Torah Reading and No-Hitters (and Vomit)

This past weekend, Trudy, Eitan and I drove down to Philadelphia to visit my grandparents for a long weekend. They live in a great location; a block away from the funky South Street shops and a short walk from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It’s obviously always a pleasure getting the chance to spend time with them, but being able to walk around the neighborhood and live the “city life” (albeit, on a smaller scale than New York) has a real allure, as well.

I’m not going to write about our time in the city, though. For one thing, we didn’t do anything particularly touristy while we were there. Also, this isn’t a travel blog; I’m assuming you didn’t come to my site to read about our walk around the city or how South Street seems to have changed from stores with personality and charm to a string of street food restaurants and sex toy stores.1 For another thing, I think our time together as a family makes for better reading. Yes, even including the moment during lunch at the synagogue on Saturday when Eitan complained that his mouth was hurting after he drank some lemonade and then vomited all over me.2

I’m going to write about what happened on Sunday night. My Saba3 is a baseball fan. Baseball was the medium through which he was able to meet people and form connections when he first came to the United States. My grandparents have been living in Philadelphia since the mid-1960s and my grandfather has been a Phillies fan ever since. It was no surprise to me, then, on Sunday evening during dinner, when he mentioned to me that the Cubs game would be on television later that night. He knows that I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was little and it would have been nice to watch the game together. I said a lot would depend on the time that Eitan ended up going to bed but agreed that it would be nice to watch.

As it turned out, Eitan was asleep before 8:30 and Trudy and I were back downstairs before the end of the third inning. The Cubs were up 2-0 against the LA Dodgers, which was encouraging, considering the fact that the Cubs had just lost four straight games. Despite the positive start, though, my grandfather turned off the television when Trudy and I sat down. I had mentioned to him earlier in the day that I wanted to go over Torah trope4 as a refresher and, for Saba, there’s nothing more enjoyable than Torah study. So the television went off and Saba, Savta, Trudy and I talked about trope and the different styles of reading Torah. The discussion went on to focus on modern religious school education, what it’s like working as a rabbi and the kind of a rabbi I would have been, had I not decided to become a social worker. We talked for almost two hours and I had completely forgotten about the baseball game.

Later in the evening, as I was lying in bed, I got a text message from my youngest brother: “Did either of you stay up to watch Cubs/Dodgers?” I said that I hadn’t because I was still at Saba and Savta’s house and everyone had gone to bed much earlier. Our other brother responded, “YES!!!!!!” I didn’t think too much of it in the moment; I assumed the Cubs had won and figured that maybe it had been in dramatic fashion. I didn’t even bother to check the score. But then I got an email from a friend with the subject line, “Congrats on Arrieta’s no-no.”

Cubs pitcher, Jake Arrieta, who has been the anchor of their pitching staff all year, had thrown a no-hitter. And I missed it.

I’ve written before about missing important Chicago sports moments. I’ll admit, when I first realized that I’d missed the game, I was angry. No-hitters don’t happen very often and, since I have so few opportunities to watch sports as it is, it was a little upsetting that I’d missed out. As I thought about it more, though, I realized I wouldn’t have traded my conversation with my grandparents for the chance to see the game, no matter how important it turned out to be. I loved talking with them and our conversation wouldn’t have happened if the game had been on. One of the nice things about sports is that there’s always the next game, the next series, the next season. Time with our loved ones is much more finite. Yes, it would have been amazing to watch Arrieta reach a personal milestone that also happened to be meaningful for my favorite team. But when the game gets brought up in the future, instead of thinking about a fleeting moment watching television, I’ll be able to picture listening to my grandfather chant the Torah trope that link me to my ancestors. I’ll picture his smile as I remind him how he told me not to grow up to become a rabbi when I was twelve. I’ll even hear his incredulous laugh from the next morning when I told him we missed the no-hitter.

The Cubs will always have a special place in my heart, but they’re never going to mean more to me than spending time with my family.


1. Incidentally, if you are looking to read a travel blog, I cannot recommend The Everywhereist strongly enough. Geraldine is thoughtful and hilarious and tells a great story.

2. Eitan had been crying for a couple of minutes and Trudy and I were completely unable to calm him down. He gagged once and then left my pants soaking wet and smelling awful. Then, no more than ten seconds later, still crying and tears still streaming down his face, Eitan said, “I’m feeling better!”

3. Hebrew for grandfather. “Savta” is the word for grandmother.

4. When Jews read from the Torah (Old Testament) during prayer services, there are specific markings that indicate the tune that should be used to sing each word. The tunes are different depending on the part of the world. Many American Jews use the tunes from Eastern Europe; since my mother’s side of the family is from India, our tunes are very different.

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