Friday, September 23, 2016
Sunday, September 18, 2016
What’s wrong with competitive sports? Okay, I understand that our Rabbis want us to identify ourselves more with our soul than our body – but the body houses the soul, why not keep it in good working order?
Clearly the problem is not the exercise component of sports (though exercise can be overdone at the expense of developing our spirituality). The main problem is that competitive sports, today, have become a reflection of a sick and competitive society that glorifies “winners” and vilifies “losers” and where the concept of a true victory has been lost.
As someone who was very athletic in my youth, I remember how many good things I learned from participating on sports teams: how sports helped my self-esteem by achieving more than I had achieved before; by learning to accept defeat; by learning to nullify my ego for the greater good of the team. But I also remember how I was taught that winning is everything; that I should have no mercy on my opponent; and that I should be ashamed of myself when I lost.
This summer, Hashem brought all of this into sharper focus for me when I was asked to run a basketball clinic for 30 boys in my neighborhood from very religious homes. They were mostly Israeli boys who knew very little about sports in general and even less about basketball in particular (which is much less popular in Israel than soccer). I’ll admit to you that I did have some hesitation about participating in this venture. Sometime before I moved here, somebody put a sign up inviting people to join a basketball game, and the sign was torn down sparking a whole controversy in town which didn’t end in a good way.
Regardless of the risk of controversy, I really wanted to coach these boys because I welcomed the chance to teach them Torah values in an enjoyable athletic setting. I certainly wasn’t looking to get embroiled in another conflict between the pro-sports and anti-sports factions in my community (where the anti-sports faction was in the majority). Yet, I thought, here I have the opportunity to present these boys with the Torah’s approach to dealing with the challenges of conflict, revenge, competition, victory, defeat, despair – the emotions that sports bring out in people. Since I didn’t think that they were being taught this in yeshiva, I decided to accept the offer.
The first thing that kids need to understand in order to be properly prepared for the competition of sports and life in general, is that the emphasis that the secular world puts on “winning” has very little significance to us. It may feel good for the moment to be the “winner” and to “defeat or destroy” the opponent but this isn’t a healthy outlook according to our Torah perspective. The problem with wanting to win for the sake of winning and trashing your “enemy” (the other team) is that there is nothing permanent about this empty kind of “victory” – sometimes you will be the “victor” and sometimes you’ll be the “vanquished.” And on a deeper level you have done nothing to help unify the world which is our purpose.
In high school, when our team won we were “on top of the world” and when we lost it was understood that there would be no talking on the bus on the way back from the game. It was as though we were sitting shiva (mourning). And for what? A game? We were taught that it was a humiliating disgrace to lose!
What’s a better approach to teach kids? Click here to find out...
Have a wonderful day!
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
There are some people that always seem to get themselves dragged into all kinds of things that have nothing to do with them. They could be dragged into a discussion or an argument that has nothing to do with them. And, if you ask them why they are getting so involved, they may say that they’re just “curious” by nature, or that they just want “to help” others, or that they just feel so passionate about the issue. In some religious circles, people may even justify their intrusiveness due their “commitment” to finding “the truth” - so they get themselves dragged into all types of nasty controversies that also have nothing to do with them.
Then there are other kinds of people who get dragged off into excessive fantasy land and find it difficult to concentrate and pay attention to what’s going on around them. They don’t know when they are having real thoughts of imaginary thoughts. Then there are people who get dragged into speaking too much. I’m talking about the kind of person who literally can’t stop talking no matter how many times people hint to him to give it a rest or tell him outright: “be quiet already!”
Still, there are other people who find themselves being dragged away by their eyes that look at forbidden sights or dragged away by their stomachs to eat what they shouldn’t eat. There are those who are being dragged into doing excessive chesed (acts of kindness) that go beyond their healthy capacity to give; there are people who are being dragged into learning too much or who are learning subjects that are above their capacity to understand. Then there are those who get dragged into excessive exercise and health concerns; those who are being dragged by the internet, by improper desires, by compulsive shopping, gambling, pic-pocketing – you name it! There is an endless list of emotions, behaviors, object and “goals” that can literally drag a person down. Some people simply get dragged down by mimicking their surroundings and doing whatever they see happening in “society” or in others’ around them.
Our Rabbis have been studying the full gamut of human emotions and behaviors for thousands of years. It’s astounding to me, that the more I delve into what our great Rabbis have written about the soul and the human personality, the more I realize why secular ideas can’t help us at all. The secular view is like looking at the outermost branches of a tree and mistaking the branches for the tree itself. Our Rabbis have written about compulsivity, and impulsivity, and difficulties that people can have in paying attention and concentrating – all from their understanding of the inner-most roots of the Jewish soul – only they can teach us how the human being can perfect his thoughts, feelings and actions. Continue here...
I will be giving a live lesson today on "Why we get hurt" and other topics. I hope you'll be able to join me at 5pm Israel time at: www.breslev.co.il
Have a wonderful day!