Yom Kippur could present problem for some Cubs fans
On Tuesday night, suburban Jews will begin celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays, a time of fasting and atoning for one's sins.
Normal work and recreation activities are abandoned as one focuses on prayer and reading the Torah.
But this year's holiday could present a problem for Jewish Cubs fans, during a season in which the team hopes to atone for 108 years without winning a World Series.
If the San Francisco Giants avoid a series sweep Monday night, the Cubs would play game four Tuesday night on Yom Kippur, leaving observant Jews who also happen to be die-hards faced with a dilemma pitting fandom against faith.
The Cubs have dominated the talk of local congregations, as they have all of Chicago, to the extent that the team has almost threatened to become a competing religion.
"We have talked a lot about the Cubs," Rabbi Lisa Sari Bellows of Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove said Sunday. "We have people who think that the Cubs are holy. They would probably choose baseball over the synagogue."
The passion for the Cubs runs so deeply that the cantor, during Friday night's closing hymn, sang, "Go, Cubs, Go."
Bellows said she would prefer people attend every service, but hopes that if some choose to stay home for baseball Tuesday, they come on Wednesday morning.
"As this is the season of forgiveness and understanding, I do have forgiveness and understanding," she added.
One Cubs fan who will be attending all Yom Kippur services is Arlington Heights resident Roberta "Mickey" Capsuto.
Capsuto, 84, first attended games in the 1940s, when she lived on the West Side of Chicago and took two buses to get to Wrigley Field.
"I sing in the temple choir, so I have to be at services Tuesday evening," said Capsuto, who wore a Cubs shirt at Friday night services. "I most likely will DVR it and pray that nobody tells me the outcome."
One blessing, said Arnold Bender, the vice president of planned giving at Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, is the West Coast playoff venue that would mean a later start time Tuesday night.
"Had the game been played here and they started at (7 p.m.), then you got a real dilemma," he said.
Not, he said, that game four is even a possibility.
"First of all, truly, don't expect to have a game four. They're going to finish it in three and be done with it," Bender said.
Even for the fans who plan to attend services Tuesday night, the Cubs won't be far from their minds. Literally, in the case of Lincolnshire resident Ed Nickow, who will wear a Cubs yarmulke to Temple Chai in Long Grove.
Nickow points out that the yarmulke is "officially licensed." He is sure others will be checking their smartphones during services.
"I'm reluctant to judge other people's observance, but if the game's important enough to you that you need to watch the whole game and not just check the score on your way out of shul, then maybe you should be watching the game at home," he said.
Rabbi James Gordon, author "Pray Ball! The Spiritual Insights of a Jewish Sports Fan," said he's not aware of any Jewish players on either the Cubs or the Giants, so at least there is no dilemma from their standpoint. Past players like Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg missed World Series games to celebrate the High Holidays.
Alan Rabishaw, who attended Maine East High School in Park Ridge and is now rabbi of Temple Or Rishon in Orangevale, California, joked that he might record the services and watch the game. He said the series may create the need for him to atone for anything he may say to the Giants fans in his congregation.
"Hopefully, by the time Yom Kippur comes around on Tuesday night, the series may even be over, and I'll be able to laugh at them and then forgive myself, because it's Yom Kippur," he said.