day 13: the perfect storm

Today is 13 days, which is one week and six days of the omer: yesod she’big’vurah.

I know you didn’t think I was going to choose A-Rod today.

I also know you didn’t think that I wasn’t going to start with Texas. As it turns out, today’s honoree, left fielder Carl Crawford grew up in Houston and suffered the indignity all too common for people of color in the south of going to a high school named for a Confederate general (the name has since been changed to Northside High School). An extraordinary athlete, he turned down scholarships to play basketball at UCLA and to play football at Nebraska to start a career in professional baseball.

Before we began this project, Daniel and I talked with our teacher Rabbi Or Rose about the sefirot, and one of our questions was specifically about yesod. Or reminded us of the association of the sefirah with the Biblical character of Joseph, the only one of our patriarchs described as a tzadik, a righteous person. (Yesterday I talked about hod and Aharon. I hope to explore other characters and their sefirot in the upcoming weeks.) The story in the book of Exodus is that Joseph comes to Egypt as a stranger and grows into his role as a leader in a land not his own. He gives his adopted homeland hope during a time of crisis.

Carl+Crawford+New+York+Yankees+v+Tampa+Bay+QgCAg-hMVkbl
photo: J. Meric/Getty Images North America

During his tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays, 2002-2010, Crawford was one of the most exciting players in baseball; as his nickname implies, he could do everything, a classic five-tool player. He became the face of the franchise — and its greatest hope. He was the first Rays outfielder to win a Golden Glove Award. He also won a Silver Slugger Award and led the AL four times in stolen bases. In fact, he is in the top 50 base-thieves in baseball history! In a move that exemplified his skills, Crawford won the team’s first All-Star game MVP in 2009 on the strength of this spectacular catch, robbing Brad Hawpe of a go-head homer, leading to the later AL victory.

One writer explained during his impending departure from Tampa Bay:

Nobody else in the game is as electric on the base path as he is, and nobody plays left field like him. He is a tireless worker and has continually improved every single year as a hitter. We have watched him make the transition from a leadoff man to a run producer and from a young, quiet kid into a respected clubhouse leader.

The bloom came off the rose a bit, however, when he signed with the Red Sox in 2011; indeed, he only lasted two years before heading to the Dodgers. In other words, “there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph” (Ex. 1:8). Now, I’m not comparing Crawford’s tenure in Boston to the Israelites’ oppression in Egypt — but I suppose I’m not not doing it either. Tenuous, you say? Tell me why Crawford fits (or not) today’s sefirot — or which #13 you’d rather see here.

Tonight we count lucky 13 in honor of “The Perfect Storm,” a tzadik of great strength.

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