Due to a case of massive writers block I’m going to switch gears and write about sports. Have no fears though! I will not abandon the ways of our fathers. G-d always makes Wimbledon tie into the parsha.
Before I show you the clip let me set the stage. Tennis player Andy Murray is England sports’ greatest hope for redemption due to their soccer team’s utter incompetence. The fact that he’s Scottish does not seem to deter the English fans in the least. Mr. Murray finds himself ranked 4th in the world, something that usually indicates a forthcoming major championship. The only problem is that the three people ranked ahead of him may one day be considered three of the five greatest players ever. One of those players is Roger Federer a.k.a the consensus greatest tennis player of all time. From 2003-2008 he proved to be unbeatable when it counted most. He’s courteous, charitable and his wife looks like British pop sensation Adele! Before last week Fed had beaten Murray twice in major championships. Murray and Federer played again last week, this time for the most coveted championship in tennis, Wimbledon. This was by far Murray’s best chance to win the tourney, due to Federer’s age. The fans in England so badly wanted this for Murray and for themselves.
Now watch this. As you may have gathered from the previous paragraph, Murray lost. He didn’t just lose though; he played amazing, beautiful tennis and didn’t ever really come close to winning. After the match, he gathered himself enough to give that gracious 2nd place acceptance speech. I saw something more though. I saw a man who realized that no matter what he did, he would never win the big one. He has worked his whole life for an achievement that will never come.
This week’s parsha provides us with the original Greek tragedy. Every year we read the same story of Moshe that starts so full of hope and every year we reach this point. G-d tells Moshe that despite his hard work, the best he can do is to look at the mountain. This frequently brings to my mind other great men who never saw the fruits of their labor. Famously, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. quoted this story a few days before he was tragically taken from us. Moshe’s plight stands out more than the other leaders though. He took the job completely unwillingly. He then worked extremely hard to lead a people who frankly did not want to be led. Even G-d seemed to quit on them. However, Moshe stuck with it and despite his mistakes, he deserved at least a moment in Kena’an. Every year, that moment never comes.
The torah does not describe Moshe’s reaction to the decision, but it does later record his entreaties to enter the land. No doubt, Moshe wept much like Murray and like Murray, it made no difference. Sometimes G-d’s decrees are like championships, they cannot be taken away.
On the same day as the Wimbledon finals the mourning period of the 3 weeks began. These culminate in the difficult day of the 9th of Av and the kinnot we read then. Some of these kinnot directly address Zion (I believe that most are attributed to R. Yehuda HaLevi). It’s clear that the author would give anything for just one day in Israel. Many Jews since the time of the 2nd temple have dreamt of an opportunity to spend just a little time here. Despite their cries that day would never come. Yet here we are today. I am currently writing this secret love letter to Andy Murray a mere 35 minute walk away from Har Habayit (תובב”א). This year, in addition to mourning the loss of two temples, let us make sure to appreciate the opportunities that this age grants us. Some people would kill for just one moment at the top.