Passover’s Secret of Success - The Jewish Voice
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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Passover’s Secret of Success

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Shimon E., a 16-year-old Israeli Shotokan karate champion, was in Philadelphia with eleven other Israeli boys for his first international competition. He had trained long and hard, but eying his opponents, especially the Japanese contingent, he felt daunted. The Japanese contenders seemed to have karate in their blood.

What did he have in his blood? Suddenly it hit him: He had not seen any of the contenders pray. Although Shimon was not religious, he intuited that he should ask God for help. At the beginning of each match, he prayed for Divine assistance. Shimon scored victory after victory; by the end of the tournament, he was #1 in his division in Israel and #2 in the world.

As Shimon described it years later, his prayer was not a magic formula to strengthen himself or disable his opponent. Rather, it simply expressed his recognition that God is the ultimate causal factor. Of course, had he not trained hard, his victory would have been impossible. But watching many sports competitions had shown him that human effort even augmented by tremendous talent did not always spell success. He concluded that unlikely victories as well as startling defeats are determined by the Divine.

Many years ago, my husband and I invested most of our savings in a mutual fund called Tiger. Tiger was run by Julian Robertson, who was rated one of the smartest and sharpest fund managers in the world. Robertson’s genius quickly proved itself. In a short time, our investment tripled. We were euphoric.

Then, literally overnight, Tiger plunged. It had something to do with the Japanese selling off yen. I never understood the intricate economics of it, but suddenly all our gains had vanished. Robertson wrote a letter to his investors explaining how this unforeseen debacle of a single day could not have been anticipated even by his expertise, and how he planned to restore Tiger to its former glory. The final bombastic sentence of the letter made me cringe. Robertson assured his investors not to worry, because “This Tiger will roar again.”

It didn’t. Within several months the fund was defunct.

Robertson didn’t realize what 16-year-old Shimon knew: that God is the ultimate causal factor. Although human effort is essential, no matter how smart we are or how hard we work, victory and defeat, gain and loss, success and failure are ultimately determined by God.

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