Many think that religion is confined to the realm of other-worldly matters. Yet, Judaism rejects this sharp division between secular and religious spheres, and urges us to sanctify the mundane. The ordinary elements of our life, including our recreational activities, can be raised to a higher, more elevated – even spiritual – level.
Judaism does not offer specific instructions for all human behavior. However, we can find general guidance in Jewish sources to help us navigate our personal decisions in all aspects of life. For example, the Talmudic jurisprudence we use to analyze the Torah’s laws of compensation for damages can also provide guidance for the physical activities we engage in, whether for fitness or for fun.
Interestingly, when it comes to G-d and sports, a recent study (see here) found that nearly 30% of Americans say that G-d plays a role in the outcome of sports events! And so, in advance of Super Bowl Sunday, we figured we’d highlight some shiurim and resources that can infuse a Jewish perspective on sports and Judaism:
- NLE Morasha Shiur on Jewish Perspectives on Health, Nutrition, Fitness and Extreme Sports: We explore the Jewish approach to health, fitness, and recreational activity. Judaism teaches that we have a religious duty to maintain our health and to avoid potential hazards to it.
- Of Myths, Fake News & the Super Bowl: Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman writes poignantly on how society at large can literally become consumed with the Super Bowl and loose focus on our real life goals.
- Additional Resources for Jewish Perspectives on Health, Nutrition, Fitness and Extreme Sports
- Jewish Perspective on The Super Bowl: Shiur outline by Rabbi Josh Flug on Rabbanan.org. (Registration required)
- Sports & Judaism – 3 Lessons Ahead of Super Bowl 50 by Rabbi Meir Goldberg
- Time-out: Sports Stories as a Game Plan: Using various sports, this book (authored by the American-born and former Knesset member, Rabbi Dov Lipman) teaches positive lessons from a Torah perspective. Whether it’s learning about consistency from Cal Ripken, Jr. or developing a work ethic from Michael Jordan, each chapter conveys a timeless lesson using a sports metaphor.
- Alan Veingrad: This is the personal website of retired Super Bowl champion, Alan Veingrad. Today, Alan Shlomo Veingard travels the country relating his experiences as a professional athlete, a sales and marketing executive, and an observant Jew. Alan’s presentations bring audiences laughter, inspiration and valuable insights into both life and business. Plus, you can sign up for a free monthly newsletter which is filled with great Torah and sports related metaphors!
- TheFanaticRabbi.com: Rabbi Joshua Hess serves as rabbi of Congregation Anshe Chesed in Linden, NJ. According to Rabbi Hess, when he realized that his dream of playing professional basketball weren’t meant to be, he pursued ordination at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, MD. To merge his passion for Torah and sports, he started a blog, TheFanaticRabbi.com, in which he which extracts religious lessons from the sports page. He enjoys using sports themes to connect to his students and congregants, and shares his thoughts on sports news and commentary on his blog.
- Below, is a golf and Torah message by Rabbi Baruch Zuckerman:
Finally, below is a piece written by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenmann, a guest contributor to NLEResources.com. The message, while relevant to the Super Bowl, can be used throughout the year and applies to sporting events such as the NCAA Championships, NBA Finals, and more!
Over 163 million Americans, (that’s more than half of the people living in our great country) are expected to tune into “The Super Bowl.” Truth be told, I am not against watching the game, and although I myself do not have the luxury of dedicating even a few minutes to indulge in watching twenty-two men bang and slam into each other-as things go this is one of the more innocuous diversions which someone can choose from.
However, even with acknowledging that the diversion of the Super Bowl is relatively banal, nevertheless a diversion or better said a departure it nonetheless is. Meaning, let us ask ourselves a basic question.
Why do so many people spend hours and often much money to sit and watch the game? Indeed, any and every thinking person certainly realizes that none of the players – irrespective of their respective uniform – represents you as an individual.
The life style, salary scale, and entire world outlook of any of the players is probably very different than the average viewer of the game, and certainly and hopefully radically different than your Orthodox Jewish game-watcher. So, let’s go back to our original question.
Why watch the game?
The answer I believe has already been given away.
The game is a diversion or better said ‘a departure.’
From what do we want to ‘depart?’ We want to depart from many things; however, most surely we want to remove ourselves from the reality of the pressures of life. Life is hard, there is no doubt about it. It is hard to make a living in this world and it is difficult to raise a family. It is challenging to get up in the morning and perhaps even more so to go to sleep on time. Yes my friends, life is hard.
Therefore, for a few hours on a Sunday in February 163 million Americans escape from the lethargic doldrums of daily life and are transformed into the heroes of the stadium.
For a few brief hours these couch potatoes become active athletes through vicarious competition. It is nice to escape and perhaps even necessary. Indeed, when I dissolve myself in the virtual world of my writing I escape.
And when I immerse my being into the sea of Torah, I am also departing from the humdrum and pedestrian pace of daily life.
There is nothing wrong with escaping – just make sure that the place you depart to is superior to the place you have escaped from.