2010-01-08 / Columnists

Point of View

“The Rabbi’s Personal Column” Rabbi Allan Blaine Temple Beth-El, Rockaway Park

In a discussion after services we tried to determine why sportsman Tiger Woods who had everything would do the things which he did. We came to the conclusion that it was a form of what the Greek writers referred to as “Hubris”. Monarchs, like Oedipus, felt that they were above the Gods. Hubris is excessive pride, overweening self-confidence, a feeling that one stands above the law. There are those who suffer from this sense of entitlement or invulnerability which apparently also affected the life of the greatest golfer in history. Surrounded as these people are with sycophantic aides and fans who tell them that they can do no wrong and who are ready and able to do their bidding, any bidding which adds to their ego.

Others suffering from this form of Hubris in their own way were Bernie Madoff, who was oblivious to the rules of mere mortals, military figures like General Patton, General McArthur the greatest strategians in military warfare and yet brooked no interference from higher ups, brilliant Presidents like Richard Nixon whose knowledge of foreign affairs was unsurpassed yet stood above the law and many others.

The media bears responsibility for the Tiger Woods debacle. What I refer to as, “TMI,” too much information which in turn is disseminated widely and in great detail emphasizing the image and not the reality of those whom we idolize. A new royalty is created through the media and the internet.

Why is this case of Tiger Woods so important that a Rabbi would discuss it. Perhaps because of the vital importance of good character. Despite the fact that we live in a time of permissiveness and of sexual freedom the vast majority of Americans still hold to certain moral imperatives and know right from wrong.

John Stenson, an educational consultant, wrote the following, “Children learn their inner strengths through word, example and repeated practice. They grow in strength from what they hear, from what they witness and what they are led repeatedly to do. They grow principally by imitating the strengths they witness in their parents and the adults whom they respect. If children do not receive the guidance essential to the development of conscience and good character they will remain with the immature character of children and remain self-centered, pleasure driven, insecure and irresponsible.” Tiger Woods’ father, we are told, was an adulterer. He was, therefore, raised from adolescence to see the effects of his own household.

The recklessness of Tiger Woods is only matched by the Hubris of another god-like figure who could do no wrong, the young martyred President John F. Kennedy who abused his high position for personal self gratification. “His reckless liaisons with women were irresponsible, dangerous and demeaning to the office of the chief executive. They were irresponsible because of the enormous potential for scandal and blackmail they posed.” So we have here the king of the golf links and the king of the White House suffering Hubris which leads to disaster.

Tiger Woods by virtue of his gifts made golf one of the world’s greatest popular sports. He personified the clean upright athlete baby faced, innocent. A black man who served as an exemplar. We bought the Nikes and the wrist watches and the other products because he was king and we were his subjects. Perhaps it is our fault for raising mortals to monarchs assuming that they are the arbiters of refinement, of good taste and of clean living. By adulating them, by emulating them we do ourselves and our children a great disservice. There is nothing wrong with admiring and aspiring to great deeds and virtues, and the young especially need such role models. The blame is ours for blindly worshipping mere “mortals” like ourselves.

Someone once said, “a man as a man cannot be seen unless his moral worth is seen.” The sad story of Tiger Woods is a lesson for all of us to learn. The same applies to JFK, to Clinton, to Spitzer and only God knows who else is destroying and crippling a family. We should heed the words spoken by Jeremiah, the prophet, thousands of years ago.

“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the strong man glory in his strength. Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But only in this should one glory that knowledge of God means living a life of kindness, of justice, of morality and if I may add of clean living.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This monthly column continues with thanks to an anonymous donor – God Bless and a Happy and Healthy New Year to all.

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