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Rooting for the Underdog?

Thursday, 31 January, 2019 - 9:05 pm

The New England Patriots beat their own record and will appear on Sunday in their eleventh Super Bowl. With the same head coach and quarterback for the past 18 seasons, this is a tried and tested team. If there is a dynasty in American Football – they are it.

They will face off against a team that has recently moved to a new city, has the youngest head coach in the league and a relatively inexperienced team.

So, are you rooting for the reliable favorite or the upstart underdog?

It’s popular today to root for the underdog. First of all, an upset is a great surprise. But also, the rags-to-riches storyline is one that humans love to fall in love with. Perhaps we see some of ourselves in it.

***

In this week’s parsha Mishpatim we find many of the civil and ethical laws of the Torah.

One of the most oft-stated mitzvahs in the Torah is the command to love the convert, the orphan and the widow.

It seems like G-d is pulling for the underdog.

G-d gives the less fortunate His full attention, elevating them to VIP status. And, He expects the same from us.

Another verse reads, “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor man in his lawsuit.”

Similarly, the Torah enjoins judges not to accept bribes. The underdog deserves a chance at a fair hearing.

However, this week’s parsha also tells us: “Do not glorify a poor man in his lawsuit.” This means that a judge is not permitted to show preference to a poor man. A judge may be tempted to right the ‘injustice of life’ by favoring an unfortunate fellow in a lawsuit versus a well-heeled person. ‘After all,’ the judge may reason, ‘The rich man will not suffer at all if he doesn’t win, but the poor man can by no means afford to lose.’

That’s a no-no says the Torah. It might seem like we are helping straighten a misguided ship. But, G-d asks us to simply pursue justice and truth – and let the chips fall where they fall.

To be sure, Hashem does need our help. He does want us to give an assist to the less fortunate. But that’s through our pocketbooks and sweat – not by distorting the truth or corrupting justice.

***

You can root for whomever you want, but let the game be played according to the rules.

Comments on: Rooting for the Underdog?
2/1/2019

Reba Lindsay wrote...

Well said.