This year’s Mensch Madness Baaaaaa-sketball Tournament opens with a play-in game between the #8 seed, One Little Goat from the famous Passover song Chad Gadya, and the #9 seed, the Ram from the Akeidah.
Which of these two feisty beasts will make it to the next round?
Hardcore fans will recall the Ram from the story of the Binding of Isaac, back in Genesis 22. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, then an Angel swooped in to stop the slaughter at the last moment. As Abraham looked up in gratitude, his eyes “fell upon the Ram caught in the thicket.” Now this Ram is almost a sure winner. After all, when they were walking up Mount Moriah Abraham said to Isaac, “God will see to the sheep for the offering.” We never doubted this Ram would come through, and we think he will perform similarly today!
On the other team we see the underdog, the main character from the Passover song, the One Little Goat that My Father Bought for Two Zuzim, also known as Chad Gadya. This is one small goat, folks. He got beaten up by a cat – A CAT, Y’ALL – and his size is still a big concern today!
We now go live to the game:
The Ram won the jump ball and has taken off down the court. Unfortunately, this is one clumsy Ram. Remember how he got his horns tangled up in that thicket? That’s how Abraham spotted him in the first place. Well, now the Ram is tripping all over himself again and the Chad Gadya quickly moved in to take the ball away.
Now here comes that One Little Goat down the court, and oh no! The stick appears out of nowhere to beat the dog who bit the cat who ate the goat my father bought for two zuzim. Sheesh, Little Goat can’t catch a break!
And that’s the halftime buzzer. One thing you really have to appreciate about both these players is their symbolic value. Abraham offered this Ram as a sign of his gratitude when God spared his son, Isaac. God’s acceptance of this offering really put an end to child sacrifice. The Goat from Chad Gadya also carries deep meaning; he represents the paschal offering, the reminder of how God freed our ancestors from Egypt. Both these beasts carry weighty symbolic burdens.
And we’re back! Now as the Ram takes the ball down the court. The aforementioned Angel of God appears to set a pick, and the Ram shoots from the 3-point line and scores. What a play! Chad Gadya has divine beings on his team, too, and as he takes the ball the Angel of Death who killed the butcher who slaughtered the ox who drank the water that put out the fire that burned the stick that hit the dog that bit the cat that ate the goat that my father bought for two zuzim has appeared on the court to come to the Goat’s assistance.
Angel of God! Angel of Death! Holy… basketball!
This has been a tough game, but when the final shofar blows, it’s the Ram from the Akeidah walks away with the victory. You just can’t escape the fact that this Ram has divine sanction on his side. Abraham saw this Ram caught in a thicket, and made him the symbol of God’s mercy. As Yehuda Amichai wrote, “The real hero of the Isaac story was the Ram,” and it’s tough to beat that.
In the next round, the Ram will face off against the Golden Calf! See you there, sports fans.
 Yehuda Amichai, “The Real Hero.” Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai. Translation by Chana Bloch & Stephen Mitchel. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).
Last year, the ISJL (a very sports-centric Southern and Jewish office) held a tournament of champions. The inaugural Mensch Madness matched up true heroes from the Tanakh in basketball match-ups for the ages!
Every game had fans cheering on both sides. Hillel took on Abraham in a thrilling contest, Deborah and Hannah sought to achieve eternal athletic glory, and in the end, the one and only Moses came through with the victory.
This year, we are proud to announce our 2nd annual Mensch Madness bracket. Over the coming weeks we will, similarly to last year, broadcast the results of an intense basketball showdown among some famous characters from the Jewish tradition. Each match-up included two characters, and using texts from Jewish history and the contemporary Jewish world, we determined who the winner would be, and they moved on to the next round.
But THIS season, there’s a twist!
In this year’s edition, the mensches…well…they won’t be homo sapiens. Instead, we will be recognizing some of our most important non-human contributors to Jewish text over the years. Characters such as the Golem of Prague, Bilaam’s donkey, and the serpent from the Garden of Eden will battle one another on the hardwood, and we at the ISJL will be there every step of the way to describe the match-ups thoroughly and provide our professional analysis on the results.
Our competitors have been preparing for weeks, and they are ready for the Madness. Some might even call them ANIMALS.
Are you ready for Mensch Madness 2015?! GAME ON!
In the South, college football is king. Adjusting to the world of Saturday morning tailgates (after shul, of course) and punting on fourth down is hard for some ISJL Education Fellows, but for me, it felt like being home. See, I am a Columbus, Ohio girl—born and raised on Buckeye Football. I come from the land of Woody Hayes, Archie Griffin, and scarlet and grey. This past year has been an exciting one for me. I’ve had a front row seat to the SEC—one of the most dominant leagues in the country.
Luckily for me, and probably to the chagrin of some of our readers, on New Year’s Day, my Buckeyes beat Alabama, the only SEC team in the new College Football Playoffs. As a result the SEC was knocked out of the bid for the first ever CFP Championship.
So why should my fellow Southern Jews, those normally loyal to their SEC home teams, support The Ohio State Buckeyes tonight? I humbly offer a few suggestions:
- The Buckeyes squeaked out a victory over the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl. Though the loss is still a sore spot, especially since this year is the first since 2005 in which no SEC team will play for the national title, the SEC looks best if the team that beat them in the playoffs wins the championship.
- Les Wexner is an alumnus of The Ohio State University and a proud Buckeye. Wexner is a notable Jewish philanthropist and founder of the Wexner Foundation, which seeks to develop Jewish leaders and sustain Jewish heritage across the United States.
- As Southerners and Jews, we love our traditions. The Buckeyes have tradition to spare. From the start of the game, when The Ohio State Marching Band performs “Script Ohio” to the end of every home game, when the football team joins the band to sing the alma mater, to the Mirror Lake jump, when thousands of students jump into a frozen lake on campus, tradition seeps from Buckeye pores.
- Urban Meyer is a former SEC coach. So while the speed, offense, and defensive lines are in the Big 10, we look a whole lot like an SEC team. What’s more, six of our starters, not including injured quarterback J.T. Barrett, hail from our great 13-state region. Oregon’s roster includes only 13 Southerners, while Ohio State’s includes 17.
So, that’s my case. I love the Buckeyes and I love college football – and of course, I love my fellow Southern and Jewish football fans. Win or lose, I’m so excited that I was able to spend this season deep in SEC territory, where people love it just as much as I do.
Tonight the Bucks take on the Ducks in Dallas. I’d love it if you cheered for the Bucks along with me (but I promise to get over it if you don’t). Go Bucks!
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