Liberman on Torah
“It’s not as complicated as Torah.”
That’s Liberman, not Lieberman. Aaron, the basketball player at Northwestern who plays for a Division I team with kippah and tzitzis, and is spending lots of time learning more sophisticated moves and plays than he has till now. Full story in the New York Times.
[Thanks to Yehuda Adlerstein]
Playing sports with the gentiles, especially on this level, will expose this young man to all kinds of unhealthy ideas, philosophies and behaviors. I have an admittedly seriously limited Jewish education, but I do recall reading somewhere, it might have been in Mishne Brurah, that we are admonished in the most strongest possible terms to avoid the circuses and cheap entertainments of our non-Jewish neighbors. How much more so playing with them on their teams, and even how much more so on the college level, which carries with it an unhealthy aura of hero adulation, money, drugs, alcohol and easy availability of the opposite sex? How is playing a game in a less than tzinut uniform in front of thousands of screaming young men and women conform with anything even remotely similar to the Torah perspective of how we are supposed to live our lives? And how can he do a full college credit class load justice when that is combined with the brutally demanding practice, play and travel schedule of a college team, and still have any time left over for Torah study?
Is that typical for chofetz chaim graduates to go to top universities and play basketball?
[Yup. Happens to all of them who are 6-11]
Some weeks ago, I came out strongly against any Jew being in the boxing ring. Deliberately putting oneself in a position of very likely getting permanent brain damage, is not a very smart way of living for any Jew, nor even for gentiles, for that matter.
Basketball, I think, is different than that. It is a highly physical game, but it generally does not involve incurring brain damage. Nor are most players forced to quit due to other types of injuries.
Is basketball THE ideal life of a Jew? Of course not, but then again, not everybody is cut out to be a Torah scholar or doctor, or even a lawyer or Real Estate Developer. Basketball may have its temptations, but so does practically the whole world out there, and yet G-d saw fit to put all of us here.
I think it is appropriate to take at face value the fact that this young man is doing what he enjoys while at the same time remaining true to his values, and not to criticize because he might not have enough time to learn, or he may be exposed to unwholesomeness. That type of analysis should be reserved for oneself -am “I” learning enough? Am I avoiding things “I” must avoid. For others, we should be dan lkaf zchus and take them at face value. Unless someone here knows this young man personally, we do not know his nisyonos or how he rates in dealing with them, or how much he learns. Many observant Jews engage in occupations and activities which are time consuming, but are productive for a host of reasons, whether because they are for parnassa, are inspiring to others, or are simply relaxing and rejuvenanting for them. As soon as we step out of the 4 amos of the Beis Medrash we run the risk of being exposed to unwholesome activities, but it is certainly a legitimate hashkafa (even if not everyone’s)to be engaged in the World-even l’chatchila. A good starting point to read up on this hashkafa is to read R’ Shwab’s ZT”L essay on Eilu V’Eilu (can be found on the internet).
As soon as we step out of the 4 amos of the Beis Medrash we run the risk of being exposed to unwholesome activities,
I agree with r’ Abe’s general point but would add a point of mussar from days of yore – one trick of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) is to convince denizens of the beit medrash/klei kodesh(working in religious roles), that they are protected against that inclinatiok.
Stories like this, viewed superficially, may bring pride and hope to the orthodox observer. But, in view of the paragraph below, quoted from the article, I fear that his story may do our cause more harm than good. Perhaps someone out there knows this to be a misstatement. I certainly hope so:
However, Liberman has decided, after much reflection and consultation with rabbis, to play on the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. On one Saturday afternoon, he walked eight miles to practice.
Perhaps a rule of thumb for just about any Jew engaged in any profession, is that as long as the means for making a living is neither barbaric (such as boxing) nor dishonest (such as outright thievery), and as long as the person sets aside, say, one hour per day for Torah study at his (or her) level, then whatever profession he is engaged in, should be regarded as legitimate and even honorable.