In case you haven’t noticed, the Big Bad Bruins are back.
After a 119-day lockout that brought the NHL to a screeching halt, and a one-week “pre-season,” the Bruins have opened the season on a tear, taking 11 out of a possible 12 points from their first six games. Tuukka Rask has filled in for Doomsday-prepper-slash-bunker-dweller Tim Thomas without anyone noticing, Nathan Horton has come back from his concussion and looks strong, Tyler Seguin has continued on his trajectory towards perennial All-Star status, and much-hyped rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton looks like a seasoned pro.
And, given the abbreviated 48-game schedule, it means that the Bruins are playing almost every other day, which is pretty cool.
There are not many connections between bears and Judaism that one can draw, but there is a tremendous story that will allow this to evolve into a Jewishly-framed reflection.
Early on the Book of II Kings, Elijah the prophet makes his fiery ascent into heaven on his chariot, leaving his disciple, Elisha, to carry on in his place. As Elisha leaves Gilgal and heads towards Bethel, a strange incident happens.
As he was going up the road, some little boys came out of the town and jeered at him, saying “Go away, baldhead! Go away baldhead!” He turned around and looked at them and cursed them in the name of the LORD. Thereupon, two she-bears came out of the woods and mangled forty-two of the children. He went on from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.” (II Kings, 2:23-25)
It’s a fascinating story. By disrespecting a prophet, forty-two troublesome boys meet their untimely demise at the hands of two suddenly-appearing she-bears.
The moral lesson here is shady, and hopefully this anecdote is mere metaphor or allegory, as opposed to historical fact. If we fast-forward the scene three thousand years we can all imagine bands of impish Jewish boys (and girls) teasing their Hebrew school teachers or making fun of adults who they should be respecting… and I’m certain that she-bears haven’t been sent to mangle them.
But we can look at the she-bears/she-bruins/Bruins in this Biblical story as instruments of divine judgment, punishment, or enforcement. And that image of big, tough Bruins is one that will resonate with any hockey fan from Eastern Massachusetts who remembers enforcers like Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, Mike Milbury, Cam Neely, Lyndon Byers, and today’s baddest of Bruins, Shawn Thornton.
So there you have it. The prophet Elisha and the Boston Bruins, inextricably linked across three millennia of history.
Let’s go B’s.
The Bruins play Thursday 1/31 at home vs. Buffalo, and Saturday 2/2 at home vs. Toroto. Both games are at 7:00 pm and can be seen on NESN.
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