My native South Africa takes its sports very seriously. They are world class players in soccer, rugby and cricket. I myself was the captain of our soccer team in my proud position as right wing. But baseball? Who ever heard of it?
I must admit however, that finally, one baseball game caught my attention. Wednesday’s Chicago White Sox-Baltimore Orioles game this week, the first contest ever played without fan admittance.
What’s a game without its fans? What motivates the players sans supporters? Can they actually play without the cheers and enthusiasm from the bleachers spurring them to push their skills beyond their limits?
It reminded me of the double prohibition of robbery as well as thievery in this week’s Torah portion. Why the need for both? Are they not one and the same?
They are not. A robber steals in broad daylight for all to see; in contrast, a thief steals by night when no one is watching. It is explained that the thief is worse than the robber because the thief fears man’s observing him much more than he fears G-d watching him. The robber, on the other hand, has no less fear of G-d than he has of man.
A story is told of the saintly Baal Shem Tov who once hailed a wagon driver to take him someplace. In the middle of nowhere, the taxi driver stopped on the side of the road and asked the Baal Shem Tov to alert him if anyone comes. He then descended from the wagon and proceeded to steal fruits from the adjacent field. Suddenly the holy rabbi yelled: ‘He’s watching, He’s watching! The taxi driver panics as he dashes back onto the wagon and speeds away.
When he finally caught his breath, he noticed no one in the area. Turning to his saintly passenger, he asked who he saw watching. The rabbi pointed up and said: ‘Hashem is always watching!’
In truth, the White Sox-Baltimore Orioles game this week did have observers. They were silent and invisible, but they were certainly there, watching enthusiastically on their TV screens at home, yet unseen to the players themselves.
The game inspires us to live life like no one is watching. To give tzedaka even if no one will ever find out who gave it, not even the recipient; to observe our Shabbos, even when no one will ever know about it.
We can’t necessarily see if anyone is watching our selfless acts of kindness and devotion. But we can be assured that if we look up, He is always watching!