CHICAGO, Oct. 17 (JTA) Shalom aleichem malachay hashareit. Peace upon you O Angels. The Shabbat song has new meaning for me. The Angels, by defeating the New York Yankees in the first round and then losing to the Chicago White Sox, who will now go to the World Series, really made shalom bayit, a peaceful home, for me. Were it not for the Angels’ intervention, I would have been in a serious bind: For a while, it looked like the White Sox might play the Yankees in a postseason match-up. Two years ago, when it looked like it might be a Chicago Cubs-Yankees series, I wasn’t sure which I’d be rooting for. But now, with age, perhaps a bit more conservative, my position would have been clear. I would have been rooting for the Yankees. It’s not just because I was raised in New York and was always a Yankee fan. (I still remember the feeling of ecstasy, in 1978, when the Yankees’ shortstop, Bucky Dent, hit a three run home run against Boston at Fenway lifting the Yankees to a 5-4 victory in a one game playoff. How many of you remember that Dent was an ex-White Sox player?) But now, as a Jewish parent, a Sox-Yanks series would have had new meaning for me. So as I describe the potential tensions in my home I don’t mind if you’re trying to “steal the signs” and guess what my pitch is going to be. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m still a Yankee fan deep down. But it’s a kind of funny relationship that I have with the Yanks. You see, I haven’t seen them play in person or on TV in more than 20 years. I don’t even know the current players’ names. So what kind of fan am I? I’m not just a fan because of anti-Yankeeism, which exists in every major league city. I mean, how many people do you know who own a real Yankee Stadium seat (my father bought it for me as a souvenir in 1973 when Yankee Stadium was last remodeled). Sure it’s only collecting dust in my basement storage closet. But I own it. One day I’m going to bolt my stadium chair onto my deck so I can use it. I’m sure at the end of this series I’ll say, “Next year in my chair from the stadium.” Living in Chicago, I can’t say that the Yankees get a lot of play in my house. Of course, once in a while, I visit a friend at his office, and we share a few Yankee thoughts and, deep inside, I feel the warm feelings. But what about my children? Who will they root for as they mature? I hope they’ll be Yankee fans. I mean, I’ve got that feeling, you know; it’s important to me when I married a woman from Boston it felt like an intermarriage because we don’t have similar feelings about Dent. But despite my warm feelings, the hidden dusty mementos, the nostalgic conversations in other people’s offices, and a glorious history, my children are becoming real Chicago fans. They’re rooting for the White Sox. If I would tell them that I couldn’t bear to go to a game with them, where they would cheer for the home team, because I’d feel sick to my stomach, they’d think I was some type of New York fanatic and say, “Dad, people only felt like that back in the old city.” What happened here? How did we get to point that while I shuddered at marrying a Boston Red Sox fan, my kids are looking forward to marrying a fellow Chicagoan? Well, all their formative years have been in Chicago. The local papers, mostly read as they pass newspapers for sale on the streets, praise the local squads. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve seen a few Chicago games on TV at a friend’s house. And of course, ALL their friends are rooting for the Chicago teams. Lately, and it’s too late, I’ve wondered what would have been if I had taken them to see all the Yankee games in Chicago, risking our lives to root for the Yankees in the bleachers at U.S. Cellular Field? What if I had brought New York-style franks along, while every one else was eating their Chicago ones? And if I had only allowed the sports sections from New York papers into our home? And if I had bolted that Yankee Stadium chair on our porch already? And if I had worn my Yankee cap every time I did the gardening? And what about if we had talked about the Yanks at the dinner table and said at the end of every season, “Next year let’s fly to New York for a Yankee game?” Surely their allegiance to the Yankees would have been seared into their heart by those experiences in fact, they’d probably be diehard Yankee fans. And then, if I told them again and again, that it’s really important to me that they be Yankee fans, I wonder if I would have had a more sympathetic ear? So here’s my pitch, but it’s not about the Yankees. Make sure you’re a diehard fan of our religion. Take your kids regularly to synagogue, make a sukkah and sit in it, get your tefillin out of the closet, visit Israel, serve kosher franks, let them know about the amazing history of our people, and the great individual Jews who have contributed to our people and the world, make sure you have enough Jewish and Torah “readables” at home, and be sure to discuss the weekly portion at your table etc. that’s 613 etceteras to be exact. And most of all, let them know it’s really important to you that they be at least as observant as you and, of course, that they must marry Jewish. And maybe at their wedding your Jewish heart will rejoice, and you won’t have to cringe the way I do, when my children root for the White Sox instead of the Yankees. Rabbi Yehuda Albin was born and raised in New York. Besides his bachelor’s degreee from Bowdoin College in Maine, he received two rabbinical ordinations while studying in Israel for 10 years, and 12 years ago he founded and now directs the Chicago chapter of Ohr Somayach International, where he teaches classical Judaism to people from all backgrounds.
A rabbi’s commentary on the White Sox