Friday, September 3, 2010

It’s a brand new season!

By Alan Veingrad

It’s a brand new season! Every Jew is in the game – perhaps playing a different position,role or level of participation than last year but nonetheless, we Jews are all on the same team. Some of us are in the front office, some are still learning the game as second- or third-string rookies and some are Pro-Bowl veterans. But all of us are unique and indispensible with our own special talents and contribution levels. We all have the opportunity to learn the playbook, study and prepare for the game. As a football player in the NFL, I would often change my game plan throughout the season based on the upcoming opponent, as each player I was up against presented a new style of play and unique challenges. And during the week, throughout the game and after the games I would get coached. My coach and I would study the successes and the failures together: Did I make the right block? Was I in the right place at the right time? Did I follow the coach’s instructions? Did I prepare myself properly? Or did I just miss a play or a block, jump off-sides or get called for
holding and cost my team an opportunity to win the game? Sometimes in life, we blow the chance to do the right thing. We say something we shouldn’t, we raise our voice or we’re just not on our toes ready for the opportunity to do it right. We have
the easy lay-up to help someone out, the chance to score on a meaningful mitzvah or free time to learn our offense better. But we drop the ball, or we miss the block and leave someone vulnerable, or waste time that could have made all the difference. We let our teammates down,the coach down and ourselves down. Life is not a game but I have learned a lot from my years in the NFL about what it takes to succeed –
especially at being a great Jew. It’s funny – the NFL season always starts in the fall, right around Rosh Hashana time. These days, I still feel the fresh opportunity in the air at this time of year, to put the past behind me and embrace a brand new
start. But now, it’s not about making the coach proud by being the best player I can, it’s about making God proud, and my family and community proud, by being the best Jew that I can. One key to success that I took with me from my playing days is always to be “coachable.” That means being open and eager to learn new things and make adjustments, to trust someone who knows more than I do and believe in my ability
to meet new challenges. When you relish the chance to make the coach proud, you forget about justifying what you’ve already done – you’re accepting the fresh challenge to build on the past and to look ahead. In every sport and every endeavor there are fumbles, errors, misses and failures. There comes a time when we have to face up to our own misplays, to say to the coach, “I blew a big chance to make an impact. I forgot what you told me and it hurt the team. I accept responsibility and I am sorry; will you forgive me, coach? This season, I’m ready to start over and be every bit the player you know I can be.” The beauty of our Jewish heritage is that we have the winning playbook. The Torah is all about guiding us to grow and always to be our very best at what really matters. Each and every challenge is direct from our Coach to take the next step and to do it right – to reach higher and higher,
never resting on past success or hiding from past mistakes.

The holiday of Rosh Hashanah gets us back in the game – renewed, refreshed and ready to start another season. It’s the time to make our adjustments and to let the Coach know that we’re there for him with everything we’ve got, that we’re going to be coachable this season and better than ever. We’re going to learn the playbook like never before. And we’re going to make Him proud.

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