The WORD – 3/10/11. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you have to feel badly for an athlete or a team when the playing field is not level and they lose as a result. Everybody deserves a fair shot. So, the news from the Big East Basketball Tournament was a little disappointing. The referees missed two separate violations with about 2 seconds left on the clock. If they had made either call, Rutgers would have had one last opportunity to tie the game or even win against St. John’s. Instead, the referees walked off the court and sequestered themselves.
Later in the day, the referees’ supervisor called the incident disappointing, but was quick to point out that neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA rules. Wow – “not reviewable and not correctable.” Something’s just not right about that. It seems to me that everyone’s actions ought to be both “reviewable and correctable.”
In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to five different kinds of sacrifices. While we certainly no longer offer up sacrifices to God, two of them seem relevant to this discussion. First, we read about the Hattat or sin offering, which was given by a person after breaking a commandment. Then we read about the Asham or guilt offering, which was given by someone who stole, lied or cheated in order to ask for forgiveness.
Whether an individual’s error was intentional or accidental, there was a way to reach out to God to ask for forgiveness.
Of course, it was never sufficient to simply go to God and ask for forgiveness, though. One also had to make restitution. “When one has thus sinned and, thus realizing his guilt, would restore that which he got through robbery or fraud… or anything else about which he swore falsely, he shall repay the principal amount and add a fifth part to it (Lev. 5:23-24).” In other words, one must pay back the wronged party and add a 20% penalty.
Our tradition views human errors as being both reviewable and correctible. We review them through prayer and contemplation. We correct them by reaching out to the wronged party and compensating them for their loss.
I don’t know what the value is for a victory in a Big East Tournament game. But, it seems to me that that both the refs and St. John’s owe Rutgers SOMEthing.