Messi, The World Cup, and a Hanukkah Message

by Rabbi Igal Guinerman

December 20, 2022

Don’t despair. The beginning doesn’t determine the ending.

The beginning of the story doesn’t determine its end.

Just ask Messi.

In his debut game at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Argentina, led by Messi shockingly lost 2-1 to the Saudi Arabian national team. The sports statistics company Gracenote called it “the biggest shock in World Cup history.” With Argentina on a 36-match winning streak, there was only an 8.7% chance that Saudi Arabia would defeat them.

But that ignoble beginning is long forgotten in the wake of Argentina’s victory Sunday night against France, in what is being hailed as the greatest final on World Cup history. Perhaps becoming the new world champions tastes even sweeter after that inauspicious beginning.

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Perhaps it’s no accident that the the Qatar 2022 World Cup final coincided with the first night of Hanukkah.

After losing in 7 finals over the last 30 years, and a rollercoaster game that felt it would never end, Argentina rewrote their ending, winning the World Cup and Messi taking home the World Cup 2022 Golden Ball award. The ability to rewrite your ending encapsulates the ideological clash between ancient Greece and Israel that is at the heart of the Hanukkah story.

The Greeks believed in the inevitability of fate. “The future is predetermined and there is nothing we can do about it.” They perceived fate as an outside power that determined the course of events beyond human control.

The Jews, on the other hand, believed in free will and in the possibility of altering reality. “There is no decree that cannot be reversed through our actions.”

This vision of a inescapable destiny is behind the concept of “tragedy”, an inevitable fate that must be accepted, that was popularized by the Greeks. The Jews gave the world the concept of hope, believing in the power of free will to overcome adversity and rewrite our ending.

Against all odds, the Maccabees didn’t allow themselves to be defeated by despair. With fierce determination and a willingness to fight to the death, they took on the mighty Greek empire, overcame all adversities and decrees, and won the war. The miracle of the oil burning bright for 8 days, representing the eternal values of the Jewish people, continues to shine today.

That is Hanukkah’s message of hope – the end of the story is up to us. No one can go back in time and rewrite the beginning, but do not despair. No matter the odds, being free means there is always the opportunity to begin again and write a new ending.

After a lousy start and decades of defeats, the Argentinian team rewrote the end of their story and achieved an historic triumph.

In the word’s of the incomparable Andres Cantor, the prominent Jewish soccer announcer, “Argentina, campeon del mundo!”

Let’s celebrate by taking this Hanukkah message to heart: disregard one of your “bad beginnings”, overcome despair and defeat, and rise to the challenge to rewrite your own happy ending.

Categories: Articole de interes general

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