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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

So you want to be an Olympic athlete?

Sukkah 22

The Olympics are over.  Time to get back to work.  Back to school. Back to life.   The Games bring such a frenzy of obsession – people are up all hours of the day and night to watch! 

Did you notice how easy the athletes make their sports look?  Whether it’s figure skating or bobsledding, you often think, “I could do that!”

Our mishnah says that if the sukkah has more shade than sunlight, it is kosher, which would imply that if the shade and light were equal, it would be invalid.  A different mishnah states that if a sukkah had more sunlight than shade it would be invalid, which implies that if they were equal, it would be kosher.  How do we reconcile these two teachings?

Answers the Gemara: No problem.  Our mishnah speaks from the vantage point of the schach, the other mishnah speaks from the vantage point of the ground.  If schach and gaps (shade and light) are equal, then there will be greater light below at the ground level and the sukkah would be invalid.

Rabbi Papa relates this conclusion to the adage, “As a zuz above is an istera below.”

Rashi explains that if you have a small gap in the schach, the size of a zuz coin, the light will spread to the size of a large istera coin by the time you reach ground level.  The lesson for us is that if we just bring a little light into people’s lives, it will spread and become a great light.  Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a kind word to completely change someone’s day for the better.

Tosfos says: Wait a sec.  Actually the zuz is the larger coin, not the istera!  When we gaze up at the stars, they seem tiny and yet we know that they are huge.  They just appear small because they are so far away.  Rabbi Papa’s analogy means that although at ground level the gaps may appear small like an istera, it is only because we are far away.  At the schach level, they are in fact quite large, like the zuz.

From afar, everything appears small.  From the comfort of our armchairs watching TV thousands of miles away from the Olympics, it all looks so easy.  But obviously, if we would get up close, we would see the hours and years of training that every athlete endures to reach the Games.

Throughout our lives we encounter people who are successful, whether materially or spiritually or both.  And we are tempted to ask G-d, “Why them?”  But if we would take the time to ponder the amount of time and effort these successful people have invested to achieve success, we would realize that they have earned it.  From afar, it seems so easy and small, but up close one understands what enormous effort goes into achieving greatness.


Today I pledge to invest the time and effort to become accomplished.  I know that there are no shortcuts to success.  Becoming great means working hard to get there.  When I see success, I will acknowledge the effort that has gone into that achievement.