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The bokke brocha



Rabbi Asher Deren, Chabad of the West Coast, Cape Town

Is it halachically permissible to set a TV to a timer or casually walk by a bar and watch the game playing there? Still no. Halacha is clear. That would be a desecration of Shabbat.

So what’s the Shabbat blessing of the Bokke?

(And no, I’m not even referring to the Mi Shebeirach (Jewish prayer of healing) that Rabbi Goldman composed last time around – though it worked!)

Well, I’ll be straight up. When I first emigrated to South Africa 15 years ago, I used to think that some diehard Springbok fans were a little off the wall. When someone told me that he couldn’t keep Shabbos because he needed to watch the rugby, it sounded more like a crisis of sanity than a crisis of faith. Being shlepped (brought) along to a rugby game didn’t make it any better. Watching grown men scream, cry, and shout as if their life was in danger every 90 seconds or so left me even more puzzled.

But then, just this week in fact, I realised the extent that we all have for something that (seems) bigger than us. For some it’s Bok mania, for others it might be work, WhatsApp, politics, food, or all of the above.

The comfort in the cocoon of sports or any of the above is an illusionary space where everything seems fine. Even if it’s not.

Until the pressure inside the cocoon gets so tight, we either suffocate/surrender, or summon the courage to step out.

Or in the words of this week’s parsha, sometimes the waters of the flood get so overwhelming that we need to either step out of the flood showers (and in) to Noah’s Ark – which the Baal Shemtov explained to mean the words of Torah and prayer in the divine embrace of Hashem’s presence – or let the flood/cocoon overwhelm us.

So, after a month of celebrating our deep roots in awe of the high holidays and in the joy of the chagim (Jewish holidays), we finally have a chance to show that our love for rugby is not in spite of our faith in Hashem, but because of it.

Through withstanding the test by waiting until after Shabbat to watch the recording of the game, we are celebrating who we really are.

In the words of Captain Siya Kolisi this week, “We’ve worked hard to get here, and it’s awesome to see how everything has come together. Hopefully we can now go all the way.”

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