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A lesson from Anfield



My recent flights to the United States to visit our family over Pesach was via the United Kingdom – let’s put those Discovery Miles to work – and being that I would be in Britain, a lifelong friend invited to me join him to watch a football match together at Anfield Stadium, the home of Liverpool Football Club (LFC).

To be entirely honest, having supported LFC since my early childhood, this was simply an offer I couldn’t refuse. So, I found myself the only rabbi, I assume, among 57 000 people – a rowdy bunch I may add – all singing at the top of their lungs, “You’ll never walk alone” in a stadium designed and engineered for maximum volume effect. It was simply breathtaking! I looked at the people around me, and couldn’t help but admire their passion and venerate their enthusiasm. Their ecstasy when Liverpool scored, their horror when Spurs scored. It appeared as though their lives depended on this game, almost as if for many of these people, this could be their religion. It probably does give many of them a sense of hope in life, and it certainly gives them all a sense of belonging.

I couldn’t help but imagine a shul filled with 57 000 Jews all singing Hallel or answering, “Amen – Yehei Shemei Rabba…” with the same passion and fervour. I learnt many things on that day, but most importantly, I learnt just how fortunate I am to have my religion. To have an acute sense of my Jewish identity that centres on truth and all the values our Torah of truth espouses.

What comes to mind is the Aleinu prayer with which we conclude each of our services. According to Rabbi Hai Gaon, this prayer was originally composed by Joshua, who led the Jewish people into the land of Israel for the first time as a nation more than 3 000 years ago. It’s a call to recognise and value our Jewish responsibility to ascribe greatness to the creator. It’s a call to be proud and grateful for this awesome mandate, and to be eternally cognisant that we’re different. We’re to be passionate about Hashem and bringing His Light into a world that can often seem so dark. We’re to live lives filled with integrity and truth, with kindness and compassion in the face of distortion and perversion. Perhaps this is something that Joshua clearly understood as he traversed the holy land and composed this prayer to remind us daily – three times a day in fact – that our divine right to the land of Israel is predicated on this very realisation.

Our Torah portion this week couldn’t be clearer when it says, “Perform my decrees and observe my laws and act upon them; then you shall dwell securely on the land.” (Lev 25:18). Hashem is teaching us that with this sincere and genuine awareness that permeates all aspects of our lives, it will be obvious to all that we as Jews truly never walk alone!

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