This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit a variety of tourist shops in some of the quaint towns that Cape Cod has to offer. As I entered the T-shirt section of one particular store, I was greeted by several different T-shirts each expressing New England Patriots patriotism. One proudly exclaimed “Pats-Beat Baltimore, Deflated Indy, Silenced Seattle,” while another said, “The Butler did it (With a pick. In the end zone.)” and of course several varieties with the now famous slogan “Free Brady.”
My initial thought was, “Hmmm. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Brady is not in prison. In fact, I don’t recall him even being arrested.” Rather for an individual whose passion, heart and life is football, New Englanders (and the players’ union) are clamoring that quarterback Tom Brady should have the freedom to play the four games from which he had been suspended. (Subsequently, a judge has “freed” Brady and deflated his sentence.).
Freedom means many things for many people. Our Sages tell us in “Ethics of Our Fathers,”: “There is no one as free as one who studies Torah.” Throughout our lives, our freedom to choose can be limited. We act as slaves to society, conforming to the trends of clothing, the latest fads or technology. Social and peer pressure often determine our choices regardless of our personal preferences or benefit.
Our Sages are telling us that when one delves into the divine teachings and wisdom of over 3,300 years, we have the ability to have true free choice that is not motivated or dictated by materialism or society. The word Torah means “directive” – a guide, a beacon of light helping us navigate the challenges of life with clarity. As we begin the Jewish New Year (and the new football season), let us resolve to increase in Torah study, giving our life meaning, inspiration and wisdom.
Rabbi Laibel Blotner is the spiritual leader of Chabad of Mesa.