The Infinite Game

Competition may benefit the consumer, but does it help the competitor? True, the winner’s revenue has increased, but at what cost? What happens when our winner heads home? It’s only natural to take the ‘me first’ attitude to the dinner table, to bedtime, and to our vacation planning. When the needs of others compete with my needs, who wins?!

Popular motivational speaker Simon Sinek puts it this way, “In finite games, like football or chess, the players are clearly defined, the rules fixed, the endpoint clear, the winners and losers easily identified. But in infinite games, like business, politics, or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game.”

If my seemingly infinite needs depend on finite resources, and you too rely on those same resources, we will inevitably clash.

If my success, my greatness, is based on my superiority, then we have a problem. There is only one first, best, most successful; all the rest have failed to make the team.

This week’s Parsha, however, paints a very different picture, teaching us that neediness is not a negative; it isn’t something to overcome but something to embrace. “Not for your great numbers did Hashem choose you, for you are the smallest of nations (7:7)”. It is precisely our weakness that allows us to place our destiny in the hands of the Almighty — the only true and infinite source.

With our needs sourced in the Infinite, we no longer compete. You, I, and all of the universe have more than ample supply. Who wants a starving person ahead of them on the buffet line? But when the supply is proportionate with the need, who cares? In fact, once the pot is refilled, there’s more for everyone.

Greatness, too, the Torah tells us, isn’t exclusive but universally available. “You, who are attached to Hashem your God, are all firmly established today (4:4).”

Man, created in the image of Hashem, reaches the pinnacle of his greatness when he expresses his Divine image. “Just as their faces are distinct, so are their minds” (Midrash Tanchuma). Hashem is infinite, and there are infinite expressions of His greatness. There is no one best; there are an infinite variety of bests.

As we enter the seven weeks of consolation, as we embark on our journey home, we remember that, like branches of a healthy tree, we don’t compete for nutrition or growth but thrive on each other’s success.

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Shmuel Halpern

Shmuel Halpern

Adult Jewish education. Denver Colorado