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Rabbi Joshua Hess Headshot

Jeremy Lin and the American Couch Potato

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"Linsanity" has captured the hearts and minds of sports fans across the world. It is, indeed, a great story about perseverance and a testament to Jeremy Lin's hard work and dedication. This is an epic tale about an athlete unwilling to give up on his dream who, when given the chance, seized the opportunity to showcase his talents and left everyone wanting more.

Jeremy Lin embodies everything we love about America and sports. This is the "land of opportunity," a country where anyone, with the proper focus and determination, can attain the "American dream." America is a country of immigrants who came here seeking to fulfill their dreams of better lives and we are a people that always roots for the underdog who overcomes adversity to achieve greatness. It's not surprising that most sports movies appeal to this American mentality by highlighting individuals and teams that rise up from the depths of despair to become champions: Hoosiers, Rudy, Major League, Mighty Ducks and the Bad News Bears, just to name a few.

This is also the underlying theme of "Linsanity" as well as, to a large extent, "Tebowmania." We root for Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow to succeed because most experts have counted them out. We want them to become great, because no one dreamed that they would. And their struggles and successes assume a deeper and more personal role because we identify with them. We are the Lin's and Tebow's of the world who are waiting in the wings for the opportunity to showcase our skills. So when someone makes the most of their chance, we feel a sacred kinship with him or her, as though we are a part of their journey.

Yet, our affinity for their successes also creates serious challenges. For more often than not, we become so enthralled and enamored with their achievements and accomplishments, that instead of using it as motivation and inspiration to strive for greatness in our own lives, we choose to sit back and view our lives through the prism of the Jeremy Lin's of the world. Instead of living the dream as Lin has done, we prefer to talk about the dream. Instead of being participants, we remain spectators.

This is an unfortunate reality that affects many areas of our lives. Take politics, for example. We love bantering among friends and colleagues about what needs to change in Washington or in our home states. We listen to talk radio, we read the newspaper and spout off about the issues of the day. But we would be better served if we put that energy and excitement to good use. For all of the controversy that the Tea Party and Occupy movements have brought to our country, we must credit them for having the courage to make a difference. While we may not agree with their tactics or philosophies, we must certainly applaud their passion to act and attempt to create change to better our country.

Most of us suffer from this same common malady. Our talents have been lying dormant for years because we haven't put them to good use. Rather than satisfying ourselves by living vicariously through the successes of others, we should strive to emulate those people in our own fields of endeavor. Jeremy Lin is an example of an athlete who wasn't satisfied sitting at the sports bar talking about who the best player in the NBA is now, or which player he would want on his team to take the game-winning shot. Instead, Lin said, "Not only do I dream of being that guy; but I am going to be that guy." His attitude was one of determination and passion. He wasn't willing to live life as a spectator, he wanted to be a participant.

This is the message that our rabbis taught us when they stated in Ethics of the Fathers, that "every person should believe that the world was created for them." They were not calling for a world in which each man was for themselves. Rather, they wanted each and every human being to internalize the belief that God created a world for them to conquer. Yes, it's an imperfect world; but one that humanity is charged to complete. Tikkun Olam -- repairing the world --requires that each and every one of us do our part to perfect it. We aren't allowed to sit idly by and grow complacent, watching as our peers and friends excel in different areas of life. For if we don't become active participants in this world, then the work will never be finished.

Sure, it's fun to talk about Lin, Tebow or any other player that has beaten the odds to become successful, but we can't forget that we are on the same exact mission. And while our task may not be as glamorous as a professional athlete's, God is waiting and hoping that we find our vocation and use it as a means to perfect the world.

God has given us the keys to His world. Not only must we protect it and treat it with respect and honor, but we must also perfect that which he intentionally left unfinished. It does not take great effort to be an observer or onlooker, but our job is to get off the couch or the bar stool, and participate in life's work with all the fervor and passion for that which we were created. To find our "calling" and fill that void.

Let's use Linsanity as another opportunity to remind us that, like Lin just seven days ago, we are ready, now, to prove our worth and greatness to the world. Go get 'em!