Tamir Goodman, an observant Jew, is well known in Jewish circles as a star basketball player from Baltimore. In high school, he was dubbed the “Jewish Jordan,” was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and interviewed by numerous sports and news outlets. In 11th grade, he was ranked the 25th-best high school player in the country. In university, all the games his team played were re-scheduled so as to not fall on Shabbos, an unheard-of precedent in America.

But what was most outstanding was that Tamir, a follower of Chabad, wore both a kippah and a talis katan during all his games. His goal was not just to excel in basketball, but to make a kiddush Hashem doing it. When he graduated college, the best team in Israel, Maccabi Tel Aviv, signed him to a long-term contract. It was in all the papers. He became the darling of the Israeli media and was interviewed countless times in all the newspapers and on television. He made aliyah, served in the IDF, married, and had two children.

But suddenly his luck changed. He began having trouble with his left knee. It was giving him such pain and discomfort that the team doctors were pessimistic. He had to sit out many games. The team that brought him over traded him away, he was demoted to a minor league, and the future looked dim. The Israeli media that once adored him began attacking him like crows. Every week, someone had a vicious remark to make about him, which made his life almost unbearable.

Intense physical therapy helped only temporarily. There was no other recourse than to operate. But the experts told him that the chances for success were very small – maybe five percent. So, being a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, he decided he needed the Rebbe’s advice and blessing. He went to the Ohel (the place in Montefiore Cemetery in Queens, where the Lubavitcher Rebbe is buried), wrote a letter asking for help, and read the letter aloud. He poured his heart out, asking for some sign as to whether he should do the operation or not.

Then, exhausted, he left the Ohel and went to the Chabad House that is located adjacent to the cemetery. He sat down to rest in the reception room, where a screen shows around-the-clock thousands of hours of videos of the Rebbe speaking, often to individuals. His mind began to wander a bit until he focused on the screen and watched the Rebbe as he was talking to a distinguished gentleman. Suddenly, he jumped out of his seat! He had his answer! He knew exactly what to do! He had just heard the words he needed from the mouth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

It was much later before the mystery was revealed. In 1963, an officer in the Israeli Navy married a gentile woman from Ireland who underwent an illegitimate conversion and bore him several children. He brought them all to Israel and wanted the government to register them as Jews to make them eligible for government benefits. And although, by Jewish law, only one whose mother is Jewish or converted to Judaism according to halachah is considered Jewish, in this case, the Israeli Supreme Court agreed to change the law! They decided five to four that the Torah was no longer a factor, and anyone called “rabbi” – whether truly observant of the Torah or not – could perform conversions. The decision had to be ratified by the Israeli parliament, but at that time the Knesset was controlled by a leftist coalition of nearly 100 out of 120 members, who were all for the change.

The National Religious Party (NRP) was a member of this coalition, and although they were considered a “religious” party, one that officially adhered to Torah law, in this case, the senior members advised the party to abstain from voting, which everyone understood to be token support of the change. The night before the vote, a ranking member of the NRP, an observant Jew by the name of Professor Avner Shaki, received a long-distance telephone call from New York. When he picked up the receiver, he was shocked to learn that the man on the other end of the line was none other than Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l, the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself!

The Rebbe introduced himself and then pleaded with Professor Shaki to stand up and vote no in the next day’s ballot. The professor explained that to do so would mean the end of his political career. The leftist media would make mincemeat of him, and he would almost certainly get expelled from his party. And in any case, his nay vote wouldn’t be significant; 100 votes were against him and the law would go through in any case.

But the Rebbe replied, as only the Rebbe could. He said someone had to be willing to sacrifice himself for the truth, to be m’kadeish sheim Shamayim – to publicly sanctify Hashem’s Name.

After a bit of coaxing, the professor agreed, and the next day, when the vote was called, he actually stood up, raised his hand, and voted no. Such a thing had never happened before in Israeli politics. The newspapers and television programs ridiculed him; his fellow party members were blazing mad! They despised him. He made hundreds, if not thousands of political enemies. He was suddenly alone. But with the Rebbe’s words in his ears, he refused to sell out.

Shortly thereafter, Professor Shaki and his wife flew to New York to visit the Rebbe. When he entered the huge auditorium where the Rebbe was speaking to thousands of chasidim, the Rebbe actually stood up for him. Afterwards, they had a private audience with the Rebbe, which was videotaped. During the audience, he thanked the Shakis for their bravery, especially thanking Mrs. Shaki for supporting her husband. But then when the professor complained of how he was fired from his party position and the media was descending on him, the Rebbe waved it away and replied, “Pay no attention to the media. And regarding your job, you are like a professional athlete; you are just taking a step back in order to jump ahead with doubled and redoubled power and success.” They were was very encouraging words, but people never understood why the Rebbe talked about athletes. Professor Shaki was a politician – not a professional athlete.

Sure enough, it was just like the Rebbe said. It took a few years, but eventually, Professor Avner Shaki was asked by the National Religious Party to return, but this time as its leader! He truly jumped to redoubled success.

Fast forward 25 years. Tamir Goodman was sitting in the Chabad House near the Ohel wondering what to do about his operation, when suddenly the video with Professor Shaki and his wife came on the screen. Clearly, he heard the Rebbe speak – it was as if he was talking directly to him: “Pay no attention to the media. You are like a professional athlete; you are just taking a step back in order to jump ahead with doubled and redoubled power and success.”

The words perfectly fit his predicament! The Rebbe was encouraging him. He returned to Israel and underwent the operation. It was, thank G-d, a complete and miraculous success! Tamir Goodman went on to play until 2009, retiring and establishing himself as a motivational speaker, coach, and educator. He is also the co-founder of Coolanu Israel, which strengthens ties to Israel through innovative seminars and sports programs for athletes, college students, and coaches.

Rabbi Dovid Hoffman is the author of the popular “Torah Tavlin” book series, filled with stories, wit and hundreds of divrei Torah, including the brand new “Torah Tavlin Yamim Noraim” in stores everywhere. You’ll love this popular series. Also look for his book, “Heroes of Spirit,” containing one hundred fascinating stories on the Holocaust. They are fantastic gifts, available in all Judaica bookstores and online at http://israelbookshoppublications.com.  To receive Rabbi Hoffman’s weekly “Torah Tavlin” sheet on the parsha, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.