I recently saw a video about Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis’ promise made to a dying boy. The child was a huge Notre Dame fan and knew he only had a short time to live. He asked the coach if he could call that week’s game’s first offensive play since his hope was to be able to see the game on television before he died. Coach Weis agreed. The child asked that the first play be a pass to the right. Sadly, the young boy died the night before the game.
When Notre Dame was up for its first offensive play, the Fighting Irish were inside Washington’s one yard line, meaning it would be extremely risky to pass. A coach would never take the chance to pass on that play for fear the opponents could easily score a two point safety. Yet Coach Weis kept his word. Against all rational choice, he called the first play, a pass to the right. The receiver advanced 13 yards and Notre Dame won the game 36 (double chai) – 17! The child’s life here was at an end. Yet his words to Coach Weis unwittingly to the boy, yet overwhelmingly to the coach, changed Coach Weis forever, as well as those with whom he shared this story.
We do not have control over our lives. The longer we live, the more deeply we understand this truth. At first blush, the story seems so sad. The child’s dying wish in one sense was to see that week’s game. Yet we do not understand the mystery of life enough to feel complete sorrow, for somehow it seems that in some way the boy did experience the game that week. Dying, in a deeper sense, gave birth to new life, not only in the possibility of thinking the boy still was at the game somehow, but also, in the ways his words transformed others.
Coach Weis was faced with a seemingly impossible decision: to keep his word or do what he, and actually all advisors, would do in a situation like the one he faced that week – run, not pass. His decision to keep his word no matter how difficult actually resulted in a miraculous play for the power it had to prove, once again, that we do not control our destinies, and for the often unforeseen magnificence that comes when we live that truth.
Although we do not have the power to control our lives, our decisions make a difference. When we act honorably, as here when the coach kept his word no matter what, we move closer to becoming the person we have been created to be. We are given uncountable opportunities each day to make choices that are giving, loving, sacrificial, illogical, difficult for us personally. Yet when we stretch that extra bit for another, stop the rationalizing about why something is too hard to do, we co-create ourselves in the ways our Creator intended. The harder the decision, the more counterintuitive and loving to another, the more we grow, especially if we do so despite the analyzed consequences. When Coach Weis gave up control, when his actions were guided by love of another, he, himself, lived a deeper and more spiritually uplifting life of his own.
With Rosh Hashanah just a few days from now, we are given the blessing to start anew. We are given the opportunity to in a way, die to our old selves as literal death reminds us in this story, and to begin again to love sacrificially in Him as we see Coach Weis’ integrity and love of another. Every interaction, every choice matters.
There are so many reasons we can give to not engage deeply with the upcoming Holy Days – too busy, can’t get off work, too far to drive. Yet every year. . . every year. . . HaShem gives us the blessing to start again. Your slate is clean, not only by tradition, but also, through Yeshua’s blood.
No matter the obstacle, whether real or rationalized, embrace these Holy Days. This decision reflects your sacrificial love of Him. It is one of the most holy decisions we can make. For it demonstrably completes the circle of love, Him to us and us to Him.