A Divine Path to Success

Opening benediction given by Cantor Eyal Bitton at the start of Hamilton’s B’nai Brith Celebrity Sports Dinner featuring Olympic champion Donovan Bailey, Toronto Blue Jays’ Dalton Pompey, former NHL star and current TSN broadcaster Jeff O’Neill, and others. Monday, February 1, 2016, Hamilton Convention Centre.

Dear Friends and Honoured Guests,

In the Bible, in the Book of Proverbs, we are told:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

Proverbs 3:5


Donovan Bailey and Eyal Bitton

Donovan Bailey and me at the B’nai Brith Sports Dinner.

I, for one, believe that I trust in the Lord with all my heart. I trust in the Lord with all my heart that, in God’s eyes, we are all equal. I trust in the Lord that, in God’s eyes, no man, no woman, is greater than – or less than – any other human being. I trust in the Lord that, whatever we do, whoever we are, whichever way we choose to worship, we are all children of God.

But we are not the same. We have different God-given gifts. And what we do with these gifts is up to us.

We happen to be in the presence of certain individuals who have achieved the pinnacle of success, who have achieved the most spectacular triumphs. Many of us look at the athletes at the head table here at the Hamilton Convention Centre and see them as being truly gifted – and they are. But if you were to ask a star high school athlete, a Major League baseball star like Dalton Pompey, or even the legendary Donovan Bailey himself, they would tell you that their gifts did not come from thin air. God did not grant them these gifts as though they were acts of magic. God gives each of us a gift and it is up to us to decide what to do with that gift.

It says in the Book of Proverbs:

The way of a lazy man is overgrown with thorns,
but the path of the upright is even.

Proverbs 15:19

As each great athlete in this hall can attest to, laziness is the surest way to failure. Success, even with the greatest God-given talents that these men and women possess, is only attained through tenacity and hard work.

The Book of Proverbs also tells us:

Without counsel, plans go wrong,
but with many advisers, they succeed.

Proverbs 15:22

How incredible. The Bible itself, the sacred texts inspired by a divine spirit, teaches us not to look to God for success. No. The Bible tells us instead to listen to the advice and counsel of others. Whatever your natural talents are, the Bible tells us, you will achieve more by listening to expert and trusted advice.

To the stars of tomorrow, to the stars of today, I ask of you to trust in the Lord but not to pray for greatness. God does not answer such prayers. Instead, pray for the strength, courage, discipline, and wisdom that it takes to achieve greatness. As we learn from the Book of Proverbs, hard work is Godly; it is an attribute that God prizes. Listening to others and taking good counsel rather than going it alone is also the Godly path.

Let us show trust in the Lord by praying.

Let us pray that we, along with the athletes being honoured this evening, have the strength, courage, and wisdom to seek out God’s way, a way of self-discipline, hard work, and an openness to criticism and counsel in the pursuit of self-betterment.

Let us also pray that we all, these gifted athletes and each and every one of us, will make the most of the God-given gifts we possess, thereby fulfilling the divine will.

Finally, let us give thanks for the food we are about to eat this evening. In the language of the kings, the prophets, and the judges of Israel:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam borei minei mezonot.
Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe,
Who creates various kinds of sustenance.

And let us say: