Wherever you turn, it's impossible to ignore—World Cup fever is here! And it doesn't matter whether you're a soccer fan or not. Talk of the World Cup seems to follow you where you go. It's in the advertisements. It's in the atmosphere. It's the talk of the town. Somehow, everything is connected to the World Cup.

What captured my attention about the Word Cup is the way it influences the lives of its viewers. I had naively assumed that because the World Cup is a sporting event, its influence should be most demonstrable in the areas of health and fitness. Ostensibly, it would raise awareness of the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, cause a rise in memberships to sports and fitness clubs, and increase the consumption of health foods.

But we all know the real facts. World Cup season is characterized by the opposite trend. Vendors of couches, recliners and televisions have never seen better days. And the only increase in food purchases isn't happening in the health food stores—but rather in the pizza shops and fast food joints. Not to mention sales of beers, salted sunflower seeds, and other junk food...

As it turns out, people love the World Cup and soccer. But, at the end of the day, we are just fans. Spectators. We watch from the sidelines.

The game is played by the professionals. They are the ones who have to work hard practicing, eating healthy and staying fit. That's why we pay them the big bucks—so that we can sit back and enjoy watching them play.

This suddenly answered a question I've pondered for years.

Ethics of the Fathers relates the following story:

Rabbi Yossi tells: I was once traveling and met a man, and we greeted each other. The man said to me, "Where are you from?" "I am from a large city of scholars and scribes," I responded. He said, "Rabbi, would you wish to live with us in our place, and I will compensate you with thousands upon thousands of dinars of gold and precious stones?" I told him, "Even if you were to give me all the money and precious stones in the world, I would still choose to live in a place of Torah."

When I read this story I couldn't understand. If I had been in Rabbi Yossi's position, I would have jumped at the opportunity. And which rabbi wouldn't? Who wouldn't want to travel to a spiritually barren place and be given an unlimited budget and resources to spread the teachings of the Torah? How did Rabbi Yossi forgo this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

The answer is that Rabbi Yossi's acquaintance had no desire to take part in the Torah study himself. He just wanted to be a fan or a spectator. "We want you to live with us in our place." I.e., you will study Torah in our stead. You will relieve us of this responsibility...

He was even willing to sponsor Rabbi Yossi and his learning. But to take an active role in the furthering of Torah values? No, that would be too much!

Judaism is not soccer. In Judaism, there are no fans and spectators. In Judaism, everyone needs to play, and no one can take someone else's place. Unlike soccer, in Judaism everyone is integral to the game.