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This is the Day -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 01/05/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

January 5, 2023

12 Tevet 5783

Parashat Vayechi

Like many others, I was watching Monday Night Football when a Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin, got up after a play was over, only to swoon backwards and lay unconscious on the field. It was an incredibly scary moment. Football fans and non-fans alike could not help but root for Damar to wake up and recover. It looks as though the many, many prayers offered on his behalf have been answered. Just a few minutes ago, I read with great joy that he regained consciousness in the hospital today. He could not speak because he is intubated, but the first note he wrote was, “Who won the game?” But, I can’t help asking: Why did this story capture the hearts of so many? After all, hardly a game goes by without a professional football player getting seriously injured. What was so different about this situation? The truth is that this was not a sports injury, per se. It happened on the sport field, but it probably could have happened anywhere. Although we don’t know precisely what happened, Damar went into cardiac arrest. His heart stopped. That’s VERY different from injuring one’s knee or shoulder. Thanks to the intervention of trained professionals, he did not die on the spot. When we see this happen to a 24-year-old professional athlete in the middle of a competition, it reminds us that it can happen to anyone, anywhere. So, as scared as we might have been for him, we were also scared for ourselves and for our loved ones. After all, we never know who will be next or when the next such incident might occur. In last week’s Torah portion, our patriarch Jacob found out that his son Joseph was alive after many years of believing he had been killed by a wild animal. The Torah tells us that when Jacob heard the news, “his heart stopped—וַיָּפׇג לִבּוֹ.” Perhaps, it was not as surprising when it happened to an old man who received such shocking news. Nonetheless, it still feels good that this week’s Torah portion is called “Vayechi—וַיְחִי,” which means “he lived.” We find out that Jacob lived 17 more years after that day when his heart stopped, for a total of 147 years—not bad! No one knows how much more time we have in the world—not Jacob all those years ago and not Damar Hamlin today. Perhaps seeing a young, strong, fit, and fast person like Damar Hamlin going into cardiac arrest will remind the rest of us to take advantage of each and every day we are given on this earth. As we say during the Hallel service on special occasions, “This is the day that Adonai has made—let us celebrate and rejoice on it (Ps. 118:24).” Shalom, RAF.

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