To have “skin in the game” is to have incurred risk (monetary or otherwise) by being involved in achieving a goal.
In the phrase, “skin” is a phrase for the person involved, and “game” is the metaphor for actions on the field of play under discussion. The phrase is particularly common in business, finance, and gambling, and is also used in politics.
The origin of the phrase comes from derby races. The owners of the horse have “skin” in “the game”. As the owner, they have the most riding on the outcome of the derby event.
It has commonly been attributed to Warren Buffet referring to his own investment in his initial fund
The Torah, however, originated the perspective many thousands of years before at the Covenant at Sinai.
Indeed, it is a commitment –consecration ceremony, which can be ratified only after the Israelite’s publicly accept the challenge – or the gift – which God is placing before them, “And (the Israelite’s) said, ‘all that the Lord has spoken we shall perform and internalize’ –
Moses took the blood (of the earlier sacrifices) and
sprinkled it upon the nation , and he said, ‘behold, the
blood of the Covenant, which the Lord has cut with you
on all these words.’” (Ex. 24:7-9)
As should be expected, this ratification comes after the lengthy Torah portion of Mishpatim, with a sampling of the moral and ritual commandments which have always
been seen by our Sages as part and parcel of the
Revelation at Sinai.
This ratification of the Covenant includes the
youth of Israel who brought whole burnt offerings and
peace offerings – and a celebratory meal for the
leadership (Moses, Aaron, Nadav, Avihu and the
Seventy Elders), at which they ate and drank in the
presence of the Divine. (Ex. 24:11). Biblically, sacrifices
of whole burnt offerings and peace offerings are
generally identified with Festival celebrations (for
example, Numbers. 10:10).
As we have seen, there is also the sprinkling of
blood upon the nation, which is reminiscent of the
circumcision ceremony, by which every male baby
enters into the Covenant of Abraham and must include
the loss of some blood from the male sexual organ of
propagation; so it is that every single birth, male and
female, is accompanied with the significant loss of
blood: our Talmud teaches that “women are considered
to be naturally circumcised,” because with every birth
they put their lives on the line and shed much blood!
The profound reason for this is difficult, but very
Every worthwhile idea or ideal requires
commitment even commitment unto
It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that
anyone who has not found an ideal for which he would
sacrifice his life is not living a worthwhile life!
As the prophet Ezekiel taught, “And I see that you are rooted in your blood, and I say to you “by your blood shall you live, by your blood shall you live” (Ezek. 16:6).
The great paradox of the biblical story of the
binding of Isaac was God’s telling Abraham that only if
he was willing to risk his future through his son Isaac
would he be worthy of having a future with covenant al
seed. God Himself (as it were) is invested in Israel’s
commitment, even commitment unto death, to the
Covenant, because unless Israel succeeds in teaching
the world ethical monotheism, our global village will
have no future! That is why in picturing God’s
participation in the celebratory meal at Sinai, what I
believe the Bible is trying to express metaphorically is
that God has chosen us as His partners, to be His
witnesses to the world, to help Him save humanity from
The Talmud records (B.T. Tamid 32a) that
“Alexander of Macedon asked the Elders of Tzfat:
‘What ought a person do if he wishes to die?’ They
responded, ‘Let him attempt to keep on living,’ because
he will surely die sooner or later; nobody has yet left
this world alive!
‘And what ought a person do if he
wishes to remain alive?’ They responded, ‘Let him slay
himself’ for the sake of an eternal value, of a lofty ideal,
and he will continue to live as long as the value or ideal
remains alive in the world.”
To be a committed Jews means that although
you may be engaged in a dangerous occupation, there
is no more privileged way to live your life. Yes, it is a
great joy to be Jewish Why, because we get to be G-d’s representatives on Earth.