Mysticism vs. Rationalism Redux: NFL All-22 Footage to be Released to the Public

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This article originally appeared on June 15, 2012 at

The NFL has decided to give the fans the coveted NFL Films materials, the All-22 video.

What is this video? It is the film that NFL coaches receive. It is different than broadcast footage because the broadcast only shows a small part of the game. The quarterback is the main focus of the broadcast and the viewer at home does not see what the wide receivers are doing nor do the viewers get a full grasp of how the defense covers the receivers or disguises blitzes. In short, the broadcast footage is very limited in what it allows the viewers at home to see.

ESPN got a very small percentage of All-22 for the NFL Matchup show. But in general, we the public, have never seen enough All-22 to understand the very complex game of the NFL completely.

The All-22 footage gives the viewer a full view of all 22 players on every play. It shows how the schemes look before the play and how the players move through the play. It is the definitive source of all NFL information. It shows everything.

For years, the NFL has resisted giving away the All-22 film to the public. Their reasoning was that the public cannot handle the information. They are not initiated in the ways of NFL football like the coaches are and they will misinterpret the information. This will open the players and coaches to unwarranted criticism. Further, the broadcasters do have the All-22 during the game. That’s how they sound so smart. If people see what the broadcasters see, they will see behind the curtain and realize they are not that smart after all, they just have access to more information.

Now that will all change. We will all be able to see the All-22 footage. The NFL no longer holds the keys to the Ferarri. We all do now.

To me, this is representative of a fundamental change in the way we approach information in 2012. Knowledge, wisdom, and information are expected to be accessible to all. They are expected to be available to anyone who wants it. This is the generation of Wikipedia. This is the generation of Google. This is the generation of free information.

The Encyclopedia Britannica was a giant leap in making information accessible to many people. But they still needed to shell out a ton of cash to buy a full set or they could mosey on to the library and read it there. But it was not easy accessible to anyone and everyone. That’s the old model. Wikipedia is the new model. Free information.

The NFL has caught wind of this. They want to please their young fan base. Eventually they caved to pressure and now the most valuable NFL data is available to the public.

What’s this got to do with Judaism? Mysticism? Rationalism?

One of my favorite Torah scholars is Chacham Jose Faur. One of his favorite theories about the relationship between Maimonidean rationalism and mysticism/kabbalah is very relevant to this decision by the NFL.

Chacham Faur believes that the core of the battle between rationalism and mysticism is the accessibility of knowledge. In the mystical view, kabbalah is received wisdom that comes from great scholars and is imparted to great scholars only. It is not accessible to the masses as it is deemed too dangerous or too esoteric for the common people to grasp. Laws can be changed based upon this extremely private knowledge base and it can even usurp revealed Torah found in the Talmud. It is so powerful, yet so few can gain entry into the kabbalah club. It takes years of Torah study and personal growth to be worthy of hearing this mystical knowledge.

In sharp contrast, we find the teachings of Maimonides. It was his desire to turn this model on its head. Knowledge was to be accessible to all. The Mishneh Torah was written so that everyone who could read was able to access the core text of Judaism. It no longer required a process by which one had to prove himself to be worthy of knowing the law. It was available to everyone. Free information.

This was one of the primary arguments against the Mishneh Torah. It made things too easy.

But to a rationalist, it is impossible to justify keeping wisdom locked away from the public. So Maimonides followed in the footsteps of R’ Yehuda HaNassi and made Torah accessible to all.

This tension exists today as well. On one hand we have groups that try to make kaballah more accessible to the masses. But most Orthodox Jews find this unacceptable. On the other hand, we have Da’as Torah die-hards who act within the same structure as the mystics of the medieval era did with regard to policy setting and halachic decisions. The Da’as Torah skeptics are more universalist with their approach to Torah and thus believe that everyone has access to all of Torah, not just a select group of Torah giants.

It is harder than ever to maintain the model of the mystics. The NFL finally gave in to the side rationalism and granted the public access to their information. In the Orthodox Jewish world a similar struggle is starting and is likely to continue for the next few years.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D., is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice, CA. Connect with Rabbi Fink through Facebook, Twitter or email.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.