Over the last weeks two Israeli athletes, Or Sasson and Yarden Gerbi, won bronze medals at the Rio Olympics. They were welcomed back home with a hero's welcome, and were congratulated personally by the Prime Minister, President and many more.

In a video that has since gone viral, Egyptian Judoka Islam El-Shehabi refused to shake Or Sasson's hand after their Olympic match. "I knew to put that incident aside," Sasson later said. "Politics doesn't matter when I'm on the mat. I was educated to respect my opponents, no matter who they are... We always shake hands at the end of the fight. I stretched out my hand, but he didn't go with it."

I found that video clip to be inspiring and disappointing. Or Sasson's outstretched hand was inspiring. His opponent hails from a country where 75% of the population harbors strongly antisemitic views, and even today is not known to be very friendly to Israel. To be able to forget all that and finish with a friendly outstretched hand is admirable. The disappointing part is obvious.

I watched the clip a few times, and tried to find a deeper lesson that could be learned from the incident. Here's what I came up with:

During the summer months there is an old custom to read a chapter from "Ethics of our Fathers" (a tractate from the Talmud) on Shabbat afternoon. One well known line from this book is "study is not the primary thing, but action." For a religion that produced, and continues to produce, more scholarly literature than any other religion, philosophy, ideology or scientific theory, that seems to be a strange statement!

We find a similar idea in this week's Torah portion, where we read a second rendition of the Ten Commandments. These fundamental principles start with lofty philosophic ideas, such as the oneness of God in creation, and end with basic moral behavior, such as being honest.

Judaism sees ideological thought as a lamp that lights up reality, not a reality unto itself. The foundation of a true idea is embedded in its practical results, and the legitimacy of an idea is seen only when put into practice.

I found a similar idea at play in Or Sasson's words. What he said was inspiring. Despite vastly different ideologies, he was able to look past ideas and focus on the present. He was able to focus on the simple fact that his opponent was an individual human being. Every human being is meant to be viewed as an independent, valued existence, not an offshoot of an ideology. Every individual is an individual because God made them as a unique person, not because their philosophy is right.

When God was about to give the Torah to the Jewish people, the angels complained. They said that God should keep the Torah in heaven, for there is no human being capable of comprehending it the way an angel can. They were right. But people live in the real world, not in heaven, and that is where the Torah is meant to be. A guidebook for how to live life as God intended life to be lived.

The Torah is a guide for us, showing us how to live properly and happily. Far from just being a theoretical, ancient, abstract philosophy, it is meant as a down to earth, practical handbook. It is overflowing with beautiful teachings, lessons and commandments, all leading towards a meaningful, fulfilling and happy life. From Shabbat to Tefillin, Mezuzahs on the door to family purity to a small dose of Torah study every day, we are each sitting on a goldmine of inspiration and happiness. Why not tap into it?

Rabbi Avrohom