Friday, January 3, 2014
Not a Spectator Sport
At some point in the 1950s, when the Lubavitcher Rebbe had only been in the United States for a short period of time, a distraught couple brought their son in to see the Rebbe. The son was struggling in his limmudim (studies) and this was a source of great concern for the parents, as they couldn't seem to motivate their him.
The Rebbe spoke to them for a while, trying to encourage them, both the parents and child as well. Throughout he meeting, the son (Yankel, for the story's sake) seemed detached, disinterested. As they were leaving the Rebbe's study, the Rebbe called out after the teen: "Yankel, do you like baseball?"
Yankel perked up at this, responding in the affirmative, telling the Rebbe that baseball was one of his loves. The Rebbe went on, asking Yankel who his favorite team was. The Brooklyn Dodgers. What about Yankel's father? Did he like baseball? Yankel replied that his father didn't care much for baseball. Had Yankel ever been to a game?
Yankel nodded; his father had taken him only a few weeks ago to a Dodgers game. The Rebbe asked him if it had been a good experience.
Thinking about it, Yankel answered "Well, no Rebbe, it wasn't."
"Why not?" The Rebbe asked.
"Because the Dodgers lost."
"How do you know that they lost?" The Rebbe asked.
"Everyone knows they lost!"
The Rebbe persisted. "But how do you know they lost? Did you see them lose?"
"Well...no, actually. We left early before the end of the game. I was so disappointed I just couldn't take it anymore, so we left."
The Rebbe leaned forward. "But how could you leave early? Aren't you in the middle of the game?"
"Rebbe," the boy explained, "in baseball, there are two types of people. There are the players, and the spectators. The players have no choice, they're stuck until the end of the game. But the spectators? We can come and go as we please, whenever we want."
The Rebbe looked into the boy's eyes. "In life, there are two types of people, the players and the spectators. You have to choose how you see yourself: are you a player or a spectator?"