The outstanding performance of England in their semi-final match against Denmark displayed a team that won the nation’s heart. Onwards, now, to the final! Is football coming home at last? The transformation of a group of talented players into a confident team, who gave of their best, has given us all a great deal to be proud of.

This underlying theme of transformation, is actually alluded to in the names of the two sidrot we read this Shabbat, Mattot and Massei. Mattot in the context of the sedra means ‘tribes’ but the word Matteh also means a stick or rod. Massei means ‘journeys’. Hence, we have a joining of the static with the dynamic, the Mattot with the Massei.

The late Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin (a leading scholar at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel) points out that this is an idea that has wide ramifications in Jewish thinking. He says that the purpose of Judaism is to infuse life into all of creation, to progress from the static to the dynamic – to move from Mattot to Massei. The Torah records this transformation with an actual stick, on several occasions. The rod of Aaron sprouted blossoms and almonds. The staff of Moses became alive and turned into a snake in the presence of Pharaoh and was also used to perform the ten plagues and split the Red Sea.

The Three Week period of the calendar that we are now in, recalls the times that Jerusalem was being ravaged by the Romans leading to the destruction of the Temple on the 9th Av. The Midrash points out that ultimately the loss of the Temple was a kindness from G-d. The destruction was performed on the sticks and stones of the Temple structure rather than the fabric of the Jewish people. The challenge in our generation as we build and rebuild the physical infrastructure of the state of Israel, is also to succeed in the ethical, moral and spiritual rebuilding of our country. In Israel, in the diaspora, and, indeed, in our personal lives, we have to try to turn Mattot into Massei, to tap into that energy that will empower the flourishing of society, community and individual growth. Both in European football competition and in our own lives, we have to raise our game to its highest possible level so that we can achieve the goals we set our sights on.