Op-Ed: Where was Sandy Koufax this past Sukkos?

By Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer
Was baseball legend Sandy Koufax really at BJX this past Sukkos? If you were there, you may be bewildered as you probably did not see him. Did he come incognito, perhaps in a disguise, afraid of the paparazzi?
Here’s an amazing story of a Sandy Koufax protege who showed up for Sukkos.
Did you know that countless unaffiliated Jews living in Brooklyn never heard of the Sukkos or Simchas Torah Yomim Tovim? The extent of their knowledge ofJewish holidays is either Yom Kippur or Passover. However, astoundingly and sadly, many are no longer even familiar with Yom Kippur.
We often take for granted the fact that we sit in the Sukkah, hold the Arbah Minim and dance with the Sefer Torah. We should not. It is an immense privilege and honor that so many of our fellow Jews never had the zechus to experience.
Did you ever envision unaffiliated Jews in Brooklyn oberving their first ever Sukkos or Simchas Torah?  Who would believe this could transpire in Flatbush?
In the heart of Flatbush, a miracle occured. BJX was packed on the first night of Sukkos with a beautiful and diverse crowd of Yidden. In addition to all the baalei batim that call the BJX Beis Medrash their home, young professionals and college students from Brooklyn observed Sukkos and fulfilled the Mitzvah D’Oraisah for the first time. There was such excitement and joy. The next day, students walked all the way from Bergen Beach and Sheepshead Bay to shake the Lulav and Esrog.
Sandy Koufax asserted his faith and decided not to pitch the opening game of the World Series in 1965. He rose to the pinnacle of fame.
Michael, one of our public high school students had a major Nisayon. He had grown considerably in his Yiddishkeit and was very inspired. He ardently wanted to observe the first and last days of Yom Tov but was frightened to miss four full days of school (the first and last days of Sukkos both coincided with a Monday and Tuesday). He approached teacher after teacher begging to be excused and was actually threatened by one particular teacher that missing these days, would jeapordize his grade and subject him to possible failure.
This was a monumental nisayon. What an exceptionally hard decision to make, especially for a teenager. This is a healthy and popular, athletic 16 year old, who has never, ever kept this Yom Tov before and six months ago had not even heard of Sukkos. This is not a lackadaiscal or apathetic young man. He cares about his academics and maintaining a high GPA.
Michael called. He was torn in many different directions. Amazingly, Michael decided to forgo school. We arranged hospitality for him for the entire Yom Tov. I wrote a lengthy letter to the principal of Edward Murrow High School asking that he please excuse Michael.
Didn’t I say that Sandy Koufax’s protege was with us for Sukkos?
Perhaps Michael’s test was even greater than Sandy’s. Perhaps Michael is on par with lehavdil, Avrohom Avinu.
The Sukkah is described by the Zohar as the shelter of faith. It was so incredible to have Michael with me in the Sukkah, the first night of Sukkos, during the ushpizin of Avrohom Avinu. This boy fulfilled the Mitzvah for the first time, with such self-sacrifice, great mesiras nefesh, a true shehechiyanu.  Avrohom Avinu, was the first to resist dominant culture and face daunting opposition from family, friends and teachers. I have no doubt that when Avrohom Avinu visited our Sukkah, he felt he met his modern-day, 2018, counterpart when seeing this holy boy in our Sukkah.


  1. BJX (Brooklyn Jewish Xperience) is the first and only kiruv shul in Brooklyn. Their holy shul is located on Ave. K (29th and Nostrand) in the heart of Flatbush. BJX has made a huge impact in the community and we owe them… for changing the face of Brooklyn.

    Stop by at BJX. Support their holy work.

    Rabbi Fingerer and BJX staff keep it up!

  2. My family davened in BJX over Yom Tov. No words to describe this experience! The davening was beautiful! The Rav’s drasha’s are superb! The sincerity of the balei teshuvah is humbling! May the Rav and BJX continue to teach all of us ‘hypercritcal’ Brooklyners more about ahavas yisroel and ahavas haTorah.

  3. BJX is packed on shabbos. The amazing Carlebach davening keeps you inspired for an entire week. The Rav’s drashas are incredible. I have ADD and can listen to him for hours!!!


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