Rosh Hashanah featured major changes, some sadness, and even a possible miracle.
Rosh Hashanah was just different this year, regardless of your level of observance, preferred place of worship, or at home customs. Services took place on Zoom, they took place outdoors, they were shorter, socially distanced, they featured shofar blowers in various neighborhoods, and there were no big festive meals.
And Jews woke to the sad news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died Erev Rosh Hashanah (Friday) from complications of metastatic cancer at the age of 87
But there was also a happy story—perhaps even of a miracle—which may have slipped by without notice this Rosh Hashanah. Diego Schwartzman, a very nice, proudly Jewish 28-year-old professional tennis player from Argentina, stunned Rafael Nadal in straight sets on Saturday at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome. True, he wasn’t in synagogue this Rosh Hashanah, but there is a parallel between Schwartzman’s actions, and the story Jews who were in synagogue were reading.
On the first day or Rosh Hashanah, we read about Abraham and Sarah, and the birth of Isaac, after many years of waiting. Maimonides, the famous rabbi and commentator from the Middle Ages, notes that Abraham had to undergo 10 trials or tests from God. Two of the tests are alluded to in this reading: God tells Abraham to send Hagar (Sarah’s maidservant) away after having a child with her, and he becomes estranged from his first son, Ishmael.
Abraham’s 10th and final test is the story we read on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah—the Binding of Isaac, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar, then calls him off after he passes the test.
I don’t think Schwartzman (#15) was thinking about this story while on the clay with Nadal (#2). But, he, too survived his 10th test—he beat Rafa after losing their nine previous matches. Schwartzman’s Rosh Hashanah miracle was beating Rafa 6-2, 7-5 in just over two hours in the quarterfinals of the Italian Open. Nadal is ranked No. 2 in the world; Schwartzman is 15th. Schwartzman excitedly said, “For sure, it’s my best match ever. I played a few times against the three big champions in tennis. I never beat them until today. I’m very happy.”
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, Schwarzman defeated Denis Shapovalov, the 21-year-old Canadian, who was born in Tel Aviv. Schwartzman won Sunday’s semifinals match, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4).
Today, Schwartzman squared off against world #1, Novak Djokovic, in the finals. What a difference a few days and weeks makes. I wrote in the Jerusalem Post about Schwartzman’s shocking first round loss in the US Open. And every news outlet in the world covered the story of Djokovic being disqualified from the US Open just a week ago for unintentionally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.
Djokovic has beaten Schwartzman in all four previous matches before today’s finals—though Schwarzman took Djoker to five sets in the 2017 French Open. And he took him to 3 sets in last year’s Rome semifinals. In today’s finals, Djokovic defeated Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3.
Schwartzman may not have been in shul this year, then again, who was?! Thank you, Diego, for bringing us so much pleasure this Rosh Hashanah. They say that what happens on Rosh Hashanah is a siman, a sign of what is to come this year. Best wishes for a sweet, successful year on and off the court, Diego!