Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Ultimate Opponent

“The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win--but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well” (Pierre de Coubertin).

Ari Taub, a Canadian Greco-Roman Olympic Wrestler and one of the Jewish athletes competing in the 2008 Olympics, quoted the Olympic Creed when being interviewed about the upcoming games.

By emphasizing the meaning and power of struggle, Ari Taub, in effect, stated an essential Jewish concept.

Jacob, the third patriarch (son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham), did not have an easy life: his twin brother Esau hated him, he lived in exile, his father-in-law cheated him, etc. When Jacob started back toward the land of Canaan, he did so in fear of attack by Esau. The night before he was to meet his brother, Jacob camped alone. Suddenly, an angel came upon him and the two wrestled until dawn, ending with Jacob demanding a blessing. The angel’s enigmatic response was: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Israel, the alternate name of our forefather Jacob and the name of the nation, literally translates as: “He who has struggled/wrestled with God.” As individuals, the Children of Israel frequently wrestle with society and with themselves in order to maintain their Jewish identities. From the patriarch Jacob, the Children of Israel learn that it is only through struggle that we become stronger and better.

Read more about Ari's incredible journey to the Olympics: Calgary Herald

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