An Olympic-Size Embarrassment

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6 Responses

  1. Jewish Observer says:

    “It’s not that I don’t like sports. I do”

    – Thanks you for the enjoyable article. Regarding your fondness of sports, I cannot help but wonder if that includes sledding, a sporting activity through which your esteemed brother R Aharon and R Aharon Lichtenstein shared a warm experince in their youth

  2. Allan Katz says:

    We also had our Olympics in the Beis Hamikdash, but Chazal soon realized that competition is a bad thing

    The original system for determining which kohen
    would be privileged to perform any of the sacred
    services in the Beis Hamikdash went like this:
    A call was issued asking for volunteers. If there were
    more than one, they were told to race up the 32-cubit
    ramp leading to the altar. The first to reach the top four
    cubits of the ramp won. In case of a tie, all the kohanim of
    the family unit on duty gathered and a lottery was conducted.
    This system was eventually abandoned due to the following
    incidents: First there was the case of the kohen
    who became so incensed seeing his competitor reach the
    finish line first that he drew a knife and stabbed him to
    death. As terrible a tragedy as it was, this did not yet lead
    to an abandonment of the system since it was viewed as a
    one-time aberration of an individual, and not indicative of
    any general risk. In a later race, one of the kohanim accidentally
    pushed a competitor off the ramp, causing him to
    break a leg. Once the Sages saw that there was a general
    danger involved they abandoned the race system in favor
    of a lottery.

    Unfortunately we have something worse than the Olympics , we have brought competition intothe classroom, rank kids against each other , and another kid’s success becomes an obstacle to mine. Instead of promoting cooperative learning in the spirit of Pirkei avos , teachers promote competition – this is learning – al m’nat le’kanter

    shana tova to you all

  3. observer says:

    You picked a doozy of an example, with China. It’s a shame you didn’t expand on it. It’s not just that the medals that the Chinese athletes win don’t reflect in any way on the moral standing or decency of the country or its government. It’s that the medals are paid for by the total dehumanization of the athletes. Are you aware, for instance, that one of the gold medalists has had minimal education, has not live at home since she was a child but at a special government run training camp, and has been so removed from her family that she was not told of the death of her grandmother or the life threatening illness of her mother, to keep her “focused” on her “real job”. And, once she’s done winning medals, she’ probably be left to starve, as has happened to other Chinese Olympians.

    No thanks!

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “of promoting cooperative learning in the spirit of Pirkei avos , teachers promote competition …”

    … also in the spirit of Pirkei Avos, which lauds kin’as sofrim

  5. Allan Katz says:

    J.observer ,
    firstly children are not sofrim – see Dr Benzion Sorotzkin’s article – check his website – on the dangers of rewards and competition
    2 kin’as sofrim is about emulating or striving to achieve greatness being inspired by others, but this is far from the competitive spirit where the other’s success is an obstacle to my success, being number one, beating the other – we want all to be ne’vi’im, we want all to be successful and are there to learn chavrusa with the ‘ competition’

  6. Allan Katz says:

    Also check out Alfie Kohn’s book – No contest – the case against competiton. even in business the people who are focused on cooperation and helping others do better

    and as far as sport goes -after winning 7 gold medals -1972 Mark Spitz reported -‘ I became sick of myself . I never knew how far down somebody could drop, especially after being up so high ‘.
    winning does not satisfy us – we need to do it again and again ,it becomes an addiction

    Roger Federer said – if he did not love the game so much , he would quit

    winning has its cost as well

    So the focus on sport should be for its intrinsic values -for enjoyment , how much more so learning

    parents and teachers should also look into cooperative games rather than compeetitive ones

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