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Parshas Bo - Push the Re-Set Button                  5 Shvat 5779

01/11/19 09:12:47


Changing gears, shifting the momentum, and having a break are all means and schemes to get back into the game. Why is it that a team dominates the first half or part of the game and then the tables are completely turned, and the other team defeats them by the time the game ends? How often do we see a sports team come back and play a completely different game in the second half versus the first? Why is it a student has an extreme turnaround the second half of the school year? It is interesting to note that sports that do not have a break or intermission have fewer chances for recovery at the midpoint of the game to catch up and win. The fact that there is some type of long pause in a tournament or battle gives the struggling side the ability to regroup. In fact, most ‘time-outs’ in a game are called for that exact reason: to stop the momentum of the surging opponent to halt and for the other side to regroup.

The theory of turning the tide after a break is backed up by a recently published study. Eleven seasons of data prove fourth-quarter 'momentum' in NBA games is overrated. While late-game comebacks are exciting for fans, research finds they often don't lead to OT victories. Game 1 of last year's NBA Championships took place on May 31, 2018, in Oakland. It was the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James had a playoff-career high of 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. The Cavs outscored the Warriors in the 4th quarter, and their late-game momentum brought the match into overtime.

Yet, Cleveland ended up losing the game by 10 points, 124-114. While Cavalier fans were bummed out, the loss came as no surprise to a team of Israeli researchers from Ben-Gurion University. In a new study, they examined 900 tied games with fourth-quarter comebacks. They pored over the data from about 14,000 games over 11 NBA seasons. "We found that regardless of momentum, teams with the home advantage and more season wins were more likely to succeed in the five-minute overtime,” said Dr. Elia Morgulev, who co-authored the new study in the Journal of Economic Psychology.

So why doesn't late-game momentum help? The researchers posit that it could be due to several issues. It's possible that the comeback team is so exhausted from their come-from-behind spurt that they lose momentum in overtime. Or maybe releasing tension during the brief break before overtime causes a team to relax because they feel they’ve already achieved their target of not losing – and then they lose any momentum. My theory is that there is a break from the end of regulation to the beginning of the overtime, giving the team that lost the edge to regain its composure and reset their game plan.

The phenom to rebound and turn things around is built into the nature of the world. On the grandest scale, this occurs once a year on Rosh Hashana. The Shmitah cycle does the same thing on a seven-year- cycle basis. But as far as a day-to-day recognition that we can change direction from bad to good comes either on a week-to-week basis and surely every month. In fact, the day before Rosh Chodesh is called ‘Yom Kippur Katan’- the small day of atonement whereby we fast, recite special prayers of repentance, and prepare to start anew the next month. However off course we may have strayed, we are given the chance to get back on track in the new month. This is duly noted in the Torah.

In this week’s parsha Bo the Torah states in Shmos 12:2: “HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem Rosh Chadashim, Rishon Hu Lachem L’Chadshei HaShana” - “This month shall be the head month to you. It shall be the first month of the year”. The Netzi”v, Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin explains this verse by challenging the supposition. There is a rule, “Ein Chadash Tachas HaShemesh - there is nothing new under the sun”. From the time of creation, that idea held true until this point in time. From now on the Jewish people would not be confined to the old rule of “there’s nothing new under the sun” and would now have the ability to ‘make new things’. This ability was given to the Jews and only to the Jews through the first Mitzva that was commanded to us as a nation. An interesting debate is discussed when the Torah in Shmos says a ‘new’ king arose over Egypt. Some opinions say it was the same old king with ‘new’ decrees while others maintain an actual ‘new’ king, a totally different person. Irrespective of the debate, we can inject the thought that whoever he was or whatever this person as king of Egypt did was seen through the lens of ‘newness’ that only the Jewish people could cultivate and appreciate.

The Netziv, in his commentary Haamek Davar, explains the notion of new in a different aspect. The description of this month, Nissan, has two dimensions: being the head of the months and being the first of the months. The word ‘rosh’ or head is understood here and in many other places as ‘the best’ or ‘the choicest’. The word ‘Lachem’ - ‘to you’ - indicates that this month specifically is the best or choicest of all the months of the year, similar, to the month of Tishrei, which is the optimal month in connection to the physical needs of the world. Since the world was created in Tishrei, the blessing of all physical things being created is given. There is a great rule that Chaza”l taught, the same day something was created by Hashem, that very same day will be stronger for that same thing in all future generations and will get stronger as time goes on. As an example, the nature of fire on Saturday night burns more deeply because fire was created by Hashem on the first Motzai Shabbos of the world. The Rashba, in his responsa 413 writes, “Because of this the month of Tishrei is primarily connected to the creation of man and the judging of him.” The month of Tishrei deals with everything of nature because the world was created in this month. So, too, with the month of Nissan. The merit of redemption was first created during this month, allowing us to leave the exile and become free. Leaving Egypt and leaving the status of slavery to Pharaoh and his people gave us the time and opportunity to serve Hashem without interruption and with full dedication. Therefore, the month of Nissan is the time we must strengthen our ties to Hashem in every generation, just as it was done that very first time. Nissan was the ‘head’, giving the strength of redemption to this month, establishing this strength from now on based upon the ‘first’ time it occurred.

The head of or the first of something brings a renewed sense of strength and ability. Whenever things are slow and life is on the down side wait ,and look for the opportunity to start again. With the inert strength that Hashem instilled initially to the part of life, we are given the ability to take this strength and strengthen our selves, refreshing our lives and resetting our course of life.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sat, December 14 2019 16 Kislev 5780