Friday, July 09, 2010

Lessons from the World Cup part VI: "Keep your eye on the ball"

I'm not a soccer aficionado, nor do I follow professional sport, but having the world's largest sporting event in my backyard this month has piqued my interest in soccer.  

One lesson from the beautiful game that seems pretty obvious is that a player must keep his eye on the ball. During the game, it's all action. No player can afford the luxury in mid-play to stop and check the score or ball-possession stats. 

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was a leading Talmudic sage. As he lay dying, his students gathered at his bedside, the great man reflected on his 120 years. 

"I don't know which way they will take me, to Heaven or to purgatory," he commented. 

Here was a man who had dedicated his every breathing moment to G-d. He had studied every aspect of Torah, had taught hundreds of the greatest Jewish scholars and had single-handedly ensured the survival of Judaism in the face of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. And he didn't know where he was headed in the next world?

Rabbi Yochanan had spent his whole life working, with his eye on the ball, and had never stopped to ruminate over what his scoreboard looked like. Rabbi Yochanan's wanted to teach his students (and us) that life is all about playing the game, not worrying about how good we look while on the field.

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