As many of you know, I spend a lot of my spare time playing tennis – when I’m not practicing for my Bar Mitzvah, that is! I’ve worked pretty hard at it over the years, and right now I feel really fortunate to be ranked at the top of New England in my age bracket.
So the rabbi asked me what is the key to being a good tennis player.
I said, the key is that when something doesn’t go according to plan, you have to put it behind you right away. If you lose a point because of an unforced error, you can’t dwell on it, or you’ll lose the next point.
I remember one time when I lost the first set against a really good player, someone who was older than me – in a championship match last year. So I said to myself as we began the second set, this is a fresh start. We’re all even. I managed to put the first set behind me. I ended up winning the match by winning the next two sets. You should have seen my opponent’s face. He’s probably still thinking about that match!!
My portion tells about the adventures of Abraham and Sarah – and boy did they have to put lots behind them!
At one point, down in Egypt, Abraham nearly gives Sarah away to Pharaoh in order to save himself. At another, Abraham has to settle an argument between his shepherds and those of his nephew Lot. At another point, Abraham has to form an alliance of kings in order to fight a war to rescue Lot, who was taken hostage. Then, there are conflicts between Sarah and Abraham’s other wife, Hagar. Basically, things are messy for that family. But each time something happens to them, they are able to move on.
The name of my portion, Lech Lecha, means to go forth. But the second Hebrew word, Lecha, also means, “to yourself.” So commentator suggests that Abraham is being told to “go forward, into himself.” It isn’t enough to travel – he also needs to learn about himself while on the journey. Abraham learns a lot about himself from everything that happens. And he is able to overcome a lot to get to his destination.
I know that’s true in other sports too, aside from tennis. Even the best baseball players get an out, seven times out of ten. You have to be able to put things behind you. I always say, “Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit!!’ Remember that one!!
I’m inspired by the special needs kids I’ve worked with. My mitzvah project is Friendship Circle and I’ve gotten the special training that I will need to begin working one on one with the kids soon. As part of the training, we stuffed marshmallows in our mouths and had to try to talk. This helped me to understand their frustrations. In another exercise, we put socks on our hands and tried to unbutton a shirt. I’m also learning how to understand when they can’t communicate easily, and to communicate back using hand motions and facial expressions. Thanks to many of you, I met my goal and raised over $1000 for the Friendship Circle and will soon start meeting with Cooper, my Special Friend, each week.
Whenever I feel frustrated about a setback, I think of some of what these kids overcome, and it helps me to put things into perspective. And these are lessons that I am carrying into my whole life, not just my tennis game….or my basketball games…or my baseball games…or my golf game…or school of course.
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