The Observant Jew


The Observant Jew

By Rabbi Jonathan Gewirtz

Aim for the Sweet Spot

I don’t know that much about golf. My main experience with the game was either miniature golf when I was twelve years old or when some fellow camp staffers and went to a golf course when I was 20 and were asked to leave for drag racing with the golf carts. That doesn’t mean I don’t know any of the terms, however.

One special term in golf is the “sweet spot.” It’s the place on the ball you want to hit with the club to make it fly the furthest possible. In fact, there’s a corresponding sweet spot on the club. It works this way in Tennis, Baseball, and numerous other games as well.

The sweet spot is the center of gravity of each item and by hitting it just so, you most-efficiently transfer the momentum of the club to the ball, causing it to soar. If you’ve ever swung a bat and hit a baseball on the sweet spot, you can just feel it. It’s the perfect transference of power and the bat feels like an extension of your arm.

One sweltering day I was visiting a shul I hadn’t been to before. I walked in with an acquaintance and found a seat near him. It was wonderful to feel the blast of cool air as I walked into the sanctuary, but when I sat down I realized I’d gotten the best seat in the house. A vent was blowing right over me and I felt the most delicious cool breeze brushing across my head and neck. I couldn’t help but feeling I was in the “sweet spot,” the best place in the shul.

Then, a thought occurred to me. How did I know it was the best seat in the house? Maybe there was another place where it was blowing just as much? What if somewhere else the air blew at an even more perfect angle, or had a more relaxing airflow? The answer came to me just as quickly – it doesn’t matter.

Yes, it’s possible that there was another seat that might have had the same or better comfort factor, but I wasn’t going to go try to figure it out. Instead, I chose to believe that the spot where I sat was the best possible place and felt grateful to HaShem for being so gracious to me.

This concept isn’t my own. Ben Zoma, quoted in the Gemara Brachos 58a, asks: “What does a “good guest” say? ‘How much effort the host expended! How much meat did he bring before me; how much wine did he bring before me; how much bread did he bring before me? And all the efforts he expended were on my behalf.’ But what does the “bad guest” say? ‘What did the host do for me already? I only ate one piece of meat, drank one cup of wine, ate one piece of bread. All he did he did for his wife and children.’”

Wait a minute – before we call them good or bad, why don’t we find out the truth? Did the host have his family in mind and this guest was a lucky tagalong, or did the host truly try to do everything for the benefit of the guest? If he really did everything just for his family, is the fellow who recognizes this truly a “bad guest”?

The answer is that yes, he is a “bad guest.” A guest’s job is to enjoy the hospitality of his host. He is the recipient of good, and if he doesn’t feel that, he’s not going to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what the facts of the matter are. If the guest feels and believes that the host did everything for the benefit of the visitor, then the guest will feel honored and enjoy it to the utmost. He will be ready to praise his host and find great joy in every aspect of his stay.

Of course, the idea of the guest and host is a metaphor for human beings and the Ribono Shel Olam. We are guests in this world and if we say that HaShem makes it rain “for everyone else too” we will not feel as special as if we were to tell ourselves He did it specifically for our benefit.

Of course the rain is needed by everyone, but when HaShem makes it rain, or makes our company do well, or sends prosperity to our country, He is doing it with each of us in mind. He places us in the perfect place to enjoy His beneficence and just as the club and ball each have their own sweet spots which must meet for the transference of energy, we must make the connection to HaShem if we want those brachos to have their full effect.

If I were to suspect there might be a better place to sit, that means I’m not acknowledging that G-d is doing His utmost to put me right where it’s best for me; to give me the perfect situations for my benefit; and I’m being a bad guest.

The Purim story has many ups and downs, but in the end, we see the perfection of how each player was in a specific spot for the story to unfold as it did. The happiness we feel in Adar should be in appreciation of the fact that HaShem orchestrates everything to maximize His influence in our lives.

That’s why every day we should take time to appreciate the things we have and realize they’re not just “par for the course.”

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