As someone who grew up with baseball, I appreciate the nuances of the game. I’ll notice those little details a casual viewer may overlook. I remember sitting at ballgames as my father pointed out how a small thing in the early innings, which seemed rather insignificant at the time, ended up changing the entire outcome.

And with my hometown team (the Houston Astros) in the World Series for only the second time in history, these things were on my mind. For those who happened to watch Sunday night’s highly entertaining game, that list was endless. But without baseball background or knowledge, it’s a completely different game. Sure, you’d enjoy the home runs, but you’d miss out on appreciating the game-changing consequences of a seemingly trivial walk or the quirky direction in which a ball happened to ricochet.

I know this because that’s exactly the way I am when I watch sports other than baseball. When it comes to hockey, for example, other than the few goals or the big blocked shots, it’s hard for me to find excitement in the rest of the game. But I recognize that this is simply because I have not developed the knowledge (and the appreciation) of the nuances of hockey—no different than many who feel that baseball is boring.

This got me thinking. If this is true of something as trivial (in the big scheme of things) as sports, how much more is this true when it comes to the critical areas of life? And Judaism is no exception.

Recognize the impact of the small details
See how the nuances make all the difference
Notice richness in what seems to be ordinary

I’m often asked: “Rabbi, does it really matter if I light the Shabbat candles at 6:07 or when I finish the workday at 7 p.m.?”

“I don’t see any non-kosher items mentioned in the ingredients. Does everything really need to be certified kosher?”

“It wasn’t a complete lie. So what if it wasn’t 100 percent the truth?”

But as we grow in our Jewish journey, these things begin to matter more and more.

Every Mitzvah Matters

We recognize that a mitzvah isn’t just symbolic or a nice tradition, but an act that creates and builds an actual connection with G‑d. Like making sure to put the “dot” before the “com” when typing an email address, ensuring that the mitzvah is being done 100 percent right is integral to establishing the right connection. We may not be fully there yet, but at least we understand that there is meaning and significance to the details in Jewish law.

Plumb the Depths of the Torah

The same is true of Torah study. It isn’t just the stories or quick inspirational thoughts that are enjoyable; we learn to search for meaning in every word and letter in Torah. Our commentators and holy sages toiled to find significance in the smallest nuance, as they recognized that G‑d’s wisdom contains profound depth with infinite layers of meaning.

Find Meaning in Prayer

As a student in yeshivah, I once complained to my teacher that a particular text seemed to be repeating itself. His reply stuck with me until today: “Finding a text repetitive or boring is often a sign that you are studying too superficially or without proper concentration.”

I’ve learned the same is true with my prayers. When I am fully present and engaged, each word comes alive, and I can find meaning in that specific prayer for what I am going through today. Other days, this is far more challenging.

Like knowledge of sports, this is a journey. It begins with recognizing what we don’t know, and then, at least realizing that there is value to all parts of the game. And from there we grow, step by step, learning the importance and relevance of every detail.