“Let's table the discussion" is an Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana & Eliyahu Aharon Ben Yocheved Yetta Ettel).
This week’s story took place at the Olympic Games in Mexico, 1968. The final event of that year’s Olympics was the marathon. As the races progressed, the athletes tired. In the meantime, the crowds packed the Olympic stadium to see who would win the thrilling race. The first athlete, an Ethiopian runner, entered the stadium and the crowd erupted as he crossed the finish line taking the Gold medal.
Way back in the field another runner, John Stephen Akwhari of Tanzania persevered. He had been eclipsed by the other runners. After 30 kilometers his head began to throb, his muscles ached and he fell to the ground. He had suffered from some serious leg injuries and officials wanted him to retire, in other words, to drop out. Akwahri refused. After having his knee bandaged, Akwhari picked himself up and hobbled through the remaining 12 kilometers to the finish line. An hour after the winner had finished Akwhari finally had entered the stadium. All but a few thousand of the crowd had already gone home. Akwhari moved around the track at a painstakingly slow pace, until finally he collapsed over the finish line.
It was one of the most heroic efforts of Olympic history. Afterward, when asked by a reporter why he had not dropped out, Akwhari responded, “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish.”
The Ibn Ezra (Vayikra 14:2) notes that the end process of the Metzorah involves his being brought to the Kohein. Ibn Ezra astutely notes that the Metzorah does not come on his own. The reason, he explains, is that once the Tzoraas clears up, people do not always want to bring the Korbanos that they have to bring. Knowing that there is ambivalence on the part of the Metzorah, Hashem reminds the frriends and neighbors to bring him – to get him to follow through with encouragement and support.
It is fascinating to think about how many people make commitments when they experience a personal need. However, once the need is gone, they fail to finish the job or complete the race. One of the best ways to make sure that one sticks to his own original plans is to offer him the encouragement and support to know that people are behind him and counting on him to meet his own obligations. At the same time, knowing that people believe in him will encourage even the sinner to meet new obligations and complete the turn of a brand new leaf.
How can you best be encouraged to follow through on your commitments?
How can you best support someone else so that s/he can do the same?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and communities.