Tiferet – תפארת

By Elyssa Hurwitz

It’s week three into our counting of the omer, and we’re really skatin’ along here folks! This week brings us the sfirah known as tiferet, which we translate as “beauty.” Tiferet is smack-dab in the middle of both the yosher (upright) and ish (man) diagrammatic representations of the sfirot, which means it is a model of the left side (symbolic of receiving) and the right side (symbolic of giving). In being a connection between the left and right sides of sfirot diagrams, tiferet shows us that there is truly beauty in everything, and that the balance between binah (understanding) and chokhmah (wisdom), gevurah (strength) and chesed (loving-kindness), and hod (splendor) and netzach (eternity) is where we can find beauty that may normally elude us.

In a game that to some seems dangerous, aggressive, and occasionally overtly violent, I also see beauty. I see athletic skill that is close to unparalleled. I see sportsmanship that literally moves players and fans to tears. I see tradition and ritual practices that go back to the late 1800s and are also as modern as the newest franchise (Seattle in 2021, I’m looking at you!). I watch as players turn into brothers and sisters, fans turn into family, and the love of the game brings hockey fans together all over the world to cheer for their home team. I went to college outside of the state I grew up in, and I made friends with people because a game was on in the communal area, I asked what games were on at the bar, or someone wore a jersey to a party and that started a conversation. After college, I met people at random sports bars in Portland because it was the only place playing a hockey game instead of a basketball game. I’ve literally gone up to random people in Israel because I saw their Rangers sweater, and it’s been too long since the last time I talked to someone about hockey, so why not make a new friend?

Not only is there beauty in the community that is created around hockey, but there’s also beauty in the sport itself. There are players who make running on ice with blades on their feet, wearing 50 pounds of protective equipment, and trying to shoot a 3in/6oz piece of rubber into a 4 foot high x 6 foot wide net with an often-massive human in it look easy. (I’ll give you that “Shrimp” Warters was 5’3, but Ben Bishop is 6’7, sooooo I’ll just leave that there.)

I grew up in California as a San Jose Sharks fan. My family is from Michigan and I went to college at Michigan State University making me a Detroit Red Wings fan. My parents and grandparents instilled in me a love for the game that extends beyond just my memory of moments, but is a memory tied up in the collective memory of hockey fans that spans the ages. When I think of the most beautiful moments in hockey, this is part of the montage that runs through my head:

Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning, game-winning goal for the Boston Bruins over the St. Louis Blues in May of 1970.
Vladimir Konstantinov holding the Stanley Cup the Detroit Red Wings won in 1998 after he was paralyzed the year before, just a few days after he won the 1997 Cup with the them.
The 2016 All-Star Game, where John Scott not only called up from the minors to play in the games, but he was voted MVP. To give you an idea of the tomfoolery that was the season leading up to Scott even playing in the All-Star Games: Scott was an enforcer who had played for seven teams over a span of eight seasons, he had five career goals, and 544 minutes of penalties during 286 games. That’s nuts.
Any time there’s a team knocked out of the playoffs, the opposing teams line up for a handshake after the game. Occasionally, one of the players is mic’d up and hearing the recording after shows how much respect there is between players across the league.
Of course, the sheer skill and beauty of dangles like these.
Kendall Coyne, a gold medal winning player on the USA women’s national ice hockey team, competed in the 2019 All Star Skills competition for the fastest skater.
During the 1980 Winter Olympics, the USA men’s ice hockey team beat the Soviet Union and then the Finnish team to win the goal medal. 
My younger sister, dad, and little me before the Sharks vs Avs game in March of 1998 (photo credits to my mother)

I’ve been going to hockey games since my mom was pregnant with me, and I was blessed to be able to go to games, watch them on television, and listen to them on the radio. I could spend hours watching highlight reels and the actual games themselves, and I’m looking forward to going to a game as soon as I’m back in North America and the next season is up and running. Thankfully for me and other Jewish hockey fans, the worlds of hockey and Judaism are wrapped up in each other in wonderful ways, and it is wonderful to be able to mark Jewish time with hockey time. 

Hockey is a sport of talent, tenacity, and toughness. 

Hockey is a game of sportsmanship, ritual, tradition, family, and community. 

Hockey is a thing of beauty.

Elyssa Hurwitz is an Jewish educator who has a love for hockey that extends beyond words. As a California Bay Area native and Michigan State University graduate, she will always root for the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings over any other team. She is currently working on her MA in Jewish Experiential Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of American and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. She has her own blog that talks about Jewish ritual, Torah, and how it all relates to our modern lives, which you can find at www.thetalestorahtells.wordpress.com

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