Thursday, September 18, 2008

310 Eternal Gold Medals


ט יקימך יהוה לו לעם קדוש כאשר נשבע לך כי תשמר את מצות יהוה אלהיך והלכת בדרכיו
י וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם יהוה נקרא עליך ויראו ממך



The Greek games have come and gone. The games are a global competition of the athletic prowess of all the nations. To see which nations and which athletes are the best. Who can win the most medals for his nation. The athletes are the best of the best. And the winners are the best of the best of the best. The best men (and women), the best athletes, the best competitors, the best Human beings.

The Greek games. The beauty of Yefes. The glory of Man.

The State of Israel also sent their best. As did many other nations. And they won a few medals (5 silver, 1 bronze) as did many other nations. And they ranked in 39th place – tied with four other nations. And the athletes went home – back to their nations.

We sent our very best. Not just to some of the regular Olympics, but to the Paralympics, as well. One of those who we sent was Shai Haim.

I don't know anything about Shai Haim. Rabbi Stewart Weiss told us who he is. He wrote a wonderful column about him that was printed in the Jerusalem Post. He tells of how strong he is inside and out. How he valiantly laid down his life on the battlefield and all but lost it. How he came back from the valley of death and built a new life. And how he selflessly helps others who are likewise maimed and shattered.

There is no question Shai Haim is a good man, a good soldier, and a good Israeli. A terrific human being. Shai Haim is certainly the best of the best. He is an icon of human strength; of human courage; of human resolve, determination, and perseverance; of human triumph over adversity.

Human – Human – Human…

And now he was representing us in the Paralympics. The Greek games to show the world who are the best humans.

Yavan - Yavan -Yavan...

There is no question Shai Haim is a good man, a good soldier, a good Israeli. But, is he a good Jew?

I am sure all of my liberal readers (if I have any) will say, “Who are you to even broach such a question? What makes somebody a good Jew anyway?”

The answer is: a good Jew is one who fulfills his tafkid and is an עובד השם. I wrote a whole book about what that means.

I saw the article in the Jerusalem Post with the accompanying picture. And I was troubled by it. Many saw it as a tribute. I saw it as a eulogy.

A smiling head held high. Powerful arms at the ready. A radiant wife by his side – a bas melech. And I wondered...

…does a shel rosh sit on that high head in the mornings?
…does a shel yad adorn those powerful arms?
…does his wife's radiance need to be available for all to see?
…can his powerful frame support the yoke of Torah?

Perhaps Shai is closer to observance than I know. Perhaps I am totally not being dan l'kaf zchus. But the article doesn't mention it. And the picture doesn't show it.

I know nothing about Shai Haim beyond what the column says. But the column says this: Shai Haim is not content to be a good anything. Shai Haim wants to be the best. The best of the best of the best.

The Torah says we need to show the nations of the world that we are the best. But how?

The Torah says (Devarim 28:9):

ט יקימך יהוה לו לעם קדוש כאשר נשבע לך כי תשמר את מצות יהוה אלהיך והלכת בדרכיו

G-d will establish you as a holy nation as He has sworn to you - when you keep the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and when you walk in His ways.


Not by playing basketball in a wheelchair. The best Americans can do that. The best Europeans can do that. The best South Africans can do that. Even the best Asians can do that (you don't get much height advantage in a wheelchair).

And then what?

י וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם יהוה נקרא עליך ויראו ממך

And the nations of the world will see that the name of Hashem is called upon you - and they will be fearful of you.

The Torah is not just talking to us chareidim. The Torah is talking to Shai.

The last mishna in Shas (Uktzin 3:12) says that G-d is destined to bequeath each tzaddik with 310 worlds. Shai - שי = gematria 310.

310 worlds! For what? How?

G-d will establish you as a holy nation as He has sworn to you - when you keep the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and when you walk in His ways.

My steady readers (all 3 of you) might recall that this is not the first time that I am "coming down hard" on another Jew. I did it earlier in a series of posts about Miriam Shear. On the surface it looked as if my sole purpose with those posts was to vindicate the "chareidi" side of the incident. To defend the accused and to hang the accuser out to dry. As if I am a vengeful wolf out to get her.

I suppose that fits a typical profile in the blogosphere. But that's not my game. Anybody who actually went so far as to read my book knows that I am trying to get everyone in, not out. Even Ms. Shear. Besides the defensive aspect, my posts were meant to be a sincere message to Ms. Shear:
You have joined the nation that is being discussed in Devarim 28:10,11. This is no small achievement. Why come all this way and fall short?

Believe it or not, it truly distresses me to see a person who has come so far, fall so short. No, it is obvious that I do not know how any person will be judged - not Miriam Shear, not Shai Haim, not myself - and the incident that I dealt with is just one event in a very complex life. But... hindsight is 20-20 and I know a missed opportunity when I see one. You came so far and you had multiple chances to make a Kiddush Hashem. And you passed them all up. For what? To get your name all over the Internet? To get 3000 people to email you with "support"?

You could have earned 310 worlds. And now, in place of וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם יהוה נקרא עליך ויראו ממך we instead have והיית לזעוה לכל ממלכות הארץ . Was it worth it?

What a shame! What a chaval! The Shechina is crying and I am crying. It hurts.

The yetzer hara (a.k.a. Satan and the Angel of Death - Bava Basra 16a) challenges the very best people (that's why I am in the clear). He tries convincing them that they are good people who have accomplished great achievements. “Go take your achievements and show them to the world”, he says. “So people will write you up in papers telling you how much of an inspiration you are. You have made your imprint on the world. You do not to need to observe mitzvos. You do not need to pray and learn. You do not need to dress with modesty. You have made a great contribution to your people. Your reward is assured. You are a tzaddik. You will get 310 worlds (if not 72 virgins). You are great. You are strong. You have arrived!”

Don't believe him.

Rabbi Weiss asserts that Shai wears "an eternal gold medal around his neck" Don’t believe Rabbi Weiss, Shai. That eternal gold medal is not so eternal. It only lasts 120 years. After that, we are asked: נשאת ונתת באמונה - קבעת עתים לתורה ? We are not asked how we did in the Greek games in Beijing.

Shai, you have more medals to win. They are the gold crowns that we all must win by putting נעשה in front of נשמע .

Rabbi Weiss writes that "Shai is a strong, strong man - however one measures strength". Perhaps I measure it differently. איזהו גבור? הכובש את יצרו . Shai, you are a strong man. A very strong man. But you have not yet won the "eternal gold medal".

Rabbi Weiss says that your life is without boundaries. But sometimes a man can travel the world, to China and New Zealand and Australia, and still have not broken out of the boundaries. You have come so far. You have accomplished so much. Perhaps you will never walk again (let's hope you do) – but you can fly. Now it is time to be mekadesh shem shamayim. You can't do that in China or in New Zealand or Australia. You have to do it right here. Don't miss the opportunity. It would be such a waste! Don't sell yourself short Shai. Shai! 310! 310 worlds! 310 eternal gold medals! You can do it! Go for it.


אמר רבי יהושע בן לוי: עתיד הקדוש ברוך הוא להנחיל לכל צדיק וצדיק, של ש מאות ועשרה עולמות, שנאמר (משלי ח, כא) "להנחיל אהבי יש ואצרתיהם אמלא".

Cheileich l'oraisa!

4 comments:

kurkevan said...

My steady readers (all 3 of you)

Make that four.

Baruch said...

If you really, really want to mekarve the olam to your point of you and you really, really are pained by the fact that there are people in klal yisrael who think very, very differently from you (such as those krum "Religious Zionists" you keep contrasting your chareidim with), you should have an extensive talk with your rabbi about it. I agree with him that if your goal is to increase Torah, you should've left chareidim out of it. Asei lcha rav...

G said...

::sigh::

You lose much if not all opportunity for this type of post to accomplish anything by making it about a specific individual.

Here's the upshot, in my opinion:

"But... hindsight is 20-20 and I know a missed opportunity when I see one."

No, it always is not and no, you can't always know.

Rafi G said...

life is so gray, and even colorful. you make it seem so black and white.