Home / Legacy /

Violent Sports

 

R. Asher Meir, in his Jewish Ethicist column (link), writes:

Q. Many popular sports are quite violent and aggressive. What does Judaism say about this?

A. While traditional Jewish sources have certain reservations regarding public sporting events, fundamentally we view healthy bodily activity and friendly competition as constructive. Many noted religious figures are and have been gifted athletes or avid sports fans.

At the same time, Jewish tradition has the utmost disdain for violence and the violent urges. This is in contrast to the attitudes towards other basic urges. Human beings have a natural urge for material comforts, for physical intimacy, for status and honor and so on. In all these cases the attitude of Judaism is not to deny but rather to sanctify. The commandments applying to food, such as the kosher laws and the requirement for saying blessings, enables to channel our appetites to the service of holiness; the marital laws do the same for our sexual urges, and so on. As we have written, even anger can in a circumscribed way be used in the service of holiness.

We do not find any similar channeling mechanism regarding violence. While the Jews who left Egypt were commanded to conquer the land of Israel, there is no ideal of ongoing conflict so that we can exercise and channel our violent urges; on the contrary, the Jewish prophets constantly remind us that the natural and desirable state of the world is one of universal peace, where (Isaiah 2:4, New International Version) “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Continued here: link

See also this post on Jews and jousting, which only suggests that Jews jousted in the twelfth century and not that it was approved by the rabbis: link.

 

Share this Post

 

Related Posts

About the author

Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

25 Responses

  1. mb says:

    Didn’t the Rambam in the Guide suggest boxing as one way to physical fitness?

  2. Jon_Brooklyn says:

    2 sources in the Aish article, neither of which actually address the issue. Gonna need more than that to make an argument, let alone prove the point.

  3. daat y says:

    Chazal do not deny the aggressive drive.
    The classic example of telling someone to become a shochet or butcher to channel the drive in a positive way.
    You can even interpret the pasuk from Yeshayahu of channeling or
    sublimating the drive into physical,agricultural energy.

  4. Hirhurim says:

    Forget about how many sources he quotes. Do you agree or disagree, and why?

  5. zach says:

    Which “religious figures are and have been gifted athletes”?

  6. Daniel says:

    Watching them isn’t moshav leitzim? Participating in them isn’t lifnei iver?

  7. c y says:

    Ironic quite a few of the leading roshei yeshiva(;roshei kollel) in the US were athletes(including one that was offered a contract).

  8. c y says:

    Ironic quite a few of the leading roshei yeshiva(;roshei kollel) in the US were athletes(including one that was offered a contract).

  9. Nachum says:

    mb, boxing need not be violent, if you’re trying to land punches and not actually injure the other person. That’s the way it’s done at the amateur level. Certainly the other martial arts (wrestling, karate, fencing, etc.) need not be violent.

  10. shachar haamim says:

    R’ Rafael Halperin – of the Charedi Encyclopedia and the otical wear chain in Israel, had a career as a professional wrestler and says that the gedolim of the time (shortly after WWII – possibly Chazon Ish) encouraged him and were supportive as they viewed as promoting Jewish pride after the Holocaust.

  11. shachar haamim says:

    here’s some video of the wrestling rabbi

  12. anony says:

    The rabbi does not know the difference between violence and contact. There is no unitary Jewish view on either topic. Certainly there is nothing halachically wrong with contact sports and the rabbi needs to retract and correct any insinuation that there because it is plain and simple a mistake for him to promote his arbitrary personal opinion to the level of a collective religious belief.

  13. emma says:

    I don’t know if it’s right or wrong but it fits nicely into the effeminate-diaspora-jewish-male ethos of which daniel boyarin is the most famous explicator. For that reason it also struck me as subtly anti-zionist. (I certainly don’t think R. Meir intended all these things, but he is a mesiach-lefi-tumo proponent of a traditional view that also has political overtones.)

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that the article ignores the fact that Rambam codified Hilcos Milchama and essentially posits a pacifist approach towards war in general, which may very well be a Christian approach,but which I think cannot be reconciled with a simple reading of Tanach and Chazal on the subject. In addition, does not Rambam also mention in Hilcos Deos that one must take care of his or her physical well being?

  15. Mordechai says:

    How does this square with the pride some ‘religious’ Jews are taking in boxers Dmitri Salita and Yuri Foreman recently? Some are going as far as attending their fights and getting seriously caught up with them.

    Boxing arenas are places filled with a spirit of violence and tumah. Shows accompanying them at times involving scantily dressed performers add an element of ervah as well. And so called frum Jews, visibly religious, including Chassidim, are now paying to enter such places to cheer on alleged rabbinical students? So what if they wear a star of david on their boxing trunks, or enter the ring to some Jewish tune or Matisyahu. Are people blinded by such Jewish fig leaves to not see how antithetical to our values the whole sorry spectacle is?

    Have people gone mad?

    Such events are not places for Jews and the fighters should not be idolized. Pitied perhaps.

  16. shachar haamim says:

    Mordechai – tell that to the Chazon Ish!!!

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that Emma’s point is well taken-after all, many American studens in yeshivos in Israel participate in a flag football league, something which Charedi society frowns on for its youth and teens.

  18. Mordechai says:

    shachar haamim : Mordechai – tell that to the Chazon Ish!!!

    We don’t know exactly what the Chazon Ish and/or others may or may not have expressed to Rafael Halpern privately. Maybe he was not aware of all the details. Maybe he felt that Halpern needed it at the time. Maybe it was a hora’as sha’ah, in the period right after churban Europe, as you imply. I didn’t notice Haredim in the audience in the video you linked too either.

    But was a public stance taken promoting such activity? Even you don’t claim that. And wrestling is less dangerous than boxing.

  19. Dani Schreiber says:

    R. Moshe Feinstein, pretty much about boxing:

    שו”ת אגרות משה אורח חיים חלק ג סימן עח
    ובנתן רשות לחברו להכותו ששאל כתר”ה אם עבר על הלאו וחייב מלקות, הנה מכיון שאסור לאדם לחבול בעצמו כדאיתא בב”ק
    דף צ”א ואיפסק כן ברמב”ם רפ”ה מחובל, ודאי אין רשותו כלום לסלק איסור בל יוסיף מעליו, ואף באופן שיהיה פטור
    לשלם…ובנתן לו רשות לחבול בו וחבל בו חבלה שפחותה משו”פ, מסתבר שעל חבלה קטנה כזו שהוא גם בלא צער ובלא בושת אין
    זה דרך נציון ובזיון כשנותן לו רשות ואין מקפיד על זה שאינו עובר בהל”ת דלא יוסיף דהוא כדרך שחוק בעלמא…אבל בחבלה
    גדולה שהוא דרך נציון ובזיון לא תועיל נתינת הרשות לסלק האיסור מעליו מאחר שאף הוא עצמו אסור לחבול בעצמו כדלעיל.

  20. David Tzohar says:

    It is inaccurate to say that we do noteven sanctify violence or bloodshed where necessary. The worst type of violence is civil war.and we have had more than our share, some of it definitely “sanctified” as in “mi laShem eilai…vehargu ish et achiv” at the eigel hazahav or pilegesh bagiv’ah. Of course this is not sport but war. Although the prowess of Bar Cochbah’s horsemen who could uproot a tree while on horseback was legendary and held in admiration not as sport but as preparation for war against the enemies of Hashem and Am Yisrael. Only when Bar Cochba required that they cut off a digit of their fingers to show how they could withstand the pain, did Chazal protest.

  21. Jon_Brooklyn says:

    Boxing arenas are places filled with a spirit of violence and tumah. Shows accompanying them at times involving scantily dressed performers add an element of ervah as well. And so called frum Jews, visibly religious, including Chassidim, are now paying to enter such places to cheer on alleged rabbinical students? So what if they wear a star of david on their boxing trunks, or enter the ring to some Jewish tune or Matisyahu. Are people blinded by such Jewish fig leaves to not see how antithetical to our values the whole sorry spectacle is?

    …I think I’m gonna go buy tickets to Foreman now, after that rant.

  22. shachar haamim says:

    wrestling less dangerous than boxing? I think not
    Profesional wrestlers have also died to to match related injuries

  23. Jon_brooklyn says:

    And it’s worth noting that at Salita’s fight, at least, the woman holding signs announcing the rounds were quite covered.

  24. Nachum says:

    Shachar, professional wrestling is not a sport. To his credit, Halperin always played it straight, much to McMahon’s (senior) anger, but he was so good they couldn’t do anything about it.

  25. Baruch Gershom says:

    The photo illustrating the essay is dated — the Caps don’t have a #87 on the team now,and I can’t fathom who it was. You should have used a photo of a Jewish hockey player like Montreal’s Jeff Halperin, or better, a Jewish boxer — even a shomer shabbos frum boxer like Dmitriy Salita. Hockey isn’t nearly so violent as the photo looks. Most of the serious injuries don’t come from fighting, but rather hard collisions with other players or hard driving pucks. I gave up football for hockey because I thought football was too rough.

 
 

Submit a Response

 

You must be logged in to submit a response.