A Lesson To Be Learned
Well-known is the premise of the Baal Shem Tov and others, that when we see things, there’s a reason for it. There’s some message to us about our behavior or some lesson God wants us to learn. Well, recently, I experienced an lightning bolt moment when I saw a video of a basketball game.
Three More Seconds
It was some sort of playoff game, or perhaps they were trying to get to the playoffs, but that isn’t important to the story. The video I saw was captioned, “This should be in a museum.” I watched it and it showed a bunch of basketball fans in the stands wearing jerseys of one team, and taunting a fan wearing a jersey from the other team. They were pointing and laughing, some even taking pictures and videos of him with their phones, as they realized his team was about to be defeated.
Undaunted, the fellow can be heard saying, “There’s three more seconds; there’s three more seconds!” Yet they laughed at his impending doom. Now, anyone who saw this video as it was, without more context, would not understand why the sharer felt it belonged in a museum. But I understood.
You see, this was NOT my first time hearing about that particular game. Because, for some Divinely-orchestrated reason, I had actually seen the final moments of that game when someone I was visiting was watching it. (I am not particularly a sports fan, and never really appreciated the fan-worship of athletes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a well-played game.)
Because of this, I knew why those home-team fans were taunting him. You see, the visiting team had been in the lead of this very close game until one of their players bumped into a home-team player as he was taking a shot. Because it was an attempt for three points, the fouled player was allowed three free-throws. He took the mark and threw. One after the other, all three shots fell through the net, and with those three points, the home-team took the lead. The crowd went wild!
Victory! Or not?
They cheered and screamed for their players, sensing victory in their grasp. That penalty against the visiting team all but won them the game, And THAT’S why they were taunting him. He (vicariously for his team) represented the loser, who had thought he would win, but now was condemned to defeat. With just three seconds on the clock, all the home team had to do was stop them for an instant. And yet, this fan kept his faith in his team and retorted that the game wasn’t over. This absurd confidence only riled up the fans around him even more as they laughed at him and slapped each other on the back.
It is definitely an insightful video, but museum-quality? Once again, I understood why it was befitting being memorialized, because I had seen the last three seconds to which the fellow was referring. In those fleeting moments, the visitors ran down the court and their player shot the ball towards the basket. It dipped below the rim, but then spun around and popped out!
Then, with a tenth of a second left, his teammate jumped up and tapped the ball, much as a volley ball player would have. As the clock hit zero and lit up in red indicating the end of the game, that ball continued its short journey and dropped through the net. The visiting team had won, and in that split second, the laughable confidence of the home team fans was exposed for the farce it was.
Change is the Only Constant
I only wish I’d had a video of that section when the tables were turned and they witnessed the shocking truth of their own loss, and suffered the embarrassment of having taunted the fellow who could now easily turn around and do it to them. I would have liked to see their faces and commit it to memory, to remind me not to be so sure of myself.
This last-moment upset underscores two opposite but very parallel axioms of the Torah. On one hand, the words of King Chizkiyahu (Hezekiah), quoted in Brachos (Blessings) (10a), “Even if a sharp sword is laying on your neck, do not despair of Hashem (God)’s mercy.” On the other hand, as Hillel told us in Pirkei Avot, “Do not believe in yourself until the day of your death.” The only constant in life is change, and we ought to remember that. For good or for bad, what is now, may not be tomorrow. Now back to the museum-quality video.
Rude Awakening At The End of Days
We are visitors in this world. There are people here who taunt us and ridicule us. They laugh at our faith and mock our beliefs. As they see the tribulations which befall the Jewish People, and have for thousands of years, they congratulate themselves for being winners and having successfully navigated this world.
But they don’t realize that the game isn’t over. The people who think Torah is old-fashioned – who believe that society continues to evolve and dominate and disprove the faith that has guided our people steadfastly since Sinai – are in for a rude awakening. But our trust remains unwavering. We know with certainty that when Mashiach (Messiah) comes at the end of days, and the truth of everything we’ve been taught by our Mesorah (tradition) becomes clear and apparent in an instant, the nations of the world, the naysayers, the denigrators and haters, will feel the heat, instantly realize their ridicule was misplaced, and be at a loss – for words, and much more.
By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz
Rabbi Gewirtz (Operation Inspiration) welcomes comments and feedback. Write to him at info@JewishSpeechWriter.com to share your thoughts. You never know when you may be the lamp that enlightens someone else.