April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The school year was wrapping up, which didn’t normally mean basketball tryouts. The league didn’t have a summer season, so why not wait until the following year? However, the new basketball coach, Coach Diamond, was known for doing things differently, and tryouts were no exception. Coach Diamond wanted to get a team together now, so he could have a few practices before the summer. He hoped that getting to know his players would help him plan for the season. He still left a few spots for new students or those who had improved during summer break.

One student who was super-excited about this plan was Daniel Winter. Daniel, who was finishing 10th grade, did not make the team during his first two years of high school. However, Daniel had grown six inches over the past year, and spent time improving his skills. Daniel was sure he would make the varsity team, and was eager to prove himself.

Daniel did not disappoint. He performed almost flawlessly during tryouts, and Coach Diamond wasted no time calling Daniel over and talking with him about the team. “What position did you play on JV?” asked Coach. “You play like a point guard, but you have good height.” Daniel smiled. “I didn’t make the team in ninth or 10th grade.” When he saw the surprise on the coach’s face, he added, “I’ve been working hard on my game and I grew six inches this year.” Coach patted Daniel on the shoulder. “Well, I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do.”

Coach Diamond made good on his word. During the pre-summer practices, Daniel spent most of his time playing with the starters, either as one of the starting five or as the first substitute. Daniel felt proud of himself, and his confidence grew. During the last practice of the year, Coach Diamond started Daniel at small forward, and Daniel fit in perfectly with the others. Things were looking good for next season.

Fast forward to next year. On the first day of school, Daniel noticed a few new students who looked to be around his age. He recognized two of them from playing against them in an inter-camp game during the summer. He had no idea that these two had transferred into his school, and now, for the first time in a while, Daniel felt nervous about his spot on the team. Daniel thought he was better than these players, but they were both good and played the same position as Daniel.

At the first practice of the year, Daniel began with the starters. However, his experience this time was more challenging. The two new students started against him, and the better defender of the two guarded Daniel. Daniel still played well, but he seemed to have a harder time because of who was guarding him. Other players on the team noticed this as well, and discussion began on the sidelines as to whether Daniel would be an automatic starter this year or not.

After practice, Coach Diamond asked Daniel to remain behind. “Daniel,” began the coach, “did you work on the skills that we discussed this summer? Did you practice the drills every day?” Daniel was a bit embarrassed, but answered, honestly. “Coach, I started off the summer with the intention of working on my game every day, but I got lazy. Maybe it was because it was the summer or maybe because I didn’t have a lot of competition in my camp. I’m sorry if I let you down, but now I know what I need to do.” Coach Diamond looked Daniel right in the eye.

“Daniel I’m not gonna lie; I’m a bit disappointed.” But I also know that you mean what you’re saying right now. I’ve seen these new guys play and they’re gonna be great teammates for you. I still think you can be one of our top scorers.”

Daniel exhaled in relief and smiled back at his coach. “You know what, Coach D? I have a few hours until I need to be home. Why don’t I get to work right now?”

When telling the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Haggadah goes all the way back to Yaakov in Lavan’s home. Why is this necessary? Why not just start out with the Jews and Egypt? One explanation is that the Jews going down to Egypt is a repeat of the story of Yaakov and Lavan. (Many of the details are similar and a number of similar words are used.)

However, one main difference is that Yaakov’s freedom from Lavan’s house was temporary. Less than 20 years later, Yosef was sold, leading to a long period of suffering. As the Midrash tells us, Yaakov wanted to settle down, which led to the Yosef situation. The lesson here is the same that Daniel learned: We must keep pushing ourselves to achieve so that we don’t miss opportunities or end up letting others control our fate.

By Yair Daar

 

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