Columns - 2006

    Rebbe at the Bat (Mitzvah)

    I recently found something refreshing when perusing one of the major literary works read on Shabbat by millions every week.

    One of the letters in Sports Illustrated was signed "Rabbi Larry Mahrer, Dothan, Ala." Beyond indicating to sports fans everywhere, "yes, Virginia, there are Jews in Alabama," he had another important message.

    There'd recently been a column about Myron Finkbeiner and his longtime quest to establish a World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. It's intended to enshrine all that's good about athletes and what they do off the field. That is, everything the sports pages don't enshrine.

    Rabbi Mahrer said it would be nice if people motivated by the column were given information for donating to the cause. The editors, after the column, obliged. Now so do I: To make a donation or for more information, visit

    In honor of the boys of summer still playing well into the fall (except for the Y*nkees), here's a classic poem, freshly translated from the original Yiddish:

    The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,
    The minyan score was nine, they needed one man more to pray.
    And then when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
    A sickly silence fell upon the minyan, who could blame?

    The straggling few remained behind, alone in deep despair.
    Clung to hope from that light eternal hanging in the air;
    They thought if only Rebbe could but get a whack at that,
    They'd put up even money now, with Rebbe at the bat.

    Then Flynn arrived, he's Jewish, to the wonderment of all,
    And Blake, his wife, came in the room from the social hall,
    And then their eyes were lifted, and then the thought occurred,
    If only we'd count women, we'd only need a third.

    Then from five old-fashioned throats and more there rose a yell,
    It rumbled in Emanuel and it rattled through Beth El,
    It knocked over Red Mountain and laid the Gulf Coast flat,
    And Rebbe, wise old Rebbe, would have to deal with that.

    There was ease in Rebbe's manner as he stepped up to his place,
    There was pride in Rebbe's bearing and a smile on Rebbe's face,
    And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his kippah,
    No stranger in the shul could doubt this Rebbe was a keeper.

    Ten thousand eyes were on him as he said, "is it beshert,
    That women shouldn't count even as much as a convert?"
    And though writhing tradition knew it had just been called unhip,
    Defiance missed the Rebbe's eye; no sneer curled Rebbe's lip.

    "Take this leather-strapped on box, is it just wrapped 'round air,
    If it happens that there's to be a woman under there?"
    Close by the sturdy laymen all murmured in unrest --
    "That ain't my style," said Rebbe. "One at a time, protest."

    From the pews now filled with people, there arose a muffled roar,
    Like the beating of the storm-waves on some stern and distant shore.
    "Count me! Count the women!" shouted someone who won't stand,
    And it's likely she'd have yelled more had not Rebbe raised his hand.

    With a smile of Jewish charity great Rebbe's visage shone:
    He stilled the rising tumult, he bade the dame go on,
    He signaled to the laymen, and they too could say their due,
    And Rebbe just absorbed it, so then they cried, "So, nu?"

    "Rule!" cried the maddened thousands, and then the Rebbe thawed,
    Just one thoughtful look from Rebbe and the congregants were awed;
    They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
    And they knew that Rebbe would now let them hear him again.

    No sneer has come to Rebbe's lip, his teeth ne'er clinched in hate,
    He stands with cruel silence, and then recaps the slate;
    And with his shofar he'll announce, one's yes and two means no,
    And now the air is shattered by the force of Rebbe's blow.

    So, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
    The minyan's praying somewhere, with ten or more each night,
    And somewhere men are laughing, and women pray devout,
    'Cause there is no oy in Mudville -- the Rebbe has won out!

    Doug Brook is suddenly appearing in "Tomfoolery," a revue of the music of Tom Lehrer, October 13 through 29, in San Jose. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.