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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yaakov Silverman

The Words That Sparked a Revolution: Yom Kippur Lessons in Football

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

Over a year ago, the starting QB for the 49ers, Colin Kapernick, protested police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. He created a movement that slowly began to grow and a few vocal members of the NFL joined in protest as well. However, when President Trump lashed out against those that disrespect the flag, the movement became a revolution. According to some accounts, over 1/3 of the league was involved in some sort of protest or demonstration of unity. Some teams did not come on the field at all and coaches, owners, singers, and players joined in a mass demonstration of dissatisfaction with the words of our President.

Regardless of your personal political stance, one point is clear from this developing story and that is until the President spoke his mind, there were only a few protests. Those few words are what began this movement.

Yom Kippur is fast approaching and although it is important to be aware of how powerful our actions are, there is a specific stress placed on the power of words. The first prayer and one of the climaxes of Yom Kippur is the Kol Nidrei prayer. One would expect a meaningful prayer for forgiveness but instead the introduction to the services is a declaration about the nullifying of any vows or oaths. It seems a little out of place.

The ability to creatively express your thoughts is a trait that is uniquely human. No other being can convey such complex thoughts and ideas with the vehicle of speech. Our Rabbis teach us that this is a manifestation of the G-dliness within us. When G-d created man, He gathered together some dirt and blew a small piece of Himself into Adam, the result being the capability for speech. Our job is to utilize that G-dliness to better ourselves and better the world around us. We can chose to use our unique characteristics to hurt people and bring them down, to humiliate and slander, to curse and speak inappropriately, or we can channel this amazing tool to capitalize on relationships, strengthen our bonds with our families and communities, inspire others and express our appreciation for others.

That is why Yom Kippur starts off with a prayer about oaths and vows because it teaches us the energy we can create if we use our gift of speech properly.

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