"Ani m'amin, b'emuna shlaima - I believe with perfect faith…" Maimonidies, 13 Principles of Faith
Boston Globe, October 2004
The Red Sox' recent World Series win has got me thinking. It seems to me that there are some eerie parallels between the histories of this team and the Jewish people (I know this is a stretch, but work with me folks). From these parallels we can learn an incredible lesson about hope.
The Sox started off with a bang; they were the best team in baseball winning the World Series five times by 1918. No one could stop them.
And then they were out -- way out.
The Sox went to the World Series four times since then and lost every time in game 7. They've had many good teams over the years and have often come close, but they could never quite get it done.
Yet the fans always had hope. "This can't go on forever. Our day will come, just wait."
For 86 years Boston waited and believed. Years of heartbreak, disaster, close-calls, missed opportunities, cosmic blunders, and still the people of Boston did the impossible: they had hope and hung on.
The Jewish people were also at the top. We left Egypt, received the Torah, conquered our homeland and we were invincible.
But then things went horribly wrong. We were exiled from our land -- twice! -- scattered and persecuted. We've had good times and bad times, we've suffered and lost. At times it has been unbearable.
But just like the fans in Boston slugging it out through another long winter, we never lose hope.
Why not? What is the Jewish concept of hope?
We often think of hope as something that comes from a position of incredible weakness. Hope is the thing we turn to when all else fails. We hope because we have no other options and are forced to admit that the situation is completely out of our control.
What's more, we relate to hope as a temporary fix at best. We hope and hope that things will work out, and when they do -- we won't need to hope anymore. The frustration and waiting is over.
The Jewish idea of hope is different.
"Hope to God. Strengthen yourself and He'll strengthen your heart, and hope to God" (Psalms 27).
It seems from this verse that hope makes us strong. It should be firmly rooted in our relationship with God, a reality that is unchanging, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving. How does this work?
The Torah teaches us that God created this big beautiful world for our benefit. He created an endless list of pleasures, the greatest of which is a connection to Him, the source of it all. Even better, He didn't just give us these wonderful joys on a silver platter; He made it our job to earn them. It may feel good to win the lottery, but it feels even better to build your own empire. The best things in life, the strongest relationships, the moments that really mean something, are the ones we put the most effort into attaining. This is the way He set up the system.
Hope is rooted in the awareness that no matter what happens in our topsy-turvy world, it's all for our benefit.
The sweetest victories come after 86 years of trying and waiting. (Okay, rooting for a baseball team isn't quite the same thing.)
No matter what happens in our crazy topsy-turvy world, God is there behind the scenes, creating our reality and keeping us honest. He sets things up, challenges us, pushes us along, forces us to make decisions and to deal with those things we want to avoid, all along giving us the independence to go that extra step towards fulfilling our potential and creating our real selves. And the reward at the end is always the same, we become the best possible people we can be and build a closer relationship with our reality, our God.
The Jewish secret of hope is the understanding that it is all for our benefit. All the highs and lows, heartaches and disappointments are coming to help us grow, to make us stronger and better. We live in a big park with a green monster, facing opposition that is real and strong and more than able to beat us. We have the chance to step up to the plate, face the challenges and give it our best shot. Sometimes we can even win and achieve the impossible.
The Torah is showing us the bigger picture. It is this perspective that makes us strong, helps us stay sane during the long slow periods of waiting, and gives us hope.
The good people of Boston held onto a dream, and after 86 years it seems to have all worked out for the best (at least for this year). But the Jewish people can never lose. Our hope is an investment in a reality that wants us to win and will never abandon us. As a matter of fact, we've already won.
Forget the Sox. Go Jews!