Once again, the world turns its attention to "the beautiful game," as the World Cup is currently being played in South Africa. Although soccer (make that football) has never really taken off here in the U.S., there has got to be something we can learn from all the hoopla.

Imagine yourself a World Cup player playing against Team South Africa. You have surrendered your childhood to honing your skill. You have dedicated your every moment to being faster and stronger, and you have succeeded. You have eschewed mundane pleasures to become an elite player.

Arriving at the field (sorry, pitch), you glance at your rivals as they prepare to destroy your dreams. Their goal is to the absolute exclusion of yours, they want to win and they have no sympathy for your likeminded objective. Lest you think it's a fair fight—it isn't. You are in their country. They were spared the 14-hour plane ride, the adjustment to odd foods, and the distraction provided by the novel experiences which clamor for your attention while you attempt to concentrate on game preparation. And the fans are cheering for their favorites; maybe the groundskeepers have even slanted the arena to give the home team some advantage.

And what is your objective? What will make all the sweat, strained muscles and endless hours in the gym worthwhile?

All you want is to be 3/10 of a second faster. That's all you hope for. And your teammates, your countrymen, millions watching at home—are all hoping for 3/10 of a second of quickness that will allow you to pass the defender en route to the goal. Inches determine whether the goalie makes the save and is crowned the hero, or whether you succeed. And if you do win, the competition only intensifies; the next round is filled with fiercer opponents who are unimpressed by your past success.

We are all World Cup fields. The competitors on this field are the G‑dly/transcendent Soul versus its rival, the human/instinctive drive. They are both highly prepared to execute their tasks, equally devoted to victory with no tolerance for the enemy. Compromise is not in their vocabulary.

All the games are played on the human/instinctive soul's home field. Down here it's all about getting what you can and looking out for #1; concern is for wimps, and nice guys finish last. Madison Avenue ain't appealing to G‑dliness, the populace is not cheering for virtue and selflessness.

And all G‑d wants is 3/10 of a second of quickness on the part of the G‑dly/transcendent inclination. Will I lash out at the guy who annoys me, or will I pause and holster my words? Victory can not be savored; time spent in self-congratulations is time wasted from preparing for the next battle. My rival may appear to have relaxed, but it's a trick. He's hoping to lure me into complacency.

This is why we spend so many hours in study, the tens of thousands of dollars to send our children to Jewish Day Schools, to be just a little better and quicker. We do not hope to eradicate the competition, only to defeat him this time and the next time and then again. We are extraordinarily aware that victory must be quickly forgotten, that victory may serve to cause the enemy to adjust and plot, making the next challenge harsher. We press on, surrendering is not an option.

Three tenths of a second makes all the difference in the word. One more goal scored, one more victory for the G‑dly soul over the instinctive one, makes all the difference to the world—transforming the agony of defeat into the thrill of the ultimate victory, the coming of Moshiach.