On Yom Kippur, hundreds of people attended our synagogue and I prepared a sermon that I hoped would inspire. One of the stories I told was that of legendary baseball player Sandy Koufax. Arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, Koufax made a different kind of history on this exact day, 50 years ago at the World Series.
The LA Dodgers were up against the Minnesota Twins, and it was Yom Kippur.
Now, Sandy did not have a particularly religious upbringing. He didn’t go to cheder or yeshiva; he went to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn. And pitching was his life, his legacy, his everything.
Nevertheless, he decided to forgo the game and stay home, fast and observe Yom Kippur! What an incredible example he set for Jews nation-wide.
In my sermon, I mistakenly said that Sandy went to shul that Yom Kippur, and afterwards my friend Yankel* came over to correct me.
“Great sermon,” he said, “but Sandy Koufax did not go to shul that Yom Kippur.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Because five years ago, your uncle, Rabbi Moshe Feller, was a guest speaker in our shul,” he explained. “He told the same story, and he related that he personally went to put on tefillin with Koufax two days after Yom Kippur in 1965 at the request of the LubavitcherRebbe. When he told the story, he said Sandy fasted and prayed but did not go to shul.”
“Wow!” I said to my friend Yankel*. “That is amazing. I’ve given countless sermons over the last five years and most of them you don’t recall at all, and those you do, you certainly don’t remember in such fine detail. But this one you remember perfectly five years later—how is that?”
“A sermon like that about Koufax, one never forgets,” he explained.
We just finished Yom Kippur, when we all fasted, prayed and resolved to become better people, better Jews, better spouses, fathers, mothers, children etc.
Now that Yom Kippur is over, we need to make sure we don’t lose any of that inspiration and momentum. We need to ensure that the intense feelings we experienced over Yom Kippur stay with us throughout the year.
As my friend Yankel* showed, when something is important to us, we don’t forget it.