Jews & Sports

from Big Mo's Sports Desk

The World is a Ball

Yanki Tauber


Large, round object. Move it towards the goal; get it through the doorway. Outmaneuver those big, burly guys trying to stop you, trying to take it from you. Be quick. Use your feet.

Sounds familiar? Sounds like my life.

"From everything that one sees or hears about," taught Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, "one should derive a lesson in the service of the Creator."

Perhaps the most popular sport on earth today is football, (or "soccer" as it is called in the United States). [Hundreds of millions of people, in practically every country and community in the world, are currently following the World Cup games. That’s a lot of seeing and hearing. So if we’re to take a cue from the great Chasidic master, in addition to the games’ entertainment and therapeutic utilities, there is some significant lesson-taking to be gleaned as well. --Simon Jacobson]

As is the case with every phenomenon in G-d's world, this game can serve as a model and metaphor for our mission in life.

The objective of the game is to move a ball into a "goal" or "gate." This would be fairly easy to achieve were it not for the fact that facing the players is an opposing team which will do everything in its power to prevent them from scoring a "goal." But then again, if there were no opposing team, the full extent of the players' skill and power would never be actualized. For such is the nature of the human being: our most potent potentials are awakened only by challenge and adversity.

The ball can be maneuvered with various parts of the player's body, but the game is played primarily with the feet. The game requires much skill, but no less important is the player's speed--much depends on whether a player can outrun his opponent and move more quickly than he.

What can all this teach us regarding our daily endeavors and inner lives?

The earth is a sphere--a fact noted nearly two thousand years ago by the Jerusalem Talmud.1 The objective of life is to move this "ball" into the shaar haMelech--the gate of the King.2 By fulfilling the mitzvot of the Torah, we move the world toward the goal of its creation.

At our every step, we are challenged by a formidable opposing team--composed of our own negative traits and habits and a host of external foes--who obstruct our advance toward the goal and seek to move the ball in the opposite direction. But it is the perpetual presence of this opposition that provokes our deepest potentials and maximizes our achievements.

A key factor in achieving victory are speed. The most skillful player will be quite ineffective if his movements are slow, plodding, and unenthusiastic. Similarly, a person's life must be animated with alacrity and joy in order that his deeds should translate into scored goals and a true impact upon his world.

The other important lesson is never to underestimate the power of the feet. To advance the ball towards its goal, we make use of the full array of our faculties, from "head" to "foot"--our minds, our capacity for feeling, our talents and our physical energy. But our most important faculty is the "feet," which represents our capacity for action and "mindless" obedience. Although it constitutes the "lowest" and least sophisticated of our faculties, it is our unequivocal commitment to the divine will and the physical action of the mitzvot that has the greatest impact upon our world and is the most powerful force for its advancement and ultimate realization.3

1. Avodah Zarah 3:1
2. Book of Esther 4:2.
3. Based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Nissan 26, 5740 (April 10, 1980).

Yanki Tauber is a well-regarded writer and author, as well as the chief editor of, which this article was taken with permission.

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