Killer Shot: On Kawhi and Pinchas

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist and a Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University. In 2008 he delivered a great TED Talk on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives. Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center. In this talk he said:

The third foundation is in-group/loyalty. You do find cooperative groups in the animal kingdom, but these groups are always either very small or they’re all siblings. It’s only among humans that you find very large groups of people who are able to cooperate and join together into groups, but in this case, groups that are united to fight other groups. This probably comes from our long history of tribal living, of tribal psychology. And this tribal psychology is so deeply pleasurable that even when we don’t have tribes, we go ahead and make them, because it’s fun. Sports is to war as pornography is to sex. We get to exercise some ancient drives. (TED.com)

On one level these things are all about practicing and on another level sports, war, pornography, and sex are about power and teams. 

I was thinking about Haidt’s thoughts while reading the end of Balak, last week’s Torah portion. There we see Zimri and Kosbi, an Israelite man and a Midianite woman, fornicating in public. With a horribly miraculous shot, Pinchas kills them both with a toss of a spear. Falling short of war, this shot woke the people up by pulling them away from sex. And in a profound way this shot reestablished the teams. This shot seemed to so extraordinary that it must have been divinely ordained. So much so that in this week’s eponymous Torah portion Pinchas is given a “blessing of peace” because put an end to their lascivious behavior.

Lihavdil– making a totally separation, I was reminded of Pinchas’s shot in 2019 when Kawhi Leonard hit a miraculous shot to end the playoff series and beat the 76ers. Everyone knew that he was going to get the ball and at the last moment he hit a shot that bounced close to 5 times before going in, winning the game, and sending the Raptor to the NBA championship. It seemed to be ordained to go in. After that it was not surprising to see the Raptors go on to win their first NBA championship. 

 

 

While Pinchas brought that “ancient drive” to a pointed end, Kawhi’s  killer shot defined the team and unlocked their tribal drive. If there is no depth of this juxtaposition, we can just chock it up to the fact that I am a long suffering and disgruntled 76ers fan. I guess that 76ers are my tribe.

1 Response to “Killer Shot: On Kawhi and Pinchas”


  1. 1 Arthur Schwartz July 2, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    Hi Avi;

    How rare it is for me to read a blog that combines Torah, my friend Jon Haidt and my love of Sixer basketball.

    Enjoy your Shabbat!

    Arthur


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