Friday, September 26, 2014

Opening Day, Take 2

When TigerBlog is asked the last time he went to temple, the running joke is to answer "when they played St. Joe's."

Big Five humor at its finest.

TigerBlog didn't exactly go to temple yesterday. He went to the Nassau Presbyterian Church, for the reform Rosh Hashanah service offered by the Center For Jewish Life, a service led by Rabbi Sara Rich.

It's an annual tradition for TigerBlog to go to services on the High Holy Days. Well, a mostly annual tradition.

In truth, he's debating going to the Yom Kippur service - or to the Princeton at Columbia football game. And, the reality is that the football game will probably win out.

TigerBlog spent seven years in Hebrew school as a youngster, at a temple called Shaari Emeth, which means "The Gates of Truth." TigerBlog knows this well, as it was MotherBlog who actually named the temple and it was his parents who were one of seven founding families. There is still a plaque outside the sanctuary at the temple that bears their names.

At one point, he was pretty good at reading Hebrew, even if he didn't know what most of the words meant. He was never close to conversational or anything.

Yesterday, sitting upstairs at the church, TigerBlog was reminded that most of what he learned about reading Hebrew in the time leading up to his bar mitzvah - something that was a long, long time ago - he no longer remembered.

TigerBlog has never wavered from his faith, even if he hasn't reaffirmed it on a weekly basis - and even as TigerBlog Jr. attends a school called Holy Ghost Prep. He also understands that that faith hasn't really been tested in ways that it has been for many others of his people through the years (actually centuries) and that there are few places on this planet where it is safer to be Jewish than it is in the area where TB has lived his life.

The service was a traditional Rosh Hashanah celebration of the New Year, along with contemplation of one's sins and a reaffirmation of self-improvement. The eight-day period ends with Yom Kippur and its 24-hour fast to atone for one's sins.

TigerBlog was struck by one passage in one of the meditations in the service yesterday, so much so that he took a picture of it so that he wouldn't forget. It said: "Freely we choose, and what we have chosen to become stands in judgement over what we may yet hope to be."

He's still trying to process its meaning. He sort of thinks it's reversed, that "what we may yet hope to be" is what is judging "what we have chosen to become."

There were lighter notes to the service. Rabbi Rich managed to make the Shofar sound melodic, which is no easy task. If you're not familiar, the Shofar is a ram's horn, and it's not easy to make a sound come out of it at all, let alone a smooth one. It is used to announce holidays, most often on Rosh Hashanah.

Then there were the orange and black yarmulkes, of which TigerBlog saw a few.

And there was way that Rabbi Rich turned it into a decidely Princetonian service, when she brought up attendees by class, beginning with the Class of 2015 and ending with the Class of 2018. After that, she invited all alumni in attendance.

That's pure Princeton, people. When TigerBlog use to go to services as an undergrad at Penn, there was nothing remotely like that.

As TigerBlog said, he will probably choose Princeton-Columbia football over Yom Kippur services, though he will do the 24-hour fast. He always does.

Turning to a more secular subject, there is the matter of the Princeton-Davidson football game tomorrow night, before Princeton can worry about its first Ivy League game. The Tigers play the home opener a week after a tough 39-29 loss at San Diego in the first game a week ago.

This figures to be a pretty nice night at Princeton Stadium.

The weather forecast is nearly perfect for the kickoff at 6 pm, with the temperature at 76 degrees with 53% humidity and a zero percent chance of rain. There are also fireworks set for after the game.

If you missed it, that's perfect weather + fireworks. And a football game, of course.

Going back 52 weeks, nobody at that moment could have figured that Princeton was sitting on an offensive juggernaut and Ivy League championship team. Actually, the Ivy title would probably have seemed more likely than the offensive explosion.

Princeton lost its opener to Lehigh 29-28 last year. Going back a year earlier, Princeton had lost three of its last four to finish off a 5-5 year, and the Tigers had not reached more than 39 points in any game since Bob Surace had become head coach.

Game 2 last year was against Georgetown. Remember what you were thinking as a Princeton fan?

TigerBlog wrote this the day before the game:
The football team is at Georgetown, where it will be homecoming for the Hoyas. Georgetown football isn't quite like Georgetown basketball, but the Tigers and Hoyas had a pretty entertaining game last year. This time around, it'd be great for Princeton to be 1-1 heading into the Ivy League opener next Saturday against Columbia.

In other words, it was anything but a sure thing. Princeton then went out and hammered Georgetown 50-22, and the track meet that was the 2013 season was on.

TigerBlog's point is that the opener rarely defines the season, especially at Princeton, which struggles so much to win on opening day (0-8 in the last eight). The season really starts Saturday and then again next Saturday against Columbia.

So make sure you're out there tomorrow night. Weather. Fireworks. Football. A stadium that looks great under the lights.

It's opening day, take 2.

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