I refuse to be inspired by baseball's steroids crisis. I am well aware that drawing a lesson from all we see or hear is a central chassidic teaching. Nevertheless, it seems to me that to gain inspiration from this particular news story would actually defeat its own purpose.

Before explaining my reasoning, a little background is called for.

It has been long suspected, and now it's official. An exhaustive inquiry released this past Thursday reveals that of late many baseball players have made use of illegal performance enhancing drugs, thus putting a big question mark on the recent accomplishments of many of the sport's stars.

Encouraged is rigorous exercise regimens, weight and strength training, and healthy diets Now, while athletes are always looking for ways to enhance their on-field performance, there are clear guidelines that delineate the methods that are allowed and those that are banned. Allowed and encouraged are rigorous exercise regimens, weight and strength training, and healthy diets supplemented by vitamin and nutrients. Disallowed are anabolic steroids and HGHs (human growth hormones).

There are three basic differences between the two categories: a) One naturally builds up, develops and strengthens the body's muscles; the other uses hormones to artificially build up muscle tissue. b) One involves a long-term commitment and tremendous self-discipline; the other is accomplished by taking an injection every so often. c) One has both short and long term health and performance benefits; the other has short term but no long term benefits, and in fact can potentially cause a host of serious ailments.

Seeking an edge in the course of competition isn't unique to the baseball diamond. Every day we try to come out on top in many different "games." We struggle to be competitive in business, to successfully foster and preserve relationships, and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Without a doubt, though, the most formidable foe we face every day is our own selves. Plato wisely stated, "The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile." No other opponent impedes our success as much as our own narcissistic tendencies and foolish impulses. And we often lack the necessary strength to score a victory in this all-important conflict. We need to find ways to enhance our performance.

We have two options. Option one is the steroids route. This involves an occasional injection of inspiration. It can be an inspirational article or book, a weekly visit to the synagogue, or the occasional moving holiday meal. Nothing strenuous, nothing to strain the muscles—but sufficient to gait a fleeting feeling of spirituality and meaning, enough to score a few short term wins.

It means exercising until sweat drips and the muscles and limbs scream in protestOption two is much more difficult. It involves proactively and regularly training ourselves how to think, speak and behave. It means daily exercising until the sweat drips and the muscles and limbs scream in protest. It means regulating our soul's nutritional intake—limiting our diet to holy and refined substances. It means taking that inspiring book, article, class or synagogue session and incorporating them into our lives. It's by no means easy, but it works wonders. You develop your spiritual muscles, strengthening your capacity to be kind, patient, selfless and spiritual.

Legally, steroids are a controlled, not an illegal, substance; they do have occasional medicinal value. At times we all can use a burst of inspiration, but these must impel us to real work, they're not a substitute for the real thing.

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