the next play before the opposing team can develop a proper defensive strategy. 

Obviously, teams aren’t always on par and they are constantly looking for an advantage.  The hurry-up offense is useful when teams are fighting the clock, but also when teams are fighting themselves. When a team recognizes that its offense has some shortcoming, it may employ the hurry-up offense to disrupt and reduce the opponent’s ability to organize and defend.

So, it’s sometimes a mechanism to protect against a team’s own weakness.  The team realizes that if it waits for a fully prepared defense its chances will be weakened. It would rather take the risk of lacking some of its own preparation and perfection to exploit the defense’s inability to get ready.

***

In this week’s parsha Bo, the Jews finally leave Mitzrayim (Egypt). After 210 years, it’s the only home they have known. Generations of Jews have been born and died in Egypt, considerably longer than the average American Jew’s family has been in the USA.

Before their departure, G-d instructs them to eat the Pesach offering (yes, the first Pesach offering was eaten prior to leaving Egypt, with matzah and maror). In His instructions He includes, “You shall eat it in haste.”

We know that the Jews were in a rush to get out of Egypt, lest Pharaoh change his mind. Yet, they did not leave until the next day. So why did G-d insist that they hurry? And did they really need G-d’s urging? And why is it included with all the critical laws* of the Pesach offering?

The Chassidic Master explain it this way (see Kehot Chumash):                                                                                 

Although the Jews of the Exodus had cleansed themselves of their actual involvement in Egyptian culture, they still harbored a certain degree of infatuation for it. They had not yet totally uprooted the old values and ways of the thinking; this would come only later when they received the Torah and began to structure their lives around its commandments. In the meantime, the glamour of Egyptian materialism still beckoned them.

G-d therefore had to hurry them out of Egypt while they were still sufficiently impressed by the events of the past year to encourage them to leave the only home they knew—both physically and culturally—and venture into the double unknown of the inhospitable desert and a lifestyle of holiness.

The same is true whenever we go out of a personal "Egypt," when we leave behind the comfort of our previous way of living and rise to a new level of Divine consciousness and its accompanying lifestyle. In order to stay on the new path, it is crucial to sustain the momentum and take care not to slide back into previous habits.

***

Essentially, the Jews of Egypt were in need of a hurry-up offense. They were still very susceptible to the isms of Egypt. Rather than fight it head on, the best course of action was an escape route. Just get out. Move forward and don’t look back.

If we scrutinize our behavior too much – looking for that inspiration to only eat healthy, seeking that devotion to lay tefillin or finding the discipline over our finances – we may sink back into our old habits. Rather, get on the hurry-up offense program and just get out of Egypt!

 

 

*  And you shall not leave over any of it until morning, and whatever is left over of it until morning, you shall burn in fire. And this is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste, it is a Passover sacrifice to the L-rd. (Shemot 11:10-11)

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