What does the Torah say about winning the Ashes?

With Rabbi Moshe Mayerfeld

To misquote Bill Shankly, ‘Sport isn’t a matter of life and death – it’s much more important than that!’ As a rabbi, especially one who hails from the USA, I must admit that cricket has not come naturally to me.

However I love sport, and am open to learning new things so after 15 years of living in England I can now proudly say that my anticipation for the Ashes was genuine and palpable. I also believe that one can learn many life lessons from sport. The first Ashes test was remarkable –so much drama and unexpected turns from Ashton Agar’s record-breaking innings to Jimmy Anderson’s 10 wickets!

Then, among all the drama, something inevitable happens. A controversy. Stuart Broad was given an astonishing reprieve when the umpire failed to spot a thick edge to Michael Clarke at slip off the bowling of Ashton Agar. Australia had already used up their two reviews and Broad declined to walk. Now here’s what I noticed: all the Aussies were sure they were in the right and all the England fans were absolutely certain of their opinion too! Now, for most fans – who didn’t have the close-up view –their opinion wasn’t necessarily based on the facts, but rather the way they wanted the facts to be.

I would suggest that if you gave each side a lie-detector test, they would pass! They were not lying, but rather seeing what they wanted to see.

The Torah warns us many times of this type of attitude and decision-making. I am writing this piece in the weeks after 9 Av, the saddest and darkest day in the Jewish calendar. The earliest mention of this day dates back to the Jewish journey in the desert from Egypt to Israel. The Jews sent spies to check out the land and they returned with a negative re- port on 9 Av.

These spies were great men, leaders of our people, God had told them the land was blessed, yet they returned with a bad report which led to a disastrous result. How could they see such negativity in such a Godly land? I believe we can learn an answer from the Ashes. They had reasons to stay in the desert and therefore didn’t want to enter the land. They had made their minds up before they saw the evidence.

They weren’t open-minded. They saw only what they wanted to see. This is a message for the Jewish people. Go into every scenario with objectivity. Look at the facts. Ask questions and be open to their answers. Be impartial. Let go of your preconceived notions and see things for the way they are – not the way you want them to be. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn.
• Moshe Mayerfeld is director of Aish UK