The final score was 5-3. Our eleven year old son and his teammates had just lost their little league championship game. Over the pizza of consolation, Coach Jeff congratulated his players on a great season. And then he offered them a gem - a word that I hope that my son and all his buddies will learn to live by.
“Sometimes you learn more by losing than by winning”, he said. Under other circumstances these words might have just gotten lost in the post-game pizza and power-aide. But Coach Jeff wasn’t just casting about for some words of comfort. Everyone who knows him knows that there isn’t an insincere bone in his body. Coach Jeff was candidly and lovingly conveying to the kids a piece of wisdom that he knew to be straight and true. And it got my attention too.
What, you may be asking, are the some of the things you only learn from losing? Well, for starters, you learn that there’s a small but reliable pod of people in this world who love you unconditionally, and who will keep cheering you on no matter what, just as long as you keep giving it your all. Also, you learn what losing feels like, and you understand how appreciated it’ll be tomorrow when you put your arm around the shoulder of someone else who’s lost. And you learn that disappointment and defeat are very different things, and that the latter is determined not by what an opposing pitcher did today, but by what you do when you get out of bed tomorrow. You learn that there’s no gift as appreciated as the gift of another chance, and you learn how to give this gift to everyone around you. Coach Jeff knows what he’s talking about.
It led me to reflect on the idea that we, the Jewish people have learned a lot from losing too, and God knows we’ve lost plenty of times over the millennia. We’ve learned that God can be anyplace, and that we build a Temple to His Great Name through every act of justice and compassion that we perform. We’ve learned that we can count on one another in our times of deepest distress, and even flirt seriously with the idea that no amount of internal disagreement can ever alter the bedrock reality that we are one people. And we have learned that there is no one more righteous on the earth than the one who offers shelter and protection to the stranger in his midst, to the one whom the rest of the world has cast out. We have learned what the purest and highest form of righteousness is.
Thank God, we have been doing much more winning than losing over the last 64 years. May God continue to bless Israel with strength. And May it be that we never forget all the things that we have learned.