Each time there is an international tournament I get excited, maybe you have felt the same. It could be the World Cup, the Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympics, or practically any other, and suddenly I am COMPLETELY invested in the outcome of a sport I knew next to nothing about just a few weeks before. Curling, figure skating, bi-athalon, or luge, all of these become our world for a few weeks. Athletes of countries we know well or have never heard of are competing for personal and national glory on the international stage. That stage is the ideal for a world we’d love to see. Where competition isn’t a matter of life or death; rather, it is a game we play because we can live peacefully together as human beings.
On Shabbat, we read a Psalm which imagines all of humanity living in Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden. In this paradise, Shabbat is not only a weekly relief, but it is the perfect rest that we all live in each moment of every day. War and strife are nonexistent and hunger and poverty exist only in stories we tell of a horrible past. Each Shabbat we recall the creation of the world not just because Shabbat was the end of God’s work, but because Shabbat is the closest we can humanly get to experience true paradise.
During the Winter Olympics, as well as on Shabbat, we live in a moment where we try to keep the chaos of the work week at bay. We recognize that though we come from different origins, we can live and play together on the same field. Yet, inevitably, the real world finds its way into Shabbat and the Olympics. We are reminded that the perfection we seek in these moments is impermanent. We realize that Shabbat is a reminder, the spark that lights the torch which compels us to work for a world that is full of more justice and equality.
May this Shabbat and these Winter Olympiads inspire us to moments of perfection, impermanent as they may be. May we be blessed with success and rest, and may we find just a piece of paradise in the gift of friendship.
“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!”
Shabbat Shalom! Go Team USA!