April 11, 2011
Comment, March 18, 2020.
I wrote this blog many years ago, but the message, the lesson, has never been forgotten and I share this often. A chance encounter on a flight, a powerful life lesson from a rabbi. Now we are all facing a challenge few of us could ever imagine. This Chinese Virus has spread all over the world and has affected all of us; loss of jobs, income, many of us are stuck at home. For me it has meant months of planning our Five Day Training, and then very few of our participants were able to arrive. Devastating. A year planning a seminar in the Netherlands. huge success, 42 participants, ...postponed. Seminar in Brazil, postponed, no one signing up for Tour and Train and even local classes have been outlawed by the government.
People are trying to keep a happy face but we are all nervous; how will we pay our bills next month? how long will the government pay unemployment? How long before someone we know gets infected? I have 6 family members currently in quarantine. I have family members who need help. So I woke up and thought back to this message, and here I am again, on the plane, sitting across the aisle from a young Yeshiva student, a student of the Talmud, and he has no idea what my life is like or what I need to hear, but he shares with me a lesson from his rabbi, and it is directed right at me and hits the spot. And now it is a lesson we all need to hear. We will overcome this hurdle and life will return to Normal.
The Hurdle is the Event
I am not a huge fan of the Olympics, to me winning events and coming home with trophies or medals is not of great importance. I am more of a believer in what Mr. Miyagi says in "Karate Kid Two"; ...if the trophy is about protecting yourself and proving yourself - it has value, if it is about ego, then it is just a worthless piece of plastic and marble.
and yet, there are lessons to be learned from the Olympics. I was sitting next to a young yeshiva (Rabbinical) student on a recent El Al flight and he told me of a talk one of the rabbis gave. The rabbi certainly did not spend his time watching the Olympics but he did have some insight into the games. He said there is an event where people run, jump over hurdles and race to the finish line. So the question is asked; would it not be easier to simply remove the hurdles? remove the obstacles? Wouldn't that make more sense?
The rabbi answered, with great passion as I was told by my new friend, "That is the event! the hurdles are the event, overcoming these obstacles is the whole point of the event. Remove the obstacles and you have negated the entire event.
The point is that our life is our Olympic event.
We are told that our forefather Abraham faced ten tests in his lifetime, ten harsh challenges that could break or make a man. We are also told that the Children of Israel had to go through 42 journeys before they reached the Promised Land. We are also told that each one of us will also face ten challenges and many journeys during our lifetime. These are our hurdles, these our tests, and this is the event. Without those tests, without those hardships - it is not the event.
Now this changes everything. You see it is all a matter of attitude and perspective. Now let's see how we can cope with our personal tests.
No one really likes harsh tests, or at least most people would prefer a smooth ride. But yet, sometimes life throws us a hard one. We could respond with "Woe is me!" "What did I do to deserve this?" and such comments and attitudes. This will not help us overcome the challenging situation. This will not help us learn and grow from this experience.
What can we do? We can change our attitude. This is not fun, but, we can say; Like Abraham I am facing a test, at this point it makes no sense to me but I trust that in time some positive lesson will come of this. Let me deal with this, and like Mordechai in the Purim story, I wait and see how the story unfolds, there is more than meets the eye.
Abraham faced many harsh tests; family discord, marriage challenges, children challenges, horrible decisions that had to be made in terms of his family. He waited forever to have a child and then nearly lost him, and then his beloved wife died. His life was not easy.
If we understand that the hurdles are the event, the hurdles were placed there on purpose for us to learn how to deal with them - then the problem is already half solved. You don't see many runners in this event saying, "Man, look at those darn hurdles, who the heck put them there?"
Why don't they say this? Because they know this is the event, they knew ahead of time that the hurdles would be there. Without those hurdles it would just be a race, which is not the event they signed up for.
My friends, this is the event we signed up for when we entered this life; overcoming hurdles, facing challenges and growing from them, and sometimes growing involves growing pains.
People sometimes ask me, "So do you compete in Krav Maga competitions?" and I answer, the only competition is life itself. Being faster than someone else does not matter to me unless he is chasing me. I have enough personal challenges without having to challenge another person.
"The hurdle is the event, my fellow traveler told me. I said to him, "Thank you for sharing these words with me. The entire flight was worth it just to hear these words."
So I now share these words with you - when you face a challenge, remember Abraham, and remember that we all have challenges, we all have journeys we must undertake, this is what the event is about. Now let's jump over those hurdles.