As I write this, some days ago Argentina became the world champion for the third time in the history of the World Cup of Football (soccer, for some).
There is much joy in my country. There was contentment in the streets and many people came out to celebrate their triumph.
The team has had its ups and downs, but today they put it all together on the field. Above all, they played as a team, taking advantage of each one’s abilities.
Of course, I can’t stop mentioning the value of Lionel Messi. He is a player that is considered to be the best of all time and has played an incredible game.
Plus, the coach? He had a simple and novel approach. He did not stay with the stars. He looked for the rookies, the potential future stars and made them part of the team, so they could demonstrate what makes them special.
This brings us to the question: what makes a person a champion? What is it that makes a team stand out from all the others? One country above the others?
This is the third World Cup that Argentina has won. It is remarkable. Does it have to do with the country? Does it have to do with Messi, Maradona, the coaches, the whole team, or is there genetics involved?
I think these questions can be answered in a number of ways, depending on the person answering them and this would be repeated with respect to various sports. How many times have you heard the expression Chosen People? I have heard many people say sincerely that the Jewish People are special. That they are the chosen ones of God and that this is why Israel is the way it is. This is why we have so many Nobel Prize winners. The fact that we were designated as the Light of the People puts us in a special situation with respect to the rest of the world.
I do not want to trivialize the history of the People of Israel by comparing them to a soccer game, but believing that we are better for the mere fact of being Jewish is as discriminatory as banning a person of color from a restaurant for the mere fact of being different.
To believe that Messi could be where he is today without having worked as hard as he has is to not understand how a team game develops beyond its abilities.
Believing that the People of Israel have some intrinsic superiority is the same. It is not to understand that the moral and ethical basis of the Torah—the written and the Oral (the Talmud)—have accompanied our people in an exercise of study for millennia. That the state of Israel has made terrible mistakes throughout its history and will continue to make them, but that the basis on which it was founded are inalienable and are always there to measure and indicate where it is necessary to return.
Are we ”OR LAGOIM?’’ The Light for other Peoples? Yes, of course. The Torah teaches us to show an alternative for a better life and coexistence among all—not to hold us above anyone.
Are we the Chosen People? Yes, this is how the scripture teaches us. Chosen for an enormous task that is to be God‘s partners in Creation, improving this world in His kingdom. Added to this task is to make everyone understand that this is a good path to follow for humanity.
Is it a huge job? Yes. It is.
This is why we pass it on to our children and we keep supporting temples and schools. This is why we keep insisting on reading and studying the Hebrew language and the Torah and all the Sifrei Kodesh, our sacred books that accompany it.
Our children are our future. Between them are those who have the skills to be the champions of tomorrow. The exercise of Hebrew and the Torah is what will keep them close to their history and traditions in the future and they, too, will be able to pass them on to their children in the years to come. The study and exercise of our tradition is our daily training.
Our championship is every day, every year. Every challenge we have is when a temple is empty or a school is full. Just like with every Bar Mitzvah, chupah or Brit Milah that we celebrate.
Someone made a comparison that I find at once funny and worrisome.
The word NES (miracle in Hebrew) is written with the letter NUN and Samach.
Each letter has a numerical value, and those two letters add up to 110.
The gematria usually compares the numerical values of words to draw conclusions. If we write in Hebrew the last name of the number 10 in Argentina, the one who plays better than anyone else, we would do it with the letters MEM, SAMACH AND YUD, which adds up to...110 as well.
Many people would draw conclusions that I think would be wrong, but I have no doubt for any miracle to happen, it takes more than a single person. A team was always needed.
For the deed of Yetziat Mitzraim, the delivery of the Torah and the entrance to the Promised Land, it was not only because of Moshe: it was because of all those who supported him and the people in general.
Messi did it with the rest of the team and the coach, working together.
We will do it the same way.
May we have a 2023 full of health, moments of happiness and the best for all of us.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
Rabbi Gustavo Geier