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Super Bowl Sunday Now Recognized as Jewish Holiday

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Why is this night no longer like all other nights? I feel the familiar stress of figuring out what to serve, when to shop as to avoid the crowds, whether the dining room table leg will hold when I put in the extra board, whether the traditional Jewish fare will be too salty for my father, whether the various family dogs will get along. But the midwinter's chill belies the approach of a Jewish holiday.

The High Holidays always take place on unseasonably warm fall days. The joy of wearing to synagogue the brand new outfit my mother would buy for me, no matter that it was winter weight and our temple had no air conditioning, still echoes. Passover always takes place on unseasonably cool spring days. I can still feel the sting on my bare legs beneath my new pastel dress (worn with patent leather shoes and white lace anklet socks, of course), from the walk up the snowy path to my aunt's doorstep and the Seder table just beyond.

As I battle the winter's wind, it whispers to me an ancient commandment: honor your mother and father. And the words of the Haggadah reverberate: let all who are hungry come in and eat. Super Bowl Sunday is no longer the most extraordinary of ordinary nights. It is no ordinary night at all. It is now and forever commanded that thou shalt not let your aging parents watch the Super Bowl alone. Thou shalt invite to your house any person without a Super Bowl party invitation, so that they shall partake in the festive meal. We have not created a new Jewish holiday in generations. How has this transpired?

I cannot speak to whether this is solely a Jewish phenomenon, or whether other religious peoples have embraced the Super Bowl as a holiday. The Super Bowl is full of glitter and commercial appeal. But the Jewish celebration of the Super Bowl is not the same as when Jews celebrate Christmas by either ordering in Chinese food or seeking warmer climes, and it is understood that it is acceptable to make your own plans. The pervasiveness of the Super Bowl in American culture has created an expectation in Jewish families that everyone should take part and bear witness together in a meaningful way, even if your team isn't playing.

And there lies the secret to what makes a night not like all other nights, and indeed a Jewish holiday -- the presence of guilt.

It is not negative guilt or angry guilt. It is not the guilt of not having been to synagogue all year or for the misdeeds we have done. It is a knowing that it would be a "shandah" (a shame) for someone to be excluded from the opportunity to gather together. It is that unmistakable feeling that there is a right and a wrong thing to do, and the right thing to do is what we should do every day, but are often too busy to do on ordinary days -- cherish our parents and children, put their needs above our own, invite others into our circle who may be far from home, reach out to a friend who may need support, be silent and thoughtful for those moments when the national anthem plays, and give thanks to our servicemen and women. For the better, Super Bowl Sunday is now a day that highlights the importance of these moral commitments and takes its place in the calendar of Jewish celebrations.

So in accordance with the above, let the festivities begin. Draw your family close to you, lay the table with unspeakably unhealthy foods, turn the volume way up on the flat screen television, take the remote away from your brother, welcome in your friend's friend's friend and give thanks for all of your blessings. Let all who are hungry come in and eat.

And if you are a New York football fan do not forget to pray, "Next year in the Meadowlands with at least one of our home teams playing." And if the weather speaks to you as much as it does to me, please add: "thou who art all powerful and parted the Red Sea, would it be too much to ask for a dome in time for Super Bowl XLVIII?"