Columns - 1998

    High Holy Daze

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Shofar Columnist

    As swimming pools at Jewish Community Centers throughout the Birmingham area close for the season, and fewer choruses of "We're having a heat wave..." ring through the air, it is time to recognize the inevitable. We have once again come to that time of year that captures the attention of the Jewish community like no other.

    During this momentous time of year I'm thinking much as you are, I'm sure. It barely seems like it's already been 12 months, let alone a year. But it has. And while we are caught by surprise at the suddenness with which another year has come and gone, we all take either a moment or two, brief or prolonged, to reflect and to look ahead. We stop to reflect on everything that has transpired. The joy and the sorrow. The victory and the defeat. The country and the western. The law and the order. The roar of the greasepaint, and the smell of the crowd.

    We recall how we have watched this past year as people we have grown close to have become closer, and as others have separated. We watched as people spoke before they thought, and as others struggled to say what they thought. It was a year in which we were polite to others, and we were rude to others. When some were kind to us, and when others should have been good samaritans.

    It was a year when the prevalence of O.J. Simpson's presence diminished, and the lawyers in the trial maintained their prominence. When the public wanted to forget about him, but one columnist after another had to persist in drudging him up in frequently vein efforts to make a point.

    The months flew by as markets prospered and markets collapsed, as governments thrived and governments were brought to their knees.

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It would only have been better if the Mets had won it all, once again allowing the powers of good to reign supreme for the benefit of all mankind, and for the small percentage of womankind who also cares about the halachic sport of baseball.

    It has been a year in which almost nobody we met in our everyday lives knew that "halachic" describes things derived from Jewish law. And of those proud few, almost none can recall the Mishnah tractate that directs us to play baseball. Therefore, I will quickly elaborate for your edification.

    First, a sport with as many rules, statistics, superstitions, traditions and intricacies as baseball could only have been derived from the equally intricate tomes of Jewish law. Second, thanks to a renowned British Talmudic scholar, you are probably already familiar with one of the better known laws: the highly controversial directive to umpires, "Fair is foul and foul is fair."

    It has been a year in which we were given new windows through which to see the web that entangles our wide world, though it still takes hours to open them and they still shut with a crash far too often. It has been a year in which more people once again gave an apple to the teacher, in which baseball had the Power Mac, and we all could start to say "I think, therefore iMac."

    As we reflect on the past year, the seasons gone by, the sweeping changes they brought, we can partake of the Jewish practice of Tashlich. During this ancient practice, we toss some lint, something small, something symbolic, something bio-degradable into a stream, river, overflowing fire hydrant, or other natural waterway, as we symbolically cast out that which should be tossed from the past year like last week's TV Guide.

    But this pivotal time should not be dedicated only to reflecting on the past year. We must also look ahead. Ahead to all the things that will remain with us and continue to grow with us, and to the new people and episodes that will enter our lives. To the fresh ideas and fresh faces we will encounter, and to the old faces and old stories that will seem at times comfortably and at other times all too familiar.

    Yes, my faithful readers. It is not required that all three of you abide by a certain faith to reflect like this. But, regardless of your faith, it is not a practice you should deviate from, either. All it requires is that you sit with your eyes open, looking straight ahead. Whether it is from the comfort of your living room, the quiet of your bedroom, the peaceful retreat of your den, or at the home of a friend or neighbor.

    So, no matter what denomination you are, no matter what denominations you carry in your wallet, please join me and my Jewish brethren and sistren in reflecting and rejoicing during this season of renewal. Yes, I hope we can all rejoice as one as we gather again to share in the beginning of the new television season.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley who, in the spirit of the season, and with some spirited seasoning, asks the forgiveness of anyone who has so diminished a sense of humor that he offended them since last fall's premiere week.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.