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Road Win

Friday, 1 November, 2019 - 9:04 am

History was made this week when the Washington Nationals captured their first-ever World Series title. Not only was it the first championship for the baseball franchise - it was also the first time all seven World Series games were won by the road team.

It must have been difficult for the fans attending the games, but a win is a win. Amazingly, the Nationals lost all their home games, yet won all four road games. Never before has a World Series champion lost all their home games.

We all know that sports teams have an easier time winning at home. The home-field advantage is a real phenomenon. The fans are rooting for you, you are on familiar terrain and you are in your psychological comfort zone.

Winning on the road, conversely, demonstrates an even greater feat. Overcoming the challenges and dominating in a foreign environment is, in a sense, a much stronger – and more meaningful – victory.

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In the game of life as well, we are often faced with road games. Sometimes we are literally on the road. We are away from family and friends. We are distant from a Jewish community.

Or, we are in a figurative road game. We might be on our home turf, but it feels like unfamiliar terrain. We may feel outnumbered by other cultures. We might be overwhelmed with extraneous responsibilities and expectations. We can feel like no one really supports us. And, we may even sense ferocious opposition; forces that are cheerleading for our defeat.

So, how do we persevere when we are ‘on the road’ – either literally or figuratively?

Athletes who endure in adverse circumstances will often point to their ability to block out their surroundings, to insulate themselves from the negative environs. In a sporting match, temporarily elevating your game to block out others is difficult yet doable. But, in the game of life, we need to engage and yet still persevere. How can we do that?

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Noach, the hero of this week’s eponymous parsha, is the only survivor of the Flood (with his family). G-d destroys all of humanity due to their terrible behavior.

Noach was playing a road game. Everybody was rooting for his failure. All of society was fighting against his cause. His neighbors, friends, community leaders and strangers were all opposed to his mission.

Yet, he survived and succeeded!

How did Noach manage to persevere?

The answers lies in one word: Ark.

Noach entered the ark. The ark protected him and his family from the hostile people, environment and dangerous waters. It was his sacred haven, ultimately giving him the strength to resettle a destroyed world.

We too need to enter the ark. Our ‘ark’ is the Torah. By attaching ourselves to the Torah we are uplifted and encouraged. It empowers us get in touch with our neshama (soul). When we are in touch with our neshama we are on our home turf!

Attending a Torah class, reciting Modeh Ani, conducting a Shabbat meal, laying tefillin and teaching our children Torah – are all portals to enter the ark.

The wild waters may be raging around us, but we are protected and secure. We are confident and empowered to change the world.

To win a road game, you need to play like it’s a home game.

For us, that means coming home to Torah.

 

Thanks to my colleague, Rabbi Zalman Bluming, of Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill, for the inspiring thought for this essay.

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