This is one of those stories that can only take place with people from a certain generation, when the world of American Orthodoxy was much smaller and centered in very few locations. It begins on the afternoon of October 3, 1951, when the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson hit his famous “Shot Heard Round the World” off Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca. It is considered one of the greatest moments in baseball history, if not the greatest.
A few years ago, though I don’t know exactly when, a Jewish publication erroneously noted that the game was played on Erev Yom Kippur, Kol Nidre night. Rabbi T (name withheld upon request) of Yeshivat Har Etzion (a.k.a., Gush) remembered that a friend of his, and an observant Jew, claimed to be at that game, which would have been close to impossible if the game indeed coincided with the eve of the fast. Rav T went and asked Rav Lichtenstein, who is a bit older and would have a better memory of the day, whether this was indeed the case. Rav Lichtenstein responded that he remembers distinctly that the game was, in fact, played on Tzom Gedalyah, the fast day which falls a week before Yom Kippur (this calculation can be confirmed here). Rav T then commented to R’ Aharon how amazing it is that Thomson hit the home run even though he was fasting. R’ Lichtenstein responded that, to the contrary, Branca was the one fasting. According to Rav T (who is here in Camp Moshava this month, which has given me the opportunity to clarify some of the details of the anecdote), Rav Lichtenstein was extremely proud of his retort, and asked Rav T to repeat it to others.
I first heard this story from my chavruta when I was in the kollel at Gush. Several years later, I was back in the
I wonder how many other people Alan Dershowitz has conceded to. I know of one other, sort of – Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz. In a sense, that story is the continuation of this one (from my perspective, anyway), but it will have to wait for another post.