Yankee-Omer-Count #5: Joe DiMaggio
by Rabbi Rick Brody
A series of 49 reflections on the number of the day in the counting of the omer, paired with the corresponding uniform number worn by one or more members of the New York Yankees throughout the team’s history.
The intention of these posts (other than sharing the hitherto concealed, true mystical meanings of the sacred counting ritual) is to invite readers–especially those who love both baseball (even if not the Yankees!) and Jewish life–to find new ways to appreciate the particular number for each each day, to gain more enjoyment in the process of counting, and to intensify one’s double love for Torah and baseball. The fact that almost all of this counting always coincides with the early part of the Major League Baseball regular season (this year, it will include the first 6 weeks of the season) elevates the connection even further.
#5 for the Yankees is Joe DiMaggio. His number was retired by the Yankees in 1952 and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. He played a short but illustrious 13 years, all for the Yankees, in which the team won 10 American League pennants and 9 World Series championships. He is most known for his astounding and legendary streak of 56 consecutive games with a hit in 1941, a record that still stands.
Today, the 5th Day of the Omer, is associated with the mystical quality of Hod, the 5th of the lower 7 sephirot (mystical emanations of Divinity). Hod is Splendor/Submission. Technically, the 5th day of the Omer is Hod within Chesed, which is love/kindness/unbounded enthusiasm. Hod is associated with the Biblical Aharon, the 1st High Priest, who is known throughout Jewish lore for his quiet, grace in initiating the priesthood, being a peacemaker within the Israelite camp, and silently accepting the tragic loss of his two sons.
Joltin’ Joe was a quiet and modest hero, an embodiment of consistent grace who, between his prowess on the field and his class and patriotism off of it, was practically the walking definition of an American icon in the middle of the 20th century. He was the standard against whom future celebrity heroes were measured. As we lament, in Jewish tradition, the dissolution of a functioning priesthood that was begun by Aharon, the Biblical representative of Hod, so too, we have asked, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”
Hod is associated with the left leg of the human body. As a right-handed hitter, perhaps the greatest in Yankees history, DiMaggio would stand at the plate leading with his left leg.
DiMaggio is also remembered fondly for his brief marriage to and long-time friendship with Marilyn Monroe (who converted to Judaism shortly after their marriage ended, while she was married to Arthur Miller). This relationship signifies the role that love played in DiMaggio’s life, and helps us understand #5 as Hod within Chesed, splendor in loving-kindness.
On this, the 5th day of the Omer, may we find ways to capture the best qualities of Joe DiMaggio, quietly, gracefully, and consistently striving for excellence.