As a teenager, I used to play tennis regularly. We had courts at the school I attended, South Africa Torah Academy, and I was quite a good player. So I was pumped to have the opportunity to get back on the court and play against a good friend, Itche*, last week. Exercising one’s body is a Torah requirement, and what could be more kosher than a solid game of tennis with a buddy?
Unfortunately, I haven’t even touched a tennis racket or ball in at least 25 years, so it took some time to warm up. Soon enough, however, I found myself back in the groove, tapping into the skills I acquired so many years ago. But as I was down 4-0, Itche hit a drop shot and I had to sprint all the way from the back of the court to reach it. As I ran, I must have torn a ligament in my calf, because I instantly fell down in excruciating pain. I literally couldn’t move.
Of course, the game ended then and there, and I figured I would sleep it off and be back up and running the next morning. No dice. I spent the next week hopping to shul, hopping to my office, and certainly doing no running.
Now, thank G-d, I am fine, and can probably even schedule a rematch!
You see, this was bound to happen. I haven’t played in 25 years, haven’t exercised those muscles in the same way, and a short warm up just wasn’t enough. Without regular training, it’s that much harder to play.
The same is true of our souls. We need to keep exercising our spiritual muscles to keep in shape spiritually.
What does that mean?
It means keeping in mind that G-d runs the world. It means taking time each day to contemplate deeply about this concept and realize that every single thing that happens in this world is directly orchestrated by Him. It means making the effort to pray daily, put on tefillin, light Shabbat candles, give tzeddakah, study Torah, and turn off the phone for the 25 hours of Shabbat.
The good news, however, is that even if you haven’t flexed your spiritual muscles in 25 years (or more!), you can still get back into the game. It’s not too late for a win!
Rabbi Uriel Vigler
*Name changed for privacy.