Aaron David Fruh

Purim and the Chicago Cubs: Please Remain Standing

I once lived in an area on the near north side of Chicago affectionately known as “Wrigleyville.” Home to Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. My family and I lived there in the days of Harry Caray and before Wrigley Field followed other professional stadiums and added lights for night baseball games.

Nothing is like walking over to the historic field on a warm summer day to watch the Cubbies win or lose. It is not unusual for out-of-town business people to attend a Cubs game caring not in the least about whom the Cubs are playing. They want to witness baseball played in one of the only fields left from the era when baseball was America’s national pastime.

At Wrigley, you don’t need binoculars to see the players. For a snack, you down a Chicago dog hugged by a poppy seed bun, smothered with lettuce, tomato, onions, and, if you are really brave, green chili peppers.

I have been to Wrigley Field on cold days in the spring and fall, and I have seen faithful Cubbies fans buttoned down in their parkas under plaid blankets with teeth chattering. The weather was more suited for ice fishing than watching baseball.

When the announcer, Harry Caray, said, “Please remain standing” as he introduced the performer who would lead us in the National Anthem, those Cubs fans, true to form, shed their warmers and their hats, placed their hands over their hearts and bellowed out the anthem – shivering between every word. Cold, but faithfully standing.

These fans often cheered for the team in last place in their division—beaten but faithfully standing.

When Harry Caray stood up and opened the press box window in the seventh-inning stretch in those days, you knew it was time to stand with him. “Everyone standing,” his distinct voice would shudder. “Everyone on your feet!” No one dared to stay seated in the bleachers when Harry stood up. At that moment, it mattered not whether you were a Cubs fan, a Padres fan, a Braves fan, or a Cardinals fan. All that mattered was that we all loved baseball. We were all Americans under a clear blue summer sky, standing up with Harry as he led us from the press box in a rousing chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”!

We had all, for a moment, slipped back into America the way she once was. In a sense, we were standing and cheering for the things that represent the things we love – the American flag, hot dogs, apple pie, Chevrolets, and old-time baseball. “Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks…at the old ball game.”

There is no argument in baseball lore that Cubbies fans are the most loyal to their team. (Well, okay, this is open for debate). Whether they remain standing for the National Anthem or remain standing for the seventh-inning stretch, Cubs fans remain faithfully resolute, win or lose.

This coming Monday, March 6th, Purim begins at sunset. It commemorates the sheer tenacity of the Jewish people in the face of overwhelming hatred and planned genocide. We know from the pages of the book of Esther that the opposite would happen. One theme running through the book of Esther that has always inspired me is the willingness of the Jews to protest malevolence by the simple act of standing.

In Esther 3:2, when all the king’s servants at the king’s gate were ordered to bow down and pay homage to evil Haman, it was Mordecai the Jew who remained standing. When young Queen Esther risked her life to defend her people and stood in the king’s inner court without being called, she knew she could be put to death. In Esther 5:2, Esther’s bold tenacity won the king’s favor: “And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight…”. Both Mordecai and Esther remained standing. In Esther 8:11 and 9:16, we read that the Jews collectively remained standing to defend their lives.

Woven between the lines of the book of Esther is the truth that Mordecai and Esther understand their connection to their people’s past. Mordecai reminds Esther of God’s historical and future deliverance of the Jewish people. He warns her that if she does not stand with him for the Jews, she and her father’s name will perish at the hands of their enemies – that her father’s lineage will be erased should she not stand.

I realize this Purim that many evil people in this world would like nothing more than to erase the Jewish people. Jews have always faced an existential threat of one kind or another. For certain, the opposite will happen, but as it was true for Esther, it’s true for Jews today- and for those who have joined themselves relationally to the Jewish people: Resolute standing is required. I don’t know if it will ever be possible to heal the world of the hatred of Antisemitism. One thing is for sure: there must never be a time when we fail to protest – when we fail to stand against the threat of the very existence of the Jewish people. So, like Esther and Mordecai – and yes, those faithful Cubbies fans – please remain standing.

About the Author
Aaron David Fruh is a Research Fellow at The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) and the President of Israel Team Advocates, whose mission it is to change the growing anti-Israel narrative on college campuses. Aaron is the author of five books including The Casualty of Contempt: the alarming rise of Antisemitism and what can be done to stop it (editor), and Two Minute Warning: why it’s time to honor the Jewish people before the clock runs out. Aaron has written for The Jerusalem Post and The Algemeiner.