What is it about elimination games that makes sports so compelling? When I’ve watched the final game’s closing minutes in sports that I don’t follow, I didn’t find them nearly as irresistible. This leads me to believe that what separates these nail-biters from all other games is full appreciation of the long and arduous path taken by both teams to get to this latest stage of the season.
In Torah 65 Rebbe Nachman describes an exalted level of prayer. He says that we need to unite all our words of prayer so deeply, so that we can actually remember the first word we prayed at the time the last word leaves our mouths. Reb Nosson clarifies that clearly this level of prayer is far higher than people like us can understand.
Although I also can’t imagine this type of perfection in prayer, I think there’s a strong lesson to be learned from here to other areas of life. When it comes to our careers, to child rearing and to personal growth we tend to judge our productivity by our latest results. This recency bias stunts our development because we forget all the remarkable achievements and kindnesses that brought us to this point. Also, thinking myopically worries us unfairly because we doubt if we can be successful since we’ve had a recent slump.
Life is about ups and downs. We can’t get fooled by our latest streaks. What makes the elimination game great is recalling all the tense moments that got the team there. The shots that almost didn’t go in. The injuries and key substitutions. Every part of the journey is special, not only the last couple of moments. The Rebbe describes this idea in our devotions because prayer is the ‘labor of the heart’. We can only wish that our prayers were so unified! But when it comes to our other activities as well, the idea is just as true. Life is a long journey with numerous stages. At times when we feel like we want to give up, if we could aspire to see the entire picture, we might appreciate the odyssey for what it is…an adventure!