What the torah says about: the world cup

By Rabbi Yisroel Newman

Torah For TodayThe Midrash tells us: “During the holiday of Succot, the Jewish people offer 70 bulls, dedicated to the welfare of the 70 nations. Said the Jews to God: “Master of the universe! We offered 70 bulls for the benefit of the 70 nations.

Naturally we would expect them to appreciate us. Yet in reality they loathe us!” Without getting into the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and the connotations of anti-Semitism, what this Midrash also points out is the fire of competition between countries, which doesn’t seem like something that can be easily extinguished.

The most popular sport on earth today is football, (or “soccer” as they call it my adopted home, the US). Coming up right now is the World Cup, during which 32 countries will fight their way to be crowned victorious come the end of the tournament.

As is the case with every phenomenon in God’s world, this game can serve as a model and metaphor for our mission in life. The objective of the game of football is to move a ball into a “goal”.This would be easy to achieve, were it not for the opposing team doing everything in its power to prevent a goal.

But then again, if there were no opposing team, the full extent of the players’ skill and power would never be actualised. For such is the nature of the human being: our most potent potentials are awakened only by challenge and adversity. What does this teach us regarding our daily endeavours and inner lives? The earth is a sphere – a fact mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud.

The objective of life is to move this “ball” into the “Shaar HaMelech”– the gate of the King. By fulfilling the mitzvot of the Torah, we move the world toward the goal of its creation. At our every step, an opposing team – composed of our own negative traits and habits – obstructs our advance towards the goal and seeks to move the ball in the opposite direction.

But it is the perpetual presence of this opposition that provokes our deepest potentials and maximises our achievements. Another lesson is never to underestimate the power of the feet. To advance the ball towards its goal, we make use of the full array of our faculties, but our most important faculty is the “feet”, which represent our capacity for action and “mindless” obedience.

Although it is the least sophisticated of our faculties, it is our unequivocal commitment to the divine will and the physical action of the mitzvot that has the greatest impact upon our world. Much like the World Cup tournament, if everyone on our “team” can work together striving for the same “goal”, we can achieve the utopian moment of peace and victory.

• Rabbi Yisroel Newman lives in New York. He can be contacted via email at rabbi@askrabbiteddy.com, and can be followed on Twitter @askrabbiteddy