Over the past several years, Yeshiva University Men’s basketball has been affiliated with significant success. Whether it being the high-flying delights of Ryan Turell and Ofek Reef, the “slicing and dicing” of Gabe Leifer, or the sharpshooting of Splash-Bros Eitan and Simcha Halpert, Maccabees basketball has been an opportunity for rejoicing in the Jewish community and beyond. More importantly than basketball, Head Coach Elliot Steinmetz has instilled within his players the life-lessons of hard work, persistence, sacrifice, and discipline. Fans have seen the hard work and sacrifice lead to a record-setting win streak, countless examples of persistence and discipline leading to building friendships with opponents and respect with officials, but what goes unsung is how these lessons influence the daily lives of the Maccabees off the court.
This past weekend, when the Maccabees competed in the Jack Sikma Hall of Fame Invitational in Bloomington, Illinois, the ultimate example of “success” took place before the Maccabees even took the court for their first game of the tournament. While the players were davening Shacharis as a team Friday morning, Daniel Margusov saw his teammates wrapped in their Tefillin and had an ardent desire to partake in the Mitzvah. Margusov, a first-year guard from Encino, California grew up in a non-religious home with no affiliation to Judaism and has had his first exposure to Orthodox Judaism this semester in Yeshiva University. Throughout the year Margusov has developed a passion for Judaic studies and when he was approached by teammate Zevi Samet with the opportunity to wear his Tefillin and say the blessings, Margusov was overjoyed. After Samet dished the assist to Margusov by helping him put on the Tefillin, the entire team joined together in what was dubbed as “Daniel’s Bar Mitzvah” where they sang and danced hand-in-hand to commemorate the special moment in Margusov’s life.
On the ride back after the conclusion of the tournament, the Maccabees all had joyous expressions on their faces, many due to the promising start of the season, but for Margusov it was due to his first experience of the Mitzvah of Hanachat Tefillin.