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Embrace The Suck ….

May 1, 2013

“Embrace the Suck…” is a quote from Chris ‘MACCA’ McCormack in describing the mental toughness required while pursuing endurance events when things get tough. Chris goes further and says – “Okay, here it is. This is why we’re doing the sport. Everyone is going to feel this uncomfortable, quite normal. The world is not going to end. This is going to stop when the race stops. I can either decide to have the pain stop now, by walking, or push on and have a great day.”

This week’s Parsha is a double Parsha (Behar – Bechukotai). Below is a summary from

In this week’s Parshah, Behar, we learn about some very important mitzvot that apply in the land of Israel.

First is shemittah. The same way the seventh day of the week is Shabbat, every seventh year is a Shabbat for the land when the land gets to “rest.” This means that for six years, farmers may work on the land, sowing seeds so things should grow, pruning to help the plants grow better, and harvesting the fruit and vegetables so they can sell it and make money. But in the seventh year, the year of shemittah, the land must be allowed to rest, and there can be no planting or harvesting. Instead, anything that grows becomes free for anybody who wants to just pick and enjoy.

After seven cycles of shemittah, the fiftieth year (7 x 7 = 49, it’s the year following the 49th, so it’s the 50th), is called yovel or the jubilee. It is also a year of rest for the land, but in addition to that, all servants go free, and all property returns to its original owner. That means that whenever somebody buys a plot of land he knows he will only keep it until the year of yovel when the land will go back to the original owner.

Then the Torah tells us that we shouldn’t worry that we won’t have enough to eat during shemittah and the following year because we can’t plant and harvest. Because G-d promises that the year before shemittah–the sixth year–will produce enough food for three whole years–the sixth year, the year of shemittah, and the following year, when things won’t grow because there was no planting during shemittah.

We also learn in this Parshah that it’s forbidden to charge a Jew interest. That means that when we lend someone money, we can’t take a little extra back as a thank you for doing them the favor and lending them the money. Rather, all loans must be free–the person only has to pay back exactly what you lent them.

In Parshat Bechukotai, we read about the promises that G-d gives us if we keep the Torah and do the mitzvot:

  • rain will come when we need it to make the crops grow
  • there will be enough food and everybody will eat until they are satisfied
  • we will have peace and security in the land
  • no wild beasts or armies will pass through the land
  • we will be successful in our battles and victorious over armies much larger than ours
  • and G-d will be with us.

But, then the Torah tells us that if the people don’t keep the commandments, and forget about their agreement with G-d, then many unfortunate things will happen. But even if G-d is angry at the Jews and must punish them, he will never forget or abandon them.

The last thing we learn in the Parshah is how to calculate the value of different types of gifts that people promise to G-d.

It is now over a month since I completed IM Melbourne. After taking it easier for a few weeks I am getting back into the swing of my exercise routine.

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” – PattiSue Plumer

Until now I have never done a stand -alone Marathon. Some friends have entered the Great Ocean Road Marathon (GOR). I was undecided on if I should try do this Marathon so soon after IM, but my wise friend Hilton Kahlberg , said that with my base level of fitness I could do it as it is a hilly course which he said makes it easier (Lorne – Apollo Bay is pretty Hilly!), so I decided to accept this as a new challenge! I am not planning to race it fast, but I am hoping to enjoy the day.

The first words of Parsha Bechukotai – אם בחוקותי תלכו     – generally translated as “If you follow My statutes”. בחוקותי , “My statutes,” refers to a particular category of mitzvos, referred to as chukim. Chukim are those commandments which make no sense. They seem arbitrary and random, like the laws relating to the red heifer or shatnesis.

What can we learn about personal growth from the word Chukim?  The word חוק means “engrave.” Contrasting the difference between writing and engraving allows us to appreciate the inner meaning of the chukim , and the influence they have upon us. Firstly, in contrast to writing, engraving involves strenuous labor. Writing is also considered one of the 39 categories of labor, but the amount of effort required to write cannot be compared to that necessary to engrave.

Earlier this week in a Shiur by Rabbi Garfunkel, he explained that, Rashi interprets אם בחוקותי תלכו as meaning “If you labour in Torah study,” i.e., if you do more than merely study, and arduously apply yourself to the Torah. When a person dedicates himself in this fashion, the words of the Torah will become “engraved” on his heart.

Without the necessary effort you will not be able to grow. Your fitness will not improve unless you exercise or your health will not change if you don’t try to adopt a healthy diet. In order to reach our physical and spiritual potential, an investment of hard work must be made.

On a deeper side I was trying to link what I have just said above with my latest challenge and possibly there is a link. Just as the Chukim are laws we do not understand, we do not know what we will get out of the study or Torah and a healthy lifestyle. The one thing I do know is that Torah study, my fitness routine and a healthy lifestyle are “engraved” into my way of life.

Part of the preparation for an endurance event is trying to train yourself to make things look easier than they really are. On the Ironman run I only thought about the next water station (2km away), which was far easier than conceptualising the distance from Frankston to St Kilda. Hopefully I will be prepared to enjoy the GOR and “Embrace the suck…”

I recently read the following relevant quote – “Your mind will quit a thousand times before you body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway.”


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  1. Hilton permalink

    Great article Ian

  2. S Pamensky permalink

    Once again enjoyed the words of wisdom. I’m still not comfortable with a ‘punishing’ G-d…but that is something I’ll discuss with you. Well written and good on you for a new challenge – good luck!
    We”re always behind you. Love Mom

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