Who do our biblical ancestors remind you of?

By Debbi K. Levy

The sacred words of the Tanakh narrative when young David slays Goliath have always been powerful for me. Particularly endearing is David’s refusal to wear the king’s finest battle gear.

In 1 Samuel 17:38-40 Saul clothed David in his own garment; he placed a bronze helmet on his head and fastened a breastplate on him. David girded his sword over his garment. Then he tried to walk; but he was not used to it. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk in these, for I am not used to them.” So David took them off. He took his stick, picked a few smooth stones from the wadi, put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag and, sling in hand, he went toward the Philistine.

While perhaps these are not the verses focused on by most biblical scholars, they speak to my heart. We learn that David’s ability to summon athletic prowess and precision did not come from any form of equipment. We are treated, in fact, to the pleasure of being an observer, a “fly on the wall,” as David refuses the armor and helmet that could possibly put the odds of success in his favor. David enters the contest with the Philistine giant Goliath wearing his everyday sheepherder’s garb and trusting nothing more than his sling, gathered stones and raw physical talent.

I love diving deeply into our biblical ancestors. I imagine a dear friend embodying the unique kindness of Rebekah. I frequently contemplate those in our Jewish community who illustrate “audacious hospitality,” purposefully widening their tent to cultivate the warmth of Abraham. I dream about Sarah in her advanced age, learning she would be a mother, as I consider the women who never cease to amaze me while they birth creativity and productivity in their later stages of life. But David and that leather sling? Maury Levy comes to mind.

I can’t go to any large Jewish function in Dallas without someone (picture any 60-plus man) coming up to me to relay a story about the athleticism of my dad, Maury Levy. Dad is, undeniably, one of the most talented basketball players anyone has ever had the pleasure of watching. He played during his high school years for Highland Park High School and they celebrated a phenomenal season that took them to the state championship in 1957.

When I was a little girl, Dad would shlep me and my brother Adam to the JCC for his Men’s Basketball League night. We knew our dad was an amazing basketball player, but bribed for 90 minutes of behaving while he played, we were mostly excited for our coins that we dropped in the J’s snack machine. We pulled the levers and watched our delicious candy drop down to reach in with grubby hands for our reward. Can you tell it was the ‘70s? We always sat at the top of the bleachers watching the game out of one eye and arguing about whose candy bar fell to the bottom. We often heard a mighty “Thud!” and Dad would be on the ground, but before you could say “Jewish Community Center,” he was up on his feet with the sounds of referee whistles blowing and the game quickly back to its lightning pace. Dad was a relentless competitor. We saw it and felt it. And a little “conflict” in the game? A little “tension”? Our dad was made for those moments. NBD. (No big deal.) There are a few stories out there about that too.

Fast-forward and now Barry and I are at the Annual Kosher Chili Cook-off. I thought Shearith Israel’s chili had just the right spice and I was pondering the paprika when yet another of Dad’s teammates, from softball this time, approached me and said, “Debbi, I’ve GOT to tell you a story about your dad.”

I learned about one of the times that Dad showed up to play league softball. At his turn to bat in the lineup, he put on his leather gardening gloves that he used for yard work. I was told there was a snicker or two in the bullpen. The pitch was thrown and Maury Levy hit that ball with so much force that mouths dropped open while that ball flew like no one had ever seen at the ballpark. In fact, they still reminisce about that home run today. I guess the equipment doesn’t always make the athlete. It certainly didn’t impact my dad.

And now, Reader, you know why I think of my dad when I read about young David versus Goliath. Although my dad may not be a king, he certainly has the heart of one. It must be so, for he’s 83 years old and the guys still want to talk about that homer Maury Levy hit with his gardening gloves.

Kohenet Debbi K. Levy tries to be an athlete like her dad, but relies on top-of-the-line pickleball equipment. She welcomes your feedback at debbiklevy@gmail.com 

Leave a Reply