Yogi Berra, famous for his nonsensical comments that, deep down, make sense, once quipped, “Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical.” While the math is a bit off, the idea is undoubtedly accurate, the power of mindset over physical achievement. The mental component is an integral part of the competition. The mind has the ability to determine for us what we can and cannot do. When we think we can do something, we are more likely to be successful.
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the sin of the golden calf, which led to the breaking of the luchot (tablets). The standard explanation for breaking the luchot is that Moshe Rabbeinu was angry at Bnei Yisrael, so he intentionally broke the luchot. The midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 393) offers a different perspective:
נסתכל משה בלוחות וראה הכתב שבהן שפורח וכבדו על ידי משה ונפלו מידיו ונשתברו.
Moshe looked at the tablets and saw the words within fly away, and they became heavy for Moshe’s arms, and they fell from his hands and shattered.
Moshe was distraught about the actions of the Jewish people, and this caused him to drop the luchot. Rav Soloveitchik ztz”l asks a simple question: When it was time to receive the second luchot, G-d told Moshe to carve a second set of stones and carry them up the mountain. Surely, it seems easier to carry the tablets down than up the mountain. How is it possible that Moshe could not physically carry them down the mountain, but he was able to carry them up the mountain? He suggests that sometimes we can be a ‘subject,’ and sometimes we can be an ‘object.’ If we are inhibited by external forces that act upon us, then we are an ‘object.’ However, if we can transcend those external forces, we are a ‘subject.’ When Moshe Rabbenu saw the people sin, it weighed on him. He was just an object carrying a load his physical body could not handle. However, after G-d forgave the Jewish people and requested Moshe’s presence back on the mountain, Moshe Rabbeinu was a subject, uninhibited by the typical impediments. He was able to climb the mountain with the heavy luchot because “In this role, Moses could overcome all psychological and physical obstacles.”
We all have goals in our lives, and we are sometimes held back by the belief that we don’t have the physical or cognitive ability to achieve them. Our minds have turned our challenges into heavy stones weighing us down. Sometimes all we need to do is change our mindset and expand what we are truly capable of, and the rest will fall into place.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay