Friday, December 28, 2007

Guest Posting By Chabakuk Elisha - Kosher Pigskin?

(Picture by Mark Hoffman)

I first really heard of professional football from my 6th grade Gemara rebbi (zichrono livrocha). If I remember correctly, we were learning perek Hashutfin (Bava Basra), and we were given hand-outs covering the various "kinyanim" (modes of taking possession), and which kinyanim are considered valid/invalid, etc. Next to each type of kinyan (or non-kinyan) there was a line or two describing it, with a picture (cut out of a sports magazine) of a football player in the process of that act and a short description. The top of the sheets said, "If you know your football rules, you know hilchos kinyanim." The class rebbi also promised a trip to a football game for the kids that would get an "A" on the major exam (sure enough, we got to go see the Miami Dolphins beat our local team). From then on, all through my school years, I always kept an eye on the football scores in the paper.

We had kids from many different backgrounds – many were not from religious homes – but they all liked his Gemara class. The rebbi would use sports references regularly and kept everyone involved – it was quite brilliant. Moreover, if the Dolphins (our rebbi's team of choice) would win on Sunday, we would get an extra 15 minutes tacked on to recess. It was an exciting year and (much to the chagrin of our rebbi) our local team actually ended up reaching the "Super bowl"… only to suffer humiliating defeat. I actually told a friend, "To love sports is to love G-d." But later, after moving to NY, I was to find out that this was not a commonly held view...

To most frum Jews professional sports is an anathema. Maybe they would agree that it's ok if it is used as a tool to involve more kids in learning, or to teach a class the types of kinyanim and their ramifications, but very few would maintain that outside of that specific use, there are any redeeming qualities. I don't know, maybe they're right…but I'm not sure.

One side argues: "Hakol, kol Yaakov; v'hayadaim, yedei Eisav." Sports is usually defined as midas Eisav, and improper for the Bnei Yaakov. In professional sports, they glorify people that are generally not refined and behavior that is perhaps violent, unspiritual, empty and not necessarily too virtuous. It can be an incredible waste of time and energy (and probably money as well), and runs counter to the values and goals we try to promote. Moreover, aside from the connection to the forbidden Greek arenas, the venues are generally filled with people reveling in coarse, extremely base, behavior – not to mention that it often overlaps into negative elements such as gambling, and is often considered a "gateway" to a decidedly unspiritual world…

Yet, the counter-argument runs along these lines: In many ways sports contains quite positive messages. Aside from the rule that there are no atheists at a ball game (just witness the amount of prayer that goes on when a football team is down 6 points with only time for one more play), we can find many metaphors for life: Loyalty, hard work, focus, goals, teamwork, overcoming great odds, pride in one's purpose, never giving up, unity, dedication, etc. From sports we can learn Hashgocha; we can see the value of the individual to the team and the team to the individual; we can see the value of doing things the right way; we can regularly see wondrous things – unbelievable displays of G-d given talent – not really any different than a masterpiece in a museum, a musical piece at a symphony, or an eagle soaring in the sky.

Moreover, sports – especially spectator sports – have helped create an environment that allows for more tolerance. I know that may sound bizarre, but in this country the fact that people invest great passion into their sports – a seemingly meaningless endeavor – means, in a way, that they don't invest those passions in some of the former great pastimes…persecuting others. A Giants fan may "hate" a Jets fan. A Yankee fan might "hate" a Red Sox fan; but how much blood is spilled? Does this really hurt anyone? Let's compare that to the good ol' days, when hatred was saved for use against those with other beliefs, other races or other groups of people. Just take this quote from sportswriter Rick Reilly: "Sports encourages good healthy hate. If I'm an Auburn fan, I can hate you, an Alabama fan, from the bottom of my hater, and it's all right. Who knows where all that hate would go without sports?"

Yes, I know, the question remains: What about us – what should be our view when it comes to spectator sports? Well, let's be clear: Bittul zman isn't a joke; we only have a little time on earth, so we must use it wisely. Also, it is obviously improper to act like animals, and we certainly don't want to emulate improper behavior. The life a Jew must be directed to G-dly pursuits. So, I don't encourage attending ball games, but I think they have their place. As long as it can be done in a "Jewish" way I don't see a problem with a father taking his son, or a rebbi taking his class, to a ball game. There should be thought about tznius concerns, language concerns, and even moshav leitzim concerns, but is it worse than many other forms of entertainment or pass-times? I don't think so.

Sports can be beneficial in many ways, and although there are objectionable matters that surround sports that should be avoided, I don't see anything inherently wrong with it. Nevertheless, there are far better things that we should be doing then, say, tuning in to the Super Bowl. Still, I thank G-d for sports. Sports helped me and my class through three years of Gemara back in elementary school. It was a uniting force in class, it gave us something harmless to talk about; it united the top of the class with the bottom, and it even gave us life lessons. And while I no longer lose sleep over who makes or misses the playoffs, I can't name many players, and I haven't been to a football game since 6th grade, I still glance at an occasional box score.

Ok, I know. I skipped the biggest objection, the one that I ran into in the Kosher cheeseburger issue: non-Jewish origins. With that issue in mind I would like to qualify my position: 1. I am an American kid from a small town and I was already exposed to things like this -- for those who have not been exposed, it is probably best to avoid it. 2. I don't want to impose interest in spectator sports on anyone, chas v'shalom. Really, more than anything else, I am milamed zchus for those who did, or do, have such interests.


At December 28, 2007 at 5:19:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There should be thought about tznius concerns, language concerns, and even moshav leitzim concerns...."

Moshav leitzim is more than just a concern when attending such events. Ask your Rav but it is a very real halachic problem. We need our relaxation, each according to his own individual needs (and not rationalizations). Nevertheless these events, events of passive entertainment, are not just bitul Torah but they promote an attitude and lifestyle of bittul zman.

At the same time this forum is one of people searching to cling to Hashem. It may not be wise to bring this up with many people.

Rashi on T’hillim 1:2

“But his desire is in the law of the Lord”—Hence you learn that the [trait of the] company of scorners brings one to neglect of the study of Torah.”

Igros Moshe Y.D. 4 simon 11

"However when there is a reason for doing so such as with theaters and [circus?], which are [mentioned] in Avodah Zarah 18b, which are leitzanus, there isn't an issue of avodah zarah, even though it is prohibited on the side of leitzanus, and all that go there transgress the prohibition of moshav leitzim and bittul Torah--not only at this moment-- but he will be caused to completely neglect Torah as explained there. And all the more so with the theaters found now in our lands, and so with sports arenas."

Magen Avraham 307:22

“Because of the prohibition against participation in a gathering of scoffers.” And this is the ruling for one who goes to theaters and circuses which are places of amusement as stated in Avodah Zarah 18b and places of pastime….”

Again, ultimately if this is an issue for you consult your Rav and don't rely on what you read online l'chumra or l'kula but it seems to me a very real issue.

At December 30, 2007 at 3:07:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yirmiyahu makes some strong points, and I'm inclined to agree with him. However, I remember hearing that an American-born Litvishe gadol in Eretz Yisrael once said that he can't come back to this country for visits without checking the sports page of the newspaper!

This Rosh Yeshiva, too, grew up in a time and place where this stuff was part of Jewish life here, even in the religious community, and he still has it "in his blood." However, I never heard that he OK'd going to the sports arenas themselves. Its a shayloh.

At December 30, 2007 at 11:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"However, I remember hearing that an American-born Litvishe gadol in Eretz Yisrael once said that he can't come back to this country for visits without checking the sports page of the newspaper!"

In this context it appears to me that the din of "Moshav leitzim" would depend on attending the game itself. Playing sports and perhaps following others doing so at a safe distance would probably only be a bittul Torah issue, meaning if there where legitimate reasons, relaxation etc. there is room to permit it.

I also did not mean to take away from Chabakuk Elisha's suggestion to be dan lkaf zchus others who do attend such games.

At December 31, 2007 at 12:15:00 AM EST, Blogger Kosher Foodie said...

Nice post, I agree with most of the said. However I would like to add a couple of points:
Your theory of "there should be though about language and tznius concerns when, let's say a father takes his son to a game, is not realistic, let us be practical and admit that there is NO WAY to avoid being exposed to street language and untzniusdik things when attending a ball game in a way!
The second point, I heard from Rabbi Weinberg z"l and I'll try to explain it as faithfully as I could: Football game which involves a good amount of violence, pushing and hitting...etc And since a jew is not allowed to hit another jew, even when playing, even if the jew asks to be hitten, therofore playing football is simply assur, and watching jews (when there are jews in the team) play football involves some halachik issues.

At December 31, 2007 at 10:58:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought I said that people need to keep those considerations in mind, didn’t I?
And obviously, people should check with their rov when it comes to significant decisions. However, I maintain that can be appropriate within a context. For example, I think:

1. “Bichol Derachecha Deahu” can equally apply to sports.
2. A museum, zoo or a park have the same shaylos as a ball-game might have, and I think they all have their place. We can 1. See niflaos haBoreh, 2. Relax, and 3. Maintain a Jewish attitude, at your local sporting event just as we can with all similarly pareve forms of entertainment.
3. I don’t know what the scene is like today, but think it’s possible to find sporting events that are less problematic…as I understand, many semi, or non, professional sporting events are quite less “vild.”
4. Playing or participating in sports is not just perhaps acceptable but IMHO is a necessity. There is nothing wrong, and I think it should even be promoted more, with childen playing active games. Playing football is a Halacha shayloh??? You can’t be serious; Football is not a sport of fighting at all, so I really don’t understand the objection (however, I would agree that boxing or wrestling isn’t appropriate)…and seriously, anyone that looks at Tanach would have a hard time squaring that with what you say bsheim Rabbi Weinberg – I think this may be a case of over-applying a concept or quote.

At December 31, 2007 at 11:28:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said...

"I thought I said that people need to keep those considerations in mind, didn’t I?"

Going to a sporting event or theater is not a consideration of "moshav leitzim" it is by definition "moshav leitzim". Under typical situation it would not appear that the usual factors which permit something that is otherwise bittul Torah are effective in changing the halachic status of a moshav leitzim. The halachah prohibits these even when they are "Jewish".

"2. A museum, zoo or a park have the same shaylos as a ball-game might have, and I think they all have their place."

A zoo is not, as I understand it, "Moshav leitzim". I believe there is a specific psak of Rav Ovadiah Yosef shlita on this matter. Zoo's are driven by the individual, one is not part of the crowd being given a show.

"You can’t be serious; Football is not a sport of fighting at all"

Having been a lineman in highschool I beg to differ (though the coach's might agree to this characterization of how I played :) ).

"Playing or participating in sports is not just perhaps acceptable but IMHO is a necessity. There is nothing wrong, and I think it should even be promoted more, with childen playing active games."

I agree, but even eating is a necessity and it is essentially on muter when done to give us koach to learn Torah and do mitzvos (O.C. 231). Certainly something which is less necessary, which can be put off more easily, must be done with the intent that we are maintaining our health so we can continue doing Torah and mitzvos effectively.

At December 31, 2007 at 12:17:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hear you, but I can’t really fully agree.

1. Contemporary stadiums differ quite a bit from the Roman/Greek coliseums. There is no death, no avoda zara element, no need to partake in forbidden behaviour and (in most professional sports) there is really very little glorification of the body (talent or skill, yes, but other than body building, boxing and wrestling – which I also oppose – there is very little glorification of the body per se.)

2. I don’t see the distinction here – how is a contemporary sporting event “by definition” a moshav leiztim” any more than any other form of entertainment?

3. While I am aware of R’ Moshe’s tshuva, it makes me wonder…because, you know, R’ Moshe’s Yeshiva (MTJ) has always had sports and completions with spectators. Moreover, R’ Moshe encouraged camps to provide sports and pools for the children to relax and enjoy themselves at set times (Actually, now that I looked around, a “Google search” provided me with this: ).

4. While this is less true in Chareidi circles, certain frum communities embrace sports without concern (R’ Hirsch in 19 Letters takes the position that there is no problem, and I have been told that R’ J.B. Soloveichik did as well). So, while it may not be universally held as ideal, it most certainly isn’t a clearly forbidden pursuit – v’yeish meikilim.

5. I seriously don’t think that the ideal in Baseball, Football, Basketball ort Hockey is to injure the other player. And even when you were a linebacker, don’t you think that the goal was to stop the offense from scoring and not to injuring anyone?

6. The idea that other things can be beneficial to Avodas Hashem and sports can’t makes no sense to me. If you have the time to listen to it, a friend of mine sent me this (very interesting & entertaining) debate on the matter between Rabbi Bechhofer and R’ Meir Schiller – and while I have a slightly different position, R’ Schiller’s is pretty close to mine:

At December 31, 2007 at 12:20:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the link dosen't work, you can find it here:

scroll down to "5768 school year" and click on "Avodas Hashem and Sports"

At December 31, 2007 at 12:25:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I am loath to get into this at length, but I find that this comes down to the age old Chassidic/Misnagdic or Tzimtzum Kepshuto/Lo-Kepshuto debate about Avodas Hashem with uvdin dchol...)

At December 31, 2007 at 12:52:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At December 31, 2007 at 1:32:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Rabbi Bezalel Naor has some intersting things to say about Rav Kook's view of athletics in the introduction to his translation of Orot. It is really first rate. You should read it when you have a chance.

(As for me, I'd rather go for a walk in the woods...)

At December 31, 2007 at 1:42:00 PM EST, Blogger Kosher Foodie said...

Yes, PLAYING football is halachah shayloh, I didn't get it the information wrong (I called Rabbi Greenberg with whom I had a discussion with about the same subject to double check)
Football involves tackling,
running into other players to push them off to the ground...etc.
However I DID OVER APPLY the concept when I wrote there are problems with WATCHING
a football game BECAUSE of the violence involved, the only problems there are with watching a football game have to do with chukas hagoyim.

At December 31, 2007 at 2:05:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mile Down The Road:
Sounds good - IY"H I'll look for it!

WOW. I am surprised that someone came up with a Halacha shayloh with playing football on these grounds. Thanks for confirming it -- I wouldn't have believed it was possible! Do you know if that's his psak, or if he merely said "it's a shayloh"? (not every shayloh gets a psak that assurs the practice) Obviosuly, those who follow such a psak wouldn't be allowed to play such games. (It just goes to show me how capable the mind is of finding halacha shaylos!)
Oh well, I hope there is something shayloh-free that people can do... In any case, I assure you that many rabbonim are mattir playing (at least "two hand tuch"-)football.

At December 31, 2007 at 11:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. I must be upfront that I have no leg to stand on when it comes to learning Gemara. Many, most, or all of you can do better than I. Nevertheless while the source for this, Avodah 18b, does mention the factors of Avodah Zarah and Shifchas Damim it does not seem to be the motivating factor for the prohibition. Indeed it would seem to me that these factors would be issurim in there own right, while the reason the Gemara discusses is because it will lead a person to bittul Torah. What does appear clear to me, however, is that the poskim do not appear to consider the issur of “Moshav Leitzim” as being the motivating factor for this issur because they applied the issur to theaters and circuses of their own day where there where no gladiators nor where they held in Churches. Furthermore they said the issur applied even when they were “Jewish” functions, see the Mishneh Berurah 224:3 based on the Magen Avraham.

2. In light of the fact that the poskim, from what I have seen, do not see the avodah zarah or violence as the problem (or not the problem in question) these events are by definition “Moshav Leitzim” because they are the events described as such in the Gemara: going to the stadium and watching performances.

3. First of all one should always give precedence to what it brought down in halachah and not what we see done. I would love to see heterim, on any topic, at least to make it easier to dan l’kaf zchus. I have not seen them on this topic. That being said I have no problem with people playing sports, as I believe I have indicated. Playing sports is a davar reshus. I am concerned about the issur moshav leitzim. Attendants at a high-school basket ball game might be different because one is not going because the skill of the players is so entertaining but because you have a personal connection to the team, being a relative or a classmate.

4. If you’re speaking about playing sports, fine. If you’re speaking about watching spectator sports then one has to deal with the poskim and I have not seen this done.

5. “And even when you were a linebacker, don’t you think that the goal was to stop the offense from scoring and not to injuring anyone?” I didn’t sign up for soccer did I? ;) Seriously though, whether it is intentional or not, it’s a P’sik Reisha. Just because one doesn't want to injure someone doesn't mean they don't want to hurt him. A bruise covered my biceps for the duration of fall, just from practice. The goal of a defensive lineman is to get through the offensive line so he can “light up” the quarterback. But the problem with playing football is not one of moshav leitzim.

6. I do not believe I ever said sports cannot be used for avodas Hashem, I said in order for it not to be bittul Torah, or in order for it to be consistent with O.C. 231, it must be done directly or indirectly to perform mitzvos. This is axiomatic to Torah.

At January 1, 2008 at 11:25:00 AM EST, Blogger Kosher Foodie said...

Yes, I checked one more time with his talmid, for playing football it is a psak, and B"H for the great minds of this generations who could find these halachos.
personally follow my Rabbi M.Fund of Flatbush, whn I"Y"H I'll have a husband
I or a son who wants to play football I'll ask :-)

At January 1, 2008 at 5:17:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I just got on-line now; it's been a busy day. Anyway...

I tried to make this clear in my post, but let me reiterate that I do not promote going to ball games, and sure, there is plenty of room to be machmir. That said, I still fail to see the inherent “Moshav Leitzim” status that you suggest exists for ball games as opposed to any other davar reshus; we even find in Pirkei Avos that a dining room table can be a moshav leiztzim if Torah is not discussed. So, I would think that if a couple Jews are relaxing at a ball game and they discuss Torah ideas and Jewish matters and behave as would be appropriate for a frum Jew, there would be plenty of room for this within the parameters of halacha and Yiddishkeit.

Yes, the MB does seem to be machmir – but we acknowledge diversity of opinions in Yiddishkeit. We also find that (for example, see Gemara, Avoda Zara Daf 31, IIRC) the psak must be accepted throughout Klal Yisroel for it to become established across the board. I dare say that there are quite a large number of frum Jews that attend ball games (I hear that the frum population is so well represented at Yankee/Shea stadium on Chol Hamoed Pesach that one would think 1/4 of the NY population were frum Jews).

To set a standard that the threshold for acceptability depends on avoiding matters that “might lead to bittul Torah” is surely laudable for an individual, but that’s quite a high standard to impose on others, and I doubt there is anything other than limud haTorah that could truly fit that definition. Chumros are easy to find – and I could find a pretext to asser pretty-much every single davar reshus on some grounds should I be so inclined.

But you wanted mareh-mekomos… Well, to be honest I don’t know. I would agree that attending sporting events is not a l’chatchila (except maybe according to Rav Hirsch who I mentioned previously), but I do find it interesting that a number sifrei halacha, like Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchosa (16:9), state that it is improper to attend a sporting event on Shabbos -- since there is public chilul Shabbos going on, and it is not in keeping with the sanctity of the day –- for if it was always assur, why would we be discussing it only with regard to Shabbos? And the same question applies to sifrei Halacha that discuss attending sporting events while in mourning. Moreover (to me), the fact that frum yeshivos across the USA play these sports, have spectators, and attend sporting events, tells me that the practice is not assur.

The reality is that there are many things in Shulchan Aruch that we don’t do today, as a certain famous rov once told someone that wanted to make a campaign to reinstate a practice from S”A that had fallen by the wayside, “Were you born in a field? Instead, take a pen and write in the margin of your Shulchan Aruch: “einyo nohagen kein.”

As for playing football, as surprised as I was to hear someone come out with an issur, I subsequently realized that the football playing I had in mind is probably different than the one he was addressing. They football playing I had in mind is the schoolyard type of game where nobody is really seeking to hurt anyone at all, and perhaps a serious program would be another matter. I can understand that a college level program might be different (but don’t the pads help?), however a bunch of yeshiva kids playing either two-hand-touch or semi-tackle football is seldom more dangerous than relay-races.

So, to sum up, I agree with you that it is better to avoid sporting events -– and you won’t find me at a Football game. But, I don’t subscribe to the “one acceptable path” view – I prefer standardizing wider, more inclusive, less confining, limitations. Yiddishkeit has so many syagim and gezeiros already, there is little need to force Jews to give up things they enjoy and leave them with a dryer, less appealing, Yiddishkeit. “Derachea darkei noam:” Yiddishkeit is pleasant, and it should be that way. So, I maintain that for those who do (or did) enjoy sports, it has its place within a Torah context -– and may it be the biggest concession one makes!

But I didn’t understand this statement (that you made): “…in order for it not to be bittul Torah, or in order for it to be consistent with O.C. 231, it must be done directly or indirectly to perform mitzvos. This is axiomatic to Torah.”

I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Does that exclude sitting at a ball game? If, let’s say, I was to take my son to a ball-game and we spoke of Torahdike things, relaxed, built on our relationship, made brochos before and after eating ate Kosher food, davened with Minyan, and generally spent a pleasant afternoon together, is that somehow contrary to your standard?

At January 1, 2008 at 11:51:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, last things first: Orach Chaim 231 is not “my” standard, I only wish that I could live up to it. I have provides sources, both specific to ball parks and general, which would classify them as ossur, not a davar reshus. Orach Chaim 231 only applies to things which are muter, such as playing sports. If you can bring sources which permit going to stadiums then it would fall into this status as well, when done with an intent which qualifies.

Eating in a group can be a moshav leitzim, a “theater” is a moshav leitzim. The Poskim did not say any leisure activity was moshav leitzim, but they did say going to the “theater” is. I see no nafka mina between going and watching clowns and magicians (see Rashi on Avoda Zarah 18b) and watching any other entertainment, in our case sports. Nor do the Poskim seem to make such a distinction, they are certainly “places of amusement and pastime”.

If you wish to argue that there is a diversity of opinion in this matter then sources are a must. This is not just the opinion of the Mishneh Berurah, I just looked and I didn’t even cite him initially. It is the opinion of the Magen Avraham, the Mishneh Berurah (307:59), and the Igros Moshe. These names alone should be enough to give one great pause about the halachic propriety of such activities. In addition to these sources which I have already cited we find the same halachah brought in the Aruch HaShulchan O.C. 307:9 and Chayei Adam Hilchos T’fillah u’Brachos 63:17. The notion that something must have the acceptance of the masses is a halachic issue to be addressed by Poskim and I have seen no indication of such a notion. I simply cannot imagine how it can be dismissed as a “chumrah.”

Yes, I wish to bring sources, because that is the only way to find out what the Torah has to say. If there is a legitimate counter-view, it will be in the sources as well, where the halachic reasoning can be evaluated. Otherwise, “There is neither wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against Hashem” Prov. 21:30. One could very well make the argument that this is a case of “it is preferable that they transgress be-shogeig rather than be-meizid” (see Rama O.C. 338:5). I have not seen this applied in our case but I am not inclined to bring the topic up (I know that might be hard to believe after all this). Insofar as it has been brought up, particularly in such a forum as this which I reckon to only hold the attention of those who wish to draw near to Hashem, I feel it is necessary to raise the issue. Maybe people shouldn’t be told it is ossur, but without sources I don’t see how it can claim to be part of avodas Hashem in the face of these Poskim.

At January 2, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very quickly:

I don’t mean to say that your position isn’t legitimate; indeed it is. Yet, I still think we can also legitimately apply a limited interpretation here (nevertheless I also still DON’T encourage people to be meikel). The Gemara in Avoda Zara, it seems to me, can be understood to be speaking about the specific circumstances of those times (watching gladiators or bulls killing others for entertainment, as we see that the Gemara and meforshim speak of the general shvichas damim, gilui arayos & avoda zara that went on there). People who partook of those forms of entertainment were certainly IN a moshav leiztim. But here is where a distinction can be made: Moshav leitzim is a problem, not arenas. Those arenas discussed in the Gemara (due to what took place there) are therefore assur -- as it was impossible for it be otherwise –- however, our stadiums (where those atrocities do not take place) are not de-facto moshvei leitzim, and attending them would become davar reshus (or, perhaps, what some call “good clean fun”).

Then the Tanna poetically applies the passuk Tehilim: “Ashrei (happy or praiseworthy or advanced, depending on how you translate “ashrei”) is he who did not follow the counsel of the wicked and did not sit at a session of jesters, but his desire is in Torah and Hashem.” The Tanna goes on to apply that he who takes part in these things ends up neglecting Torah – because he who would attend events such as those (celebrating avoda zara, shivchas damim and gilui arayos) obviously does not desire Torah (and will therefore neglect it).

I do not think that the Gemara is saying that anything that might be thought of as to lead one away from Torah study is assur – because any dvar reshus can be looked at as possibly leading one to neglect Torah study! It’s specifically things that are of such a nature as those ancient forms of entertainment (again: reveling in matters bordering avoda zara, shfichus damim & gilui arrayos could seem to be the determining factor) that are a surefire road to neglect of Torah Study.

I’m not a rov though, and I’m not a Talmud Chochom either – I’m just repeating the way we covered it in my Daf-Yomi shiur. The point, though, is this: While it is surely better to avoid these things – as I’ve said a number of times – the fact remains that a large percentage of frum Jews – plenty of rabbis included – find it acceptable. R’ Moshe’s tshuva notwithstanding, many talmidim of R’ Moshe clearly don’t take such a hard-line (and there are anecdotal examples of R’ Moshe speaking to people about ball games that they were attending and he didn’t tell them it was assur – and had it been an open & shut case, he most surely would have). Moreover, R’ S.R. Hirsch Z”L is pretty much matter all forms of cultural interests, as do people in the more modern world (such as R’ J.B. Soloveichik). And this is my entire point: Lechatchila it should be avoided, but with that said, room can be found for this and it has its place within the gedarim of Torah & Yiddishkeit.
There is much more to say, but I am short on time. IY”H, I will try to find tshuvos on the matter, but my time is so limited these days that it may take a while (even finding the time to write these posts and comments is incredibly hard).

At January 2, 2008 at 2:42:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think you're trying to say too many things at once. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this the simpler way of saying what you mean:

"Puk Chazi" (look at the common practice). If your community/rov is opposed, then it is forbidden for you - and if your community/rov allowes it, then it is permitted. So is Rabbinic (our version of) Judaism, and so has it always been.

At January 2, 2008 at 3:08:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

R' H.S.

Indeed! Thanks for simplifying my position

(And thanks for stopping by -- I'm honored!)

At January 3, 2008 at 12:45:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but to me it would seem that such an application of "Puk Chazi" would provide a "heter" for any instance of “it is preferable that they transgress be-shogeig rather than be-meizid.”

Where do we see that this concept is used to uproot explicit sources?

At January 3, 2008 at 11:43:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The key here is that Chazal and earlier sources are not speaking of our specific case - and that's why it's hard to say that they are the same. For example, the Rambam also forbids stadiums, etc (as well as foreign clothing trends by the way), but he classifies it as connected with Avoda Zara (actually, we should look it up - does anyone know where to find a link online to Sefer HaMitzvos, Lo Saseh #30?).
I maintain that although it is preferable to avoid them, I do not think it is assur lechol hadeyos - but yes, we would need to find contemporary rabbanim that discuss it (since only they would be discussing our case). I still haven't looked up R' Moshe's tshuva to find his specific wording, and I haven’t managed to track down recent halachic authorities that would discuss it (remember that this is only likely to be discussed in communities where it is an issue) yet I am absolutely confident that there are deyos lehakel. Just because the concept of stadium is similar to the ancient concept of stadium does not make them the same.

All that said, I am a little uncomfortable on this side of the issue – because, as I said, it is not ideal. You want to say that it is assur, making all those (quite a large % of Frum Jews) who attend into ovdei aveira; I disagree with that entirely, and I will only take such a position when there is no room to maneuver altogether.

And, um, yes - the way Yiddishkeit works is that you follow your rov; I am surprised that you would have a problem with that...

At January 3, 2008 at 12:23:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And, um, yes - the way Yiddishkeit works is that you follow your rov; I am surprised that you would have a problem with that..."

Where did I say otherwise?

You argue that our case is "different". You can perhaps draw a nafka mina between the shita of the Rambam, but what about all of the achronim cited?

At January 3, 2008 at 1:05:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look at it within a context. Halacha isn't often B&W, and the separate individual strains of Yiddishkeit each have their own "5 chelkei Shulchan Aruch" (the key, of course, being that they are within the parameters of Torah legitimacy - a different conversation for a different day).

So, when I see a large segment of religious Jews and rabbis that condone a practice, I am compelled to view it as legitimate.

Therefore, I apply that here - and I do see room for it from the Gemara & Rambam. Furthermore, I'm confident that there are gedolei Torah allow for it as well (as I said before, R' Hirsh and I have heard bshem R' Soloveitchik, but I haven’t confirmed it). As for R' Moshe, I haven't managed to read the tshuva yet, but even if he takes a stronger view, that does not mean that everyone must follow his psak. And as for the Chofetz Chaim, I haven't managed to look it up yet either, but 1. I don't know that he is talking about our specific case. 2. If his psak was not universally accepted (not every MB is the final word), then it's an opinion, but not the only opinion. But I understand your position, and it's a fairly strong one. I also recognize that I haven't produced a "smoking gun" citation with a major posek that specifically is mattir our case. Yet, I still am confident (based on my opening remarks of this comment, especially the 2nd pragraph) that there is a tzad lehakel.

At January 4, 2008 at 5:16:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry if I'm getting to be abnoxious.

Going back a bit you said, "I do find it interesting that a number sifrei halacha, like Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchosa (16:9), state that it is improper to attend a sporting event on Shabbos -- since there is public chilul Shabbos going on, and it is not in keeping with the sanctity of the day –- for if it was always assur, why would we be discussing it only with regard to Shabbos?"

See footnote 25 on that seif: "וסי' שז סע' טז, ובמ"ב ס"ק נט, וע"ש לענין ימות החול" where he says to see "our" Mishneh Berurah regarding going to sporting events on weekdays! HaRav HaGaon S.Z. Aurbach zt'l put a great deal of effor into reviewin the footnotes of SSK so it might be safe to assume that he would agree that the M.B. "is talking about our specific case".

I had written, "A zoo is not, as I understand it, "Moshav leitzim". I believe there is a specific psak of Rav Ovadiah Yosef shlita on this matter."

This is found in Yacheveh Das 3 66

"Indeed, it appears that the matter is clear to permit going to a zoo to observe the creation of Hakadosh Baruch Hu because a person's soul marvels exceedingly from seening the work of the Creator's hand, as the verse explains, "How wonderful ar Your works...."

You might be interested to know that he goes on to cite Ma'aseh Rav[s]. After looking at it he does bring this Gemara, but the aspect he focus on and his main topic in the tshuva (I believe it was about bull fights) seems to be Tzar Ba'alei Chaim, rather than Moshav leitzim per se.

Regarding the RSRH ztl, was he speaking about playing or watching? Was this in the 19 Letters (I've been skimming to try to find it, I see no trace in the index)?

Regarding RYDS ztl there is story I believe I have seen several different places (which I didn't find unreliable at the time) that when asked whether it was muter to go to the movies during the three weeks he replied that it is just as permitted as any other day. It was noted that this quite possibly implied that there was a problem. Frankly it seems to me the most natural explanation that he felt this halachah applied but it was best not to make a big deal about it, "let them transgress b'shogaig". That doesn't necessarily mean he felt the same way about sports but given everything else I see little reason to assume otherwise.

"I or a son who wants to play football I'll ask :-)

I'm sorry Perel, I just got it. :)

At January 4, 2008 at 11:32:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We may have beaten this topic to death but...

1. I takeh didn't notice the footnote (I was looking quickly), but it would seem to me that the footnote is still not the text; the fact that the text deals with it does seem to show that there are people who find it acceptable (and then the footnote points out that this may not be a good idea - and I would agree with that. Yesh kama machmirim). But, for example, I have yet to see a sefer discuss eating chazzer on Pesach, and add a footnote saying that it is not advisable to do this during the year.

2. I really, really, still don't understand why a zoo is better.

3. R' S.R.H. discusses the merits of taking part in cultural experiences/interests (museums, music, and the like) where aveiros are not being committed -- I have been told that would include most contemporary spectator sports.

3. What I have been told b'sheim R' Y.B.S. was that he never told those who went not to go and he even shrugged away the question as not a concern worth addressing. Yes, it is possible, like you mention, that he wanted them to remain a shogeg, but I would think that that wouldn’t explain why he took positions on other things - meaning, that if it was a open & shut case he most likely WOULD have said to cease & desist.

Once again (beating this dead horse BIG TIME now), I think it's not ideal. Keep in mind, very few rabbonim are likely to come out with a statement that people should make a concession; farkert, they will encourage less concessions to modernism…but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room to be meikel. Lemoshul, a rov is unlikely to say to his community to eat Non-Glatt meat – why should they if they can buy Glatt? But that’s not to say that Non-Glatt meat isn’t Kosher. Do you see what I mean?

But this is the bottom line: What is wrong with visiting stadiums? And the answer gets unclear, because the problems we see cited are: 1. Avoda Zara, 2. Tzaar Balei Chaim, 3. Retzicha, 4. Gului Arrioyos, 5. Moshav Leitzim & 6. Chukas HaGoy (did I forget any?). Now, if our stadiums don’t contain these elements (I think we can we agree that 1-4 are not our case), then I’m confident that it is fine and becomes a davar reshus – after all, the word stadium is not the problem – however, we need to ascertain what moshav leiztim is all about. I maintain that moshav leitzim can be eliminated if you behave in a way fitting for an ehrlicher Yid. You say that stadiums are de-facto moshvei litzim, but I don’t know what makes it so. Chukas HaGoy may be the biggest issue that I find, and I therefore say that it is best avoided, but for those already exposed I can find a limud zchus.

But, with all this back & forth, I would say that you have convinced me that attending sporting events has less of a place than I had thought previously. I still don’t think it’s assur, but after all this I do agree that it should be more found upon.

At January 4, 2008 at 12:38:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That should read:
"FROWNED upon"


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