D - This is Morning Edition on KXJZ. I’m Donna Apidone. Opening day is near – time for our favorite major and minor league baseball teams to respond to the command to “Play ball.”
Rabbi David Wechsler-Azen of Congregation Beth-Shalom in Carmichael loves baseball. As a fan, he enjoys watching his favorite team play. As a rabbi, he uses baseball as a tool to teach the complexities of ancient Jewish mysticism called Kaballah.
RD – This is really fascinating. Perhaps baseball is a really sacred game.
D - It all started 22 years ago, when the faculty of New YorkUniversity asked Rabbi David to facilitate a study group on mysticism. The Mets were just starting their season, and Rabbi David saw some strong parallels between baseball and Kaballah. That’s when he developed the theory he calls KaBaseballah. But to understand it, we need an overview of ancient Jewish mysticism.
RD – So Kaballah is this attempt to understand how the divine manifests in the world. And really what Kaballah is trying to figure out is how the Holy One continues to the world and then how that energy becomes part of us.
D - Wechsler-Azen says we all have energy flowing through our bodies. The energy flows in a pattern called the Sephirot. And it looks like … are you ready for this? … It looks like an aerial view of a baseball field.
RD – They actually overlap.
D - So when Wechsler-Azen looks at the Sephirot diagram of Kaballah, he sees all the positions of a baseball team, including the batter.
And, he says, in Kabbalah, the equivalent of the pitcher’s mound is very important to our flow of energy.
RD - In fact, it’s known as the place of harmony. It’s the harmonizer. So the pitcher harmonizes all the energy of the fielders around … In fact, you regularly see the infielders gather around the pitcher, right? So they’re all working as a unit. And their job is to get the ball past the batter … And here’s the really interesting thing – The batter is the place of the ego. Well of course it is. Exactly.
D - That’s the key to this whole Kabaseballah system. It isn’t just a diagram that overlaps with a baseball field. Each position also has a corresponding personality quality.
RD – There is actually in kabbalah an outer field and an inner field. And of course the outer field in Kabbalah are those upper three Sephirot, and they’re the spiritual, intellectual positions. And of course the outfielders roam further and farther afield.
D – And what about the infield?
RD – Shortstop is the position of rigor or discipline. So of course it’s Cal Ripken Jr who has the record for the most consecutive games started which requires of course utmost discipline. But he eclipsed a first baseman, Lou Gehrig, who has the position of Nehzah, or repeatable action.
D – The theory of Kabaseballah even gets down to plays.
RD – The second baseman is grace. Shortstop is rigor. So you need grace and discipline to turn a double play.
D - If we understand all the activity around the baseball field, we can enjoy the game. And if we understand all of our internal energy, we can enjoy our lives. And that, says Rabbi David, is what it’s all about.
RD - Here’s the tagline for this story … is that even though we can’t all play major league baseball, we can all live major league lives. And that’s what baseball and Kabbalah teaches together.
(both) Thank you. Thank you.
Rabbi David Wechsler-Azen is co-rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael. You can hear the entire interview, with all the comparisons of baseball and Kabbalah, at capradio.org.
The River Cats home opener is April 11th. The A’s first game in Oakland is April 1st, and the Giants first home game is Monday, April 7th. Play ball!