The Belmont Stakes were off and running, so here are some Torah tips to play the horses right.

"Nay," you say. "Preaching in the racing season is like beating a dead horse!" It's a gamble to sermonize on a scratch sheet, but sports have spirit, too! G‑d lives not only in Israel and Brooklyn; He is everywhere all the time - including on Long Island in Belmont.

But the nay sayers are kicking. "Whoa! Don't mix Judaism with horses. Didn’t Pharaoh's horses chase Israel to the Red Sea? And King David said:"These are into chariots, and these are into horses, but we call in G‑d's name!" (Psalm 20)

Others snort: "Hold your horses! I cruise in the fast lane- why return to the old horse and buggy days? Don't saddle me with Mitzvos; they slow me down!"

Horsefeathers! Mitzvos are no handicap to a stable quality life. It reins us in a little here and there, but harnesses our energy to stay ahead, training us to overcome life's hurdles and obstacles. Speed and stamina score big in Mitzvah performance, "to be bold as a
leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer and strong as a lion to do G‑d's will."(Avos 5)

As for the Triple Crown, "Rabbi Simeon says: There are three crowns: the Crown of Royalty, the Priestly Crown and the Torah Crown, and the Crown of a Good Name supersedes them all!" (Avos 4)

And speaking of horses, here's a winner. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chasidism, saw a lesson in everything. He once prodded an equestrian to stop horsing around and return to Judaism, but the man's mind was on his horse. "See how it runs!" he exclaimed. “It covers much more ground than the slowly Shleppers!"

"But," asked the Rabbi, "if your horse takes a wrong turn, it'll get lost faster than a slow horse!" "Aha!" said the horse fancier. "My horse makes up for lost time and returns real fast." The Baal Shem Tov beat him to the chase. "You said it! The same drive that led you astray, can get you back on track."

But let's be selective about the races we enter, for the tortoise won by going slow. Speed isn't everything, and can even kill. We run into serious problems when we reverse our priorities and put the wagon before the horse rushing headlong into the perpetual rat race chasing our tails round and round going nowhere fast at dizzying speeds without ever stopping to pause as our days weeks and years become a long run-on-sentence down to the finish line.

Quickly, let's slow down; 'Post Time' is now. "For if not now, when?" (Avos 1)

The Jewish Horse (Humor)

Shmerel wants to borrow a horse from his neighbor, Berel.

"Sure you can borrow my horse," replies Berel. "But one thing you have to know about this horse. He is trained to start when you say 'Baruch Hashem' (thank God), and he stops when you say 'Shema Yisrael.'"

So Shmerel gets on the horse and practices. "Baruch Hashem" he says, and the horse breaks into a trot. "Shema Yisrael" he announces, and sure enough, the horse stops. After practicing a few times, he feels confident and begins his journey.

As he is riding along a road, he sees that the road ends up ahead with a steep cliff. Suddenly Shmerel realizes that he has forgotten the word needed to make the horse stop.

"Ashrei yoshvei vetecha" he squeaks, desperately. The horse keeps going.

"Um - Adon Olam" he intones.

The horse keeps going.

"Eh - Aleinu L'shabeiach."

But the horse keeps galloping.

Now fearful that he is about to die, Shmerel does what any good Jew would do when confronted with certain death. He screams our, "Shema Yisrael." As trained, the horse stops suddenly — barely two feet from the edge of the cliff.

Shaking like a leaf, Shmerel pulls out his handkerchief and wipes the sweat from his forehead. "Whew" he exclaims, "Baruch Hashem!"

(Adapted from the original writings of Rabbi Yisroel Rubin, Chabad of Albany NY)