Sport and Soul

An unlikely pair of thoughts comes to mind.

Myles Kantor,

OpEds guest
Arutz 7

The following is a modified version of Myles Kantor's personal statement for Nefesh B'Nefesh, a North American organization that assists with the immigration process to Israel.

When I contemplate returning home to Israel, an unlikely pair of thoughts comes to mind: my participation in the
Training is inspired by, and preparatory for, the higher reality of competition.
sport of powerlifting and the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270).

Powerlifting - in which Israeli Vladislav Alhazov holds a world record - consists of three disciplines: squat, bench press and deadlift. Powerlifters train these lifts with the goals of achieving victory and personal records in competition. The sport is part of the World Games under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee and powerlifting was part of the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

As powerlifting coach Louie Simmons notes, "It doesn't matter how strong you are before a meet or after a meet. It counts only on meet day." Training is inspired by, and preparatory for, the higher reality of competition.

I write "higher reality" because competition lifts have a unique intensity and consequentiality. Elite bench presser Robert McCray has referred to the "euphoric" feeling of being on the powerlifting platform and setting a new personal record.

I know what McCray means. At October’s USAPL Southeastern United States Regional Championships, I achieved a long-sought goal of a 451-lb. deadlift in the 198 lb. weight class. It was the hardest lift of my life and took nearly ten seconds to complete. I recall feeling an internal exhilaration after finishing the lift.

My personal record is a modest achievement in a comparative context - the all-time deadlift world record in the 198s is Ed Coan’s 859 lbs. From 1985 - but it is still mine. It is what realized the arduous training in the gym; and it is the only place where that training could be realized.

On a much deeper level, I believe Israel is also about a higher reality that realizes an original plan.

Banished from Spain for his defense of Judaism, in 1267 the Ramban settled in Israel and found it physically and spiritually battered after various Gentile conquests. One of Judaism's preeminent sages, the Ramban sought to reinvigorate Judaism in Israel by establishing schools, synagogues and giving lectures.

Toward the end of a lecture in 1268, on Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Nachman discussed the role of Israel in t
Ramban valued the central importance of homeland.
he Jewish worldview. "Judaism was designed for those living in the Land of the Lord," he said. Linking the performance of Judaism's commandments to Israel, he concluded, "All is designed to extol the preeminence and holiness of the Land of Israel."

The Ramban valued the central importance of homeland and the incomparable richness of Jewish life therein. Like training in a gym, Jewishness lived outside Israel can be diligent and passionate, but it is not the ultimate destination.

I want to live in Israel for the same reason I train to compete on the powerlifting platform: it is what really matters. I believe Israel is the right, duty and destiny of the Jewish people. This is the holy platform where my nation fulfills its identity and I look forward to participating in that fulfillment.