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Ask Shifra

Something Different... Answering questions and making curious observations (online) since 2005.


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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Must...not...judge...others....

When I was a kid in school I was taught that it is always very important to give others the benefit of the doubt. In fact, to further this point, a teacher once told me that when your number is up and your judgement day is upon you you will be shown your life and and deeds (without the knowledge that it is your own life your are witnessing) and be asked to render judgement on the person. If you are in the habit of judging others favorably you will do yourself the same kindness and so it behooves a person to be in that habit.
While I have no idea if that is true or not I do know that judging people favorably comes easy to me. I like to keep an open mind, I can see the good in most people and try to understand what motivates people to do bad things or treat others poorly.

All that said, I learned of something this Saturday which quite disturbed me and I can't seem to explain it away.

I had the pleasure of escorting my daughter Chavi Kaufman (not her real name) way way WAAAAY across town to a play-date she had made with a friend from school. On our way back we saw a group of filthy looking jewish teenaged boys walking the opposite direction.
They were all sweaty, wearing shorts and undershirts (no tzizis) which were streaked with sweat and covered in dirt and dust. Most of them were wearing kippot and one had his little sister in tow. We exchanged greetings with them and kept walking.

As we kept walking my daughter and I pondered how they could have gotten so dirty. Were they wrestling in the dirt? Did one of them lose something in the creek and they all jumped in to fish it out?

Then we passed some adults (grown men my own age and some older) in virtually the same condition - filthy, sweaty, and dressed for the gym (or worse!) and several with kids along (who looked hot, but otherwise clean) What the heck was going on?!

It turns out that there was a football game scheduled for shabbos afternoon at the local park- just a bunch of Jewish guys getting together to throw the ol' pigskin around... ON SHABBOS.
These filthy fellows, at 6PM on a Saturday afternoon with 3+ hours left to Shabbos, were headed home.

So in my mind I tried to think positively... at least there is an eruv!

But you know what? It was not easy. I was really disapointed. I consider myself to be Modern Orthodox these days, but things like this really make me understand the anti MO bias - I felt pretty naive and disgusted to tell you the truth. Even if the the football game itself was not such a big deal what happens next? I'm sure these guys aren't headed straight for Daf Yomi after the game or MINCHA for that matter.
So what is going on here?

Has Shabbos lost all it's meaning in the MO world or are these people so far away from traditional Orthodoxy that it's not even fair to use the "O" word to describe them anymore.
I'm sure that most of them consider themselves Orthodox but isn't the sanctity of Shabbos one
of the biggies in Orthodoxy.

I feel so judgemental and I hate that but I'm really just appalled.

Follow up: It is very interesting to me to see who feels they agree or disagree with me since I am am very much of two minds on this matter myself. My gut tells me it's not right but my head tells me there must be a way for this to be OK.
Truth be told I was very much on the fence about whether to post this at all (fence.... post... hehe) especially after reading Trep's recent postings which serve as sort of cautionary tales on the matter of not being judgemental. What made me go for it in the end was the knowledge that I would recieve comments shedding light on both sides of this issue and I'm glad to report I have not been let down.

41 Comments:

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

I don't know what this will mean to you, but I'll write it anyway. It is neither reprimand nor justification. It is merely my opinion:

I believe Orthodoxy is very broad; broader than many are led to believe by their yeshiva education.

Being a religious Jewish person is not easy, but depending on one's background, for different reasons. The types of sacrifice individuals make to live their lives as Orthodox Jews varies widely.

For instance, there are some Orthodox Jews, because of their once non-religious background, literally ache all Shabbos that they are not at work. Yet they remain home because that is what they know is the right thing to do. Even if they don't go to shul, they are not working for one reason: because it is Shabbos.

I typically maintain that an Orthodox Jew is someone who commits to the big three: Shabbos, Kashrus, and Taharas Mishpacha. The rest, depending on who you are, is icing.

Playing football on Shabbos is still keeping Shabbos.

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

SW - I do agree with you that Orthodoxy can be very broad and I appreciate your point of view.

To me this is not so much about playing football as it is about an organized public event (right in the middle of town) in which these men are not merely tossing the ball around but getting downright filthy in the middle of shabbos.

If they were tossing the ball in their yard with their kids I wouldn't think twice but to be rolling around in the dirt with other men is really more than I can get my mind around.

I don't want to judge them but it just seems so disrespectful to me.

 
At 11:39 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

Maybe some of these teenage boys were "at risk" -- perhaps adults in the community decided something had to be done.... desperate times, desperate measures. Football will bring them in; otherwise, they might be doing drugs. I don't know.

It's true that it doesn't seem "shabbosdik," but there may be a story behind this. Inquiring minds....

 
At 12:48 AM, Blogger blogRfactor said...

"Playing football on Shabbos is still keeping Shabbos."

I dont understand. How is playing football keeping shabbos. One of the ten commandments says- "Shamor et yom hashabbat L'Kadsho" - translated as keep the shabbos day to sanctify it - How is playing football keeping shabbos or making it holy.

Ask Shifra - you are right to question this behavior - being modern orthodox is not an excuse for deciding what mitzvos to keep and which to put aside. Unfortunately in your story, the kids are not to blame - look at their role models. We are the role models for our children. If we do not take the Torah seriously, how can we expect our kids to do the same. Please do not condone this behavior no matter how others may justify its "legality".

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

I'm sure that playing football was not one of the activities involved with the construction of the Mishkan. Therefore, I don't see why the activity should be forbidden on Shabbos.

True, one gets dirty doing so, more than you would if you, say. took a walk around the neighborhood. And apparantly, bathing is Sahbbos violation. So take a shower. You're not "bathing" becuase your body is never immersed in the water.

No it seems that theoriginal poster was laso offended becuase sho thought that the only proper thing to do on Shabbos (besides eating and sleeping) is to sit in the shul all day and pray or lose your sight reading poorly typeset boring religious texts. But many people (myself included) just cannot physically do so.

In fact, that's one of the reasons I daven at a Conservative shul, I am physically repulsed by crowds of people, and the half-empty sanctuary of the Conservative shul allows me some spiritual peace. I freak out when I visit crowded Orthodox synagogues. Of course, the High Hilidays are hell, I end up spending most of the time in the lobby or walking around outside.

So for some of us, doing something physical on Shabbos is the only way we can endure the day. It really annoys me that ouur communities assume that the only way the be a proper Jew is to be a smart intellectual. What if your inclinations are otherwise? Is not no place in k'lal Yisra'el for such people?

 
At 10:08 AM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"I dont understand. How is playing football keeping shabbos. One of the ten commandments says- "Shamor et yom hashabbat L'Kadsho" - translated as keep the shabbos day to sanctify it - How is playing football keeping shabbos or making it holy. "

Seems as if you don't understand my point. Please reread the comment I made and then weigh in.

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger Scraps said...

I'm with you on this one, Shifra. I also have a hard time excusing such behavior, which is one of the reasons I don't identify as "Modern Orthodox". Neither do I identify as Yeshivish, but the MO that I grew up with just doesn't seem to fit. I remember being in a large, well-known MO community for Rosh Hashana one year, and while I was walking with my friend to shul for mincha, we passed a woman in a t-shirt and shorts walking her dog...whom we'd seen in shul that morning. I was floored.

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Big Fan said...

It's unusual, but I have to disagree with Shifra on this one. If they were breaking Halacha, (like if there was no eruv) then they are mechalel shabbos. But if we are talking about the spirit of shabbos, that is more subjective.

In some communities, if you walk around in a white shirt and dress slacks without a jacket, it is frowned upon. In others, it's acceptable to walk around in shorts in the afternoon.

Are you allowed to play board games on shabbos?

Can I read a a science fiction book?

Where do you draw the line?

Personally, I would not play football (granted I might think differenly if I actually enjoyed it), but I will not judge people who do as I could be judged just as easily for what I do.

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shifra: I was sure you story was going to have a happy ending, like you kept walking and found out that the boys and men saved someone from a burning building or something.

I clearly remember as a kid -- there was the annual Simchat Torah nerf touch football game down the block, in front of the Rav's house... It killed me that my dad would never let me play, even though the Rav's son did! (Till he was 12 anyway).

I'll have to think more about this and post later. Gotta run now.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"And apparantly, bathing is Sahbbos violation. So take a shower. You're not "bathing" becuase your body is never immersed in the water."

As an aside, my comment is not to say one is free to misinterpret or make up Halacha as they please. I'm simply underscoring that playing football on Shabbos should not revoke one's status as Orthodox just because it doesn't jive with the spirit of Shabbos so many of us were brought up to uphold.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous anon1 said...

The Ramban in parsha Emor goes at length to explain that keeping activities within the "spirit of shabbos" is biblically mandated. I consider myself MO and I recognize and encourage the POV that Orthodoxy is very broad. With all that said, I totally agree with Shifra and with the commenter who noted that being MO is not a license to choose what you want to keep and what you don't. You can disagree with this idea but I think that seriously raises the question if you fall beyond the norms of Orthodoxy?

 
At 2:34 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

No matter what we can't judge and just don't know what circumstances lead a person to do certain things. We hate being judged so why do we judge others? Yet it is not easy for me and a constant struggle for me not to judge others. I am always ashamed when I do it.

 
At 2:38 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

I don't think playing rough-n-tumble sports is a very Shabbosdik activity, and i don't think i would do it (or even go to be a spectator) myself, but i played enough shabbos afternoon sports as a kid that i understand why some people need to do it. Some people just can't sleep/eat/daven/learn/read all day, and as long as they're not actually breaking a halakha, there's no reason to get upset. Maybe a little self-righteously sad, but not angry ;-) .

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Shifra:

In reading and re-reading this post, one of my father ZL's favorite ironic adages keeps coming to mind: "anyone who keeps one less mitzvah than I do is a shaygetz, anyone who keeps one more is meshugga frum.

I think this is applicable here on two levels. First, in the obvious sense, that barring halachic chillul Shabbos - of which there appears to be no evidence here - what one defines as "shabbosdik" and "not shabbosdik" is highly subjective. My own personal tastes tend to agree with yours in this instance; I'd be comfortable with the backyard game of ball with the kiddies, but not with the highly organized and public football game described. But many shomer Shabbos folks would consider activities that I enjoy and even relish on Shabbos and Yom Tov - reading secular books, playing board games, etc. - to be non-Shabbosdik. When it comes to leisure (as opposed to "work" - e.g., reading a technical paper to prepare for an upcoming meeting at the office would seem to clearly be non-Shabbosdik) I really don't see any obvious place to draw a line and state that this or that activity is objectively non-Shabbosdik for any shomer Shabbos person.

By the same token, I think the "anyone who..." quip is also relevent to your concluding question:

Has Shabbos lost all its meaning in the MO world or are these people so far away from traditional Orthodoxy that it's not even fair to use the "O" word to describe them anymore?

I would say that the categories of "modern O", "yeshivish", "right-wing" etc. have become extremely fuzzy if not completely meaningless. There is no longer (if indeed there ever was) a sharp dividing line between "modern O" and "frum" or whatever. Rather there is an unbroken continuum of observance in each and every area that differs for each and every individual.

If we all keep that in mind, the wise advice of your post title will, hopefully, be that much easier to follow!

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Elie said...

As a side comment, I don't believe there is any halachik distinction between bathing in a tub and showering on Shabbos. As to when either might be permitted, that's a complex halachik question, but "being sweaty after playing ball" is not a heter I'm aware of!

 
At 4:15 PM, Blogger dilbert said...

There is the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law. In our religion, sometimes the spirit becomes codified into the letter. Rabbi Saul Berman has a long article in the Edah journal about whether it is permissible to play 'ball' on Shabbat. He is referring to baseball, or catch. After going through the relevent poskim, he comes to the conclusion that playing ball isn't neccessarily assur, but it may not be in the spirit of Shabbat, depending on how it is done. If one is playing catch with his kid, not getting sweaty, and discussing important things, and 'bonding', that is a much better situation than playing hard tackle football with the 'guys' purely for the fun and sport. It is a worthwhile article and something to think about. I agree that MO sometimes includes the attitude that 'if it isn't against the letter of the law, it is ok' and that should not be the MO of MO.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Drew_Kaplan said...

Rabbi Berman wrote about this subject already in terms of halakhah.

 
At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I consider myself to be Modern Orthodox these days,"

I think this is the key. I don't think this is so much about judging others but about whether you are happy identifying with this group. Am I right?

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous anon1 said...

I am also loathe to judge others and I would not treat the indiviudals at issue any differently than anyone else. In my MO neighorhood I also run into people (usually teenage boys) who were/are playing ball on shabbos and I don't and havent judged them. But passing on whether objectively it is appropriate is another question. In addition to the issue of whether 1)playing ball is appropriate (arguably a more subjective question, though organized game in public does appear more offensive), and 2) bathing/showering is mutar at all, you have the additional issue of being dressed appropriately for shabbos. Granted that is not "chilul shabbos" in sense of a chiyuv kares/sekilah, but it is an absolute halacha brought down la-halacha in shulchan aruch.

I, too, will admit to ball playing when I was a kid on shabbos afternoon - but never did we have an organized messy football game on shabbos (that's what sundays are for!) and that ended well before bar mitzvah as well. Again I am not judging the particular people and without all of the facts it is impossible to know if there is some extenuating circumstance, but ultimately, this is not appropriate for shabbos, MO or not.

 
At 5:07 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"Drew_Kaplan said...
Rabbi Berman wrote about this subject already in terms of halakhah."


This comment, because of the link it provides, is most likely the only productive outcome of this conversation. I think everyone here should read it. It covers the whole issue and then some.

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger Lab Rab said...

This post serves as a subtle form of tochacha. Your identity isn't known to those who read it, and theirs isn't known to you. In that sense, I believe that this post is entirely appropriate.

For the people whom you do know in RL, I would suggest to keep your opinions to yourself. There are so many ways that Jews honor shabbos. While halacha doesn't accept playing ball as an acceptable activity, for these people it may be, in their own warped way, the greatest kiyyum of oneg shabbos.

The challenge isn't necessarily to get the MO commonfolk to respect shabbos more, as it is to help them find traditional shabbos activities more enjoyable.

 
At 9:04 PM, Blogger Mirty said...

It is interesting to read more comments on this. As another commentor said, not everyone can sit still so long, you need physical activity and these summer days are soooo long. I remember going to the park on Shabbos afternoon with Bnei Akiva and just cutting loose, running around. I guess we were pretty sweaty and messy by the time we got home.

 
At 12:24 AM, Blogger Eliyahu said...

thanks, Drew Kaplan, for the link. so Shifra, are you sure it's not just the sweat and dirt? what is your view on mud wrestling?

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Mirty; shabbat afternoon ping pong is also fun :)

 
At 8:33 AM, Anonymous BooYakaSha said...

Right or wrong, it doesn't seem like that big a deal to me. Not worthy of your condemnation, IMHO.

Better to spend your valuable condemnation time worrying about beinadam lechavero issues, no?

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger treppenwitz said...

Helloooo! Throw me a bone here people! Someone should have told that Shifra started blogging again. I can't be everywhere at once you know!!! :-) Thanks for the mention. If not for the link I might not have noticed your rebirth for ages! :-)

 
At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I for one am glad that someone in the Orthodox community is getting exercise and doing healthy fun things with their boys.

Football is soo much better than sitting eating all afternoon. Why is it ok to play chess but not do something physical?

Get over it! Sorry.

 
At 1:42 PM, Anonymous AskShifraReader said...

When I read the post, I was immediately of two minds as well. I did not yet read all the comments and do not fully agree with Still Wonderin's post but somewhat I do.

While you were appalled that they were playing football, and maybe I was a little too initally, for certain..Maybe some walk past me and are apalled that I am in a snood on shabbos and not dressed in a sheitel. Or during the week that I look like a punk in a bandanna instead of a snood.
Or that I might dare to wear an open toe shoe, and not tights and closed toe shoes.

While I might agree that playing football is most def. NOT shabbosdik, for the level that I Hope to be on or strive to be on, maybe for these people, this is the way to rest and enjoy shabbos and indeed, maybe they will go to Mincha. The "MO" way of living, is to yes, pray 3 times a day, keep kashrut and Shabbos, not much else, but they are very strong about those 3. they may very well go home , change and go to Mincha without blinking an eye.

I am trying to say, that what makes something sanctified and holy, whether it be ourselves, internally or externally, or an object and how its used and when its used, is really subjective.

Judaism preaches to be simple and not materialistic, yet we buy beautiful expensive silver cups to have pour our Kiddush wine in. We buy expensive candelabras. Expensive clothes for Shabbos.

While some might say that it sanctifies Shabbos, others may hold that all the expense spent defeats the philosophy that this world is but a hallway to the world to come, and we should all live a bit more simply.

Another example: Do you read secular newspapers or magazines on Shabbos, e.g. Cosmo, Redbook, Readers Digest etc? That too, is akin to playing football on Shabbos.

The bottom line is, its not up to us to judge. What we can and should do is always learn and take good out of a situation with which we are preseneted and say, I am glad that for me, I would not feel comfortable playing ball on Shabbos and how fortunate for me, that is something I would push off for Sunday. And we can straighten Chavi Kaufman's bow and make sure she is tucked in, looks shabbosdik and not dressed for playing ball and simply try to streghthen our surroundings because we just realized how grateful we were NOT to even think of playing ball on Shabbos....Just a thought...

 
At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw some people beating up a kid outside of shul the other day. But I judged them kindly. I figured they probably have trouble being nice for long periods of time. Some people need to get out their agression. And hey, they weren't drawing any blood actually, so it's just a question of where you draw the line. Some people really make tremendous sacrifices not to murder people, so really, if they just want to rough someone up a little- who am I to judge. You guys are all pathetic. This kind of behavior is despicable and should not be tolerated in any community that calls itself Orthodox. Or Jewish for that matter.

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

"This kind of behavior is despicable and should not be tolerated in any community that calls itself Orthodox. Or Jewish for that matter."

When you refer to certain behaviors as 'despicable,' do you mean poor reading comprehension or your inability to make intelligent analogies? If either one is the case, I wouldn't be so hard on yourself. Maybe you just grew up in Lakewood.

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Malka Esther said...

I know there are debates on whether playing basketball/baseball/other game is within the spirit of shabbat. I personally think especially on long summer shabbats that if this is a way for fathers and sons to connect and as long as they make it to all services there is nothing wrong with it.

Now if they are playing a game instead of davening I see a real problem. But there is no reason that they might not have davened mincha after lunch an before the game so they really have most of the afternoon to play, get home to change for ma'ariv, and make it to shul on time.

I can see how others would view this activity in a negative light though.

 
At 3:09 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Some people really make tremendous sacrifices not to murder people

Shifra - seems like some of the orthotrolls have wandered over here.

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Regarding the lady who was walking her dog on yontiff, I should mention as a dog lover myself that they do need to walk on yontiff, also on Shabbos. You might not want to take a long walk with your dog wearing your good holiday clothes.

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger Esther said...

I definitely see both sides of this, and my first reaction to seeing this would be like Shifra's. I certainly agree that it is not appropriate Shabbos behavior.

Then I got to the comment about the "community tolerating it." (Oddly enough it was THAT comment that helped me see this differently.) If I understood the post correctly, Shifra did not know these people, and her only connection to thinking they are MO is the kippot. Yes, if these were members of a specific shul, their rav should definitely be taking action to educate and rebuke (if he feels it is necessary.) In our community, at a shul filled with very influential people who donate a lot of money, our rav very strongly rebuked the whole community for allowing the teenagers to hang out on Shabbos evenings on the street, drinking and behaving inappropriately. It was great, but unfortunatly the opposite of what I have seen from rabbis across the spectrum who don't use their position to teach and guide their congregants.

BUT - in this case, who are these people? We are assuming they identify as MO, but maybe they are even conservative. In any case, it is not only the teenagers following the lead of the adults, but the adults who are not getting the guidance from their rav they we would like them to have. So it doesn't matter how much we discuss the details of whether it is halachically acceptable. They may not be looking at it in a halachic framework at all, and the real responsibility for this is their own rabbi and an attitude that the rav shouldn't actually tell people how to act, when in fact that's his job.

 
At 2:08 AM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I am not Orthodox, but I have to tell you that some of my favorite Shabbos memories involve a couple hours of basketball and a good shiur.

 
At 3:16 AM, Blogger eem said...

People are all talking about the spirit of the law which, I agree, can be very subjective. Fact is though, it's really hard to play a serious game of football without being mechalel shabbos-pulling out grass growing is a real live melacha. If this isn't a concern- it's hard to judge, but I don't think judging these specific people was shifra's pt here-it's just something to think about. Jews who call themselves "orthodox" (and many who don't) all fall somewhere on a spectrum of mitzva observance-none of us keep them all, most of us know we should;when it comes to the spirit of the law, it's even more varied. Seeing someone's actions and clarifying for yourself what you think about them doesn't have to mean judging those people, it just means you're a thinking Jew, and we all should be just that. We can truly value each person and still think what he/she is doing isn't appropriate, at least for ourselves.

 
At 12:06 AM, Anonymous Sarah said...

1. How to be dan lekaf zechus - they are unfortunately not able to appreciate spending a Shabbat afternoon in spiritual pursuits, have not been brought up to realize that a messy football game is not a way to spend your Shabbat.
2. If you know had happened to know their Rav, I'd ask him if he's thought of organizing some exciting shiurim for folks of all ages and levels. (Giving mussar about the inappropriateness of the activity would be his call, if someone brought it to his attention.)

 
At 4:23 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Yesterday, on Shabbat afternoon, I went with a friend to a local park here in Jerusalem - it was full of families with kids of all ages. One friend was playing ping-pong with her daughter - this park has a couple of stone ping-pong tables for this purpose set up. As far as I could tell, all of the people playing ping-pong were frum - the men were wearing kippot and tzitzit. I was sitting and talking with my friend and right in front of us there were several small children (under five years) playing in the dirt with pebbles and getting amazingly dirty. The boys all wore kippot and tzitzit and the girls had long dresses on - also from Orthodox families. Kids were also going down the slide, running around, etc. It seems to me that many people, certainly children, simply cannot only sit around on Shabbat - part of oneg Shabbat is being able to hang out in the park with one's friends and family relaxing. I am sure the parents of the kids I saw (the men at any rate) had spent the morning in shul and perhaps went to a shiur afterwards, but there is also a need for simple human contact.

 
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