Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
Febuary 10th 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 15 –17th of Shevat 5772
A Giant Win
It seems I was one of the few people in the world that did not watch the Super Bowl this past week. In the US alone over 114 million people spent the entire Sunday viewing in what one of my Rebbeim once described as a bunch of scary gentiles beating each other up after prostrating themselves to a pig skin and running wild at each other with it to the delight and war cries of tens of thousands of rabid natives. Being an optimist though, he concluded that perhaps the game was created to keep above mentioned gentiles off the street corners. Yet he couldn’t fathom how people could spend hours of their lives glued to the screen watching this. Clearly, he never had foot long hero sandwiches, beer pretzels and buffalo wings which were always my attraction. The game itself though was never anything that drew me though. In fact I’ve never much been that into sports in general. Perhaps it was my more athletically challenged physique (is that a real P.C. term? It should be!) that always kept my interest more oriented on skills that I stood a chance excelling at. Or maybe it was the line about painting me orange and writing Spalding on my midriff as I was offered my first opportunity on the court. I don’t know, my therapist and I are trying to work it out. Needless to say I’ve never really been that fascinated by sports. In fact I found them quite boring.
Yet the good Lord in Heaven, who quite frequently it seems, looks down on this world and wonders what fun he can have with my life, saw fit to place me in a position where it would ultimately become impossible to succeed without a firsthand knowledge and a professed enthusiasm for the one thing that bored me more than anything else. Yes, I was hired to become a College Campus outreach Rabbi. “Just go out there and develop a personal relationship with the students. I’m sure you have a lot of common interests”. Little did I know at the time that the scope of their interests (at least the mentionable ones) would generally revolve around who was playing who, the plays that were made and who was the most likely to win some sort of championship. But if that’s what I have to do than that’s what shall be done. Very slowly and with the help of Robert (now Reuvein, the Kollel rabbi J) I learned the ins and outs of college football, basketball, and even hockey. I still don’t enjoy sports that much but as my education began to develop I learned many lessons that carry true in areas of life outside the stadium and even in my spiritual life.
One of the first lessons of my new education required unlearning something that it seemed had been ingrained in me from my unfulfilling PE days. I refer to that famous adage of “it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”. It seems that in spectator sports’ winning is of primary significance. Or to quote the great Vince Lombard “if winning isn’t everything than why do they keep score? The energy that drives man’s fascination and devotion to what to me seemed like a rather meaningless pursuit, in fact revolves not as much upon watching a good fun game as it does being part of the super human drive to becoming the team that is quite simply the winner or champion. The pursuit of the Gold or the title is what is mandated from the participants and striving for anything less is the key to failure and quite frankly a fairly boring experience.
I remember the day that I learned that lesson I was studying through the Parsha of this week, Parshat Yisro, and lo and behold it seems that the Kotzker Rebbe (one of the sharpest of the Chasidic masters in the early 19th century) found this lesson to be not only one that has a basis in Jewish thought rather it was one that he declares can be found homiletically as the ultimate prerequisite to our receiving the Torah and becoming a nation of God.
On that fateful day three thousand years ago, as our ancestors stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai awaiting that special moment of Hashems revelation. The moment, for which we had been redeemed from Egypt , the most purposeful of Creation, at that time Moshe commands the Children of Israel.
Beware of ascending the mountain or touching its edge; whoever touches the mountain shall surely die.
The Kotzker explains the discrepancy in the latter of portion of the text where it merely mentions the “touchers” and not the “ascenders”, with a fascinating perspective into the nature of man. Many times we set great goals for ourselves, we hear an inspiring lecture and are motivated to grow. We witness a beautiful family or relationship and decide to work on our own, or even something as simple as reading a powerful Erev Shabbos Email (J) that has a lesson we want to incorporate in our lives. We want to ascend the mountain. Unfortunately, all too often what happens is that we get distracted and our attempts to improve fail. We tried and we changed a little and slowly we fall into a lulled sense of complacency. After all it’s more than I was ever doing in the past. To the Kotzker this was the kiss of death. ‘Beware if you are trying to ascend the mountain to achieve your stated goals of rising up, and merely succeed in touching the mountain’ he reads homiletically in the verse. For that complacent sense of satisfaction at the small accomplishment in the face of the great goal of achieving the greatness that still remains unaccomplished is not life rather it is a form of death.
We were created to be winners. Hashem has granted each and everyone the ability to climb mountains in the betterment of ourselves, our society and in our relationship with Him. The only thing that holds us back so often is the lack of belief that we can actually achieve the greatness that we aspire to reach. We become satisfied with the at least it was a good game attitude and we lose the energy and focus that we all posses and require to go for the Gold…to win. As Vince was fond of saying “Winning is a habit…unfortunately so is losing”. Just as our forefathers so long ago on that momentous day made that eternal resolution of Na’aseh V’Nishma- We will do and we will hear” without any room for failure so to today we can all tap into that strength and truly become the champions we were meant to be
Have a winning Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz************************************
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
The Kinneret- Still raining in Israel Thank god and the good news is that our Kinneret is over the lower red line of -212 and is getting closer to upper lower redline of -209 which is right where we want to be. The lower line is the where we ae at risk of not having enough water and the water becoming too salty and the shoreline being hurt the upper line is where we would be at risk of flooding. Providing Israel with over 25% of its water needs with over over 450 million cube meter waters- the kinneret the world’s lowest fresh water lake, is critical to Israel. In fact many of the wars that Israel has fought over the years with Syria and Jordan revolved around the siphoning off of water from the kinneret on both sides. The majority of the water in the Kinneret comes from the Jordan River and the streams that flow into it from the Golan and Hermon. The rest is from rainfall and underground saltwater springs.
Called kineret because as the Gemara says it’s waters are sweet like a harp music one can in the summer months enjoy a plethora of water activities from banana boating jet skiing and cruise rides as well as water hikes on both sides of the kinneret. And even in the winter one can walk up and down the beautiful boardwalk and every evening see the spectacular light and sound show that is really beautiful from the boardwalk in Tiberias right next to the great big water level measuring meter that is now once again at a good level!
RABBI SCHWARTZ’S FUNNY QUOTE OF THE WEEK
WHEN EVERYTHING IS COMING YOUR WAY..IT’S A SIGN YOU’RE IN THE WRONG LANE J