The Spiritual Message of the London Olympics
The summer Olympics in London are set to begin in less than 24 hours! For many, it gives them a chance to root for their nation to a global audience. As someone who was born and raised in the United States, I always used to take a peek to see where the U.S. is projected to finish in the gold medal standings. The chief of sport performance for the U.S. Olympic team calls it a stretch for Americans to win the most overall and gold medals at the London Olympics. Indeed, China is projected to take home this achievement and win roughly 100 gold medals (see here).
Nowadays, however, I’m looking for the inspirational story coming out of the Olympics. I believe that the person who carries the most inspirational of stories is not a young phenom.
It has been nearly half a century since Japanese Hiroshi Hoketsu first participated in an Olympic Games. Now, aged 70, he has set his sights on the London Olympics after qualifying as part of Japan’s dressage team last week. You can read more about Mr Hoketsu here.
In truth, we have seen a Jewish person, who became inspired by water, and decided right then and there to mount his spiritual comeback, despite being just one year younger than Torres. According to Jewish tradition, there was a simple Jew who worked for Ben Kalbah Savuah, one of the richest men in all of Jerusalem. Once, while shepherding his flocks, he gazed into a pool, and noticed a hollowed-out rock resting under a waterfall. He silently contemplated how a rock, one of Nature’s most dense substances, had been hollowed out. His curiosity got the best of him, as he decided to analyze this peculiar find. After some time, he noticed that water had, over a long period, drop after drop, caused a drastic change in the appearance of the rock. This event allowed him to reach the following conclusion:
“If a rock, though extremely hard, can be hollowed out by water, how much more so should it be possible for Torah, which is compared to water (in that is vital to the nourishment of the soul), to change my heart, which is certainly softer. I will begin to study it, and try to become a Jewish Sage!”
Despite being 40 years old, the shepherd began by learning how to read the Hebrew Alphabet. Ultimately, he went to Yeshiva and devoted himself to full-time Torah study for a whopping twelve years. As the years passed, the shepherd received Rabbinic Ordination, and became known to all as the famous Rabbi Akiva. He opened his own Yeshiva, and developed a following of 24,000 students.
There is a modern day expression developed by the shoe company Nike, that directs society to seize any moment of inspiration and well…”Just Do It!” As illustrated from the above two examples, God created human beings with the innate ability of free will, which by extension sets us apart from any other creature on God’s Green Earth. The fact that we have free will should remind us all that we have the power to always climb (or swim) to achieve accomplishments that seem at the surface physically impossible. Likewise, at a spiritual level each and every Jew has the ability to ascend spiritual realms and achieve everlasting meaning in their life-even if you may think that you are too old, or simply don’t have enough skills.
So the next time you feel a wave of inspiration I have 3 words for you: Just Do It!
For more Jewish resources on the Olympics see Jews around the World: Olympics Special! Prepared by JewishInteractive.net, this page features a creative way to integrate Jewish studies into the Olympics and also provides you with the following two links:
Download the text that accompanies the presentation.
If you are headed to London to cheer at the Olympics, then I encourage you to heck out YeahThatsKosher’s List of Kosher Spots.
Finally, while he’s not officially an Olympian, how can I not link to the story of the Chassidic Jew, Reb Ephraim Goldstein who carried the Olympic torch. He has worked with seven charities and runs a soup kitchen. If there’s anyone who is showing us how we can help Klal Yisrael and rekindle our united spirits during The 9 Days, we need to look no further then this young 22 year old man.