Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jews: The Underdogs of History

Last week, the Colorado Rockies were losing to the St. Louis Cardinals 9-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning. For those of you who may not know much about baseball, it's almost unheard of to overcome that kind of deficit before recording the final three outs. Yet, the Rockies cut the lead to 9-4, then 9-7, then tied the game 9-9. And with two men on base with two outs, they hit a walk-off three-run home run to win the game 12-9. Going into the inning, it looked so bleak that most of the hometown fans, and perhaps even some of the players, thought the game was basically over. But before the night was done, they beat the odds and won the game, in one of the greatest one-inning comebacks in Major League Baseball history.

This got me thinking about what other remarkable events could occur when an underdog works together to get a job done - even when almost nobody else believes it could actually happen. Given all the terrible events that have transpired throughout the generations of Jewish existence, I think it's appropriate to label ourselves as the preeminent underdogs of history. Although we have experienced some of the most horrific evils, we're still here. Any other group who had to go through anything comparable would have ceased to exist - but we have always survived. We owe that to God, as well as to the Jewish values of faith, education and perseverance. In some mysterious way, and for reasons beyond the scope of human intellect, God is orchestrating a fantastic finish to the "game" known as history.

Teamwork is a crucial component for the success of any group. All players on a given team don't necessarily have to love each other in order to win. They just need to be respectful of their teammates, fulfill their roles to the best of their ability, and not interfere with the positions played by others. The most successful teams are the ones who are able to put their petty differences aside for the sake of winning a game. In our case, it's more than just a game - it's about working together for the future of our people, and indeed, the world. Every single Jew has been "drafted" by God, as it were. Thus, hurting fellow teammates would make absolutely no sense because we'd be hurting our own chances for success as well. For the sake of God - and each other - we need to work as a team. Then, we'll be able to prove everybody wrong one more time.

During this period around Tisha B'Av, when we are in the midst of mourning the loss of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), we must focus on improving our interpersonal relationships. Even in the darkest hours of Jewish history, we have always maintained that God will ultimately redeem the world and bless us with peace. In addition, our tradition tells us that the Final Redemption will happen suddenly, perhaps miraculously, and somehow make sense of all the suffering throughout history. This culminating event will be of benefit not only to Jews, but to all humanity. Unlike underdogs in sports, we have an additional piece of information to keep us motivated: it's not a matter of if - it's only a matter of when. And if we work as a team, it will happen sooner than you think.

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