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Lionel Messi

April 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Did you see today’s UEFA Champions League soccer game between Arsenal and Barcelona? If so, you’ll understand why Lionel Messi is my newest idol. I knew he was on the short list of best players in the world, but I hadn’t paid too close attention until today. He now moves to the top of my list. I’ll be watching Argentina’s games closely in the upcoming World Cup.

The Champions League — formerly known as the European Cup — is the annual competition among Europe’s best professional teams that culminates in one of them being crowned Europe’s best. We are now in the quarterfinal round, with eight teams split into four pairings and each pair competing in home-and-home games. The team in a pairing with the most aggregate goals moves on to the semifinals.

The first leg of the quarterfinals was played last week. Two of the second-leg quarterfinal games were held today; the other two are tomorrow. One of today’s games was the second Arsenal-Barcelona meeting. The two played to a 2-2 tie in London last week, setting up today’s game in Barcelona, which I was fortunate to stumble on just ten minutes in. At the 18-minute mark, Arsenal scored first. Three minutes later, Messi countered with an astonishing goal. Two defenders closed on him just outside the goal area, but he somehow got off a perfect shot just between them, right into the upper right corner of the goal, beyond the goalie’s reach. In the next 20 minutes, he scored twice more, and for good measure, he got one more goal with two minutes left in the second half. That was it. A 4-1 victory for Barcelona.

Did I mention that Messi is only 22 years old? You can learn more about him at his website, and you can see all the game’s goals in the youtube video at the top.

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Categories: Sports

Republican Plagues

April 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Passover will be ending in a few hours. A week ago last night, we hosted a Seder for the two families with whom we’ve shared Passover for many years. That means I got to choose the Haggadah. We’ve experimented with several over the years, and now own multiple copies of each. I never remember what it is I like about one or dislike about another. After a quick review, I selected the Haggadah prepared by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a Reform organization. It was first published in 1974; we own the 1994 revision.

I was happy with the choice. I miss some of the traditional Haggadah’s text, but this one reads better, has some lovely supplementary passages, and drawings by the artist Leonard Baskin that are beautiful and provocative.

As you may know, there comes a time in the Seder when the participants pour ten drops of wine from their wine glasses onto their plates with fingers or spoons, in memory of the ten plagues described in Exodus that God brought upon the Egyptians. In preparation for that moment, the Hagaddah we used has a passage intended to universalize and personalize the plagues. The passage, to be read by the participants in unison, goes as follows:

Each drop of wine we pour is hope and prayer
that people will cast out the plagues that threaten everyone
everywhere they are found, beginning in our own hearts:

The making of war,
the teaching of hate and violence,
despoliation of the earth,
perversion of justice and of government,
fomenting vice and crime,
neglect of human needs,
oppression of nations and peoples,
corruption of culture,
subjugation of science, learning, and human discourse,
the erosion of freedoms.

Wow! Who knew the Republican Party had gotten hold of this Haggadah and used it as the basis for their platform?

Categories: Politics, Religion