With the Olympics and Siyum HaShas coinciding, it is not surprising that so many people have started to compare and contrast the values that stand behind these events.
“Anu Ratzim, V’hem Ratzim”…We run to the service of God, while they run to play around and worship their bodies.
Forgetting for a moment how every person I have seen point this out seems rude, are they correct?
While the Siyum HaShas represented learning God’s Torah, engaging in Mitzvot, and the best that we can do to live up to our religious ideals, what does the Olympics stand for?
Sports? Showing off? Nothing important, to say the least.
However, this perspective entirely ignores the many positive things about sports, and I would like to look at a few of them here.
- Sports can help us celebrate the gifts God has given man, so that we may better appreciate Him, and serve Him better. Who told you sports has to be about showing off? In the same way that running to shul or the beit midrash is a good thing, so too is running to show everyone how amazing the human body is, if it helps us serve God better.
Actually, the Sages tell us that being made in the “image of God” includes our bodies, and this is the simple explanation of many psukim. Why would we assume it’s bad to celebrate the achievements of the human body?
- Sports provide an opportunity to exercise in an enjoyable way, and the benefits of this are self explanatory in my opinion. We need to be healthy to use the lives that God gave us, so why are looking down on people who take care of themselves?
Additionally, people who get fat learning Torah don’t make learning Torah look good, and this takes away from the prestige of the service of God. Those who emphasize that learning is important should also emphasize that health is important.
- The Olympics symbolizes man coming together and meeting in peace, again, in the image of God. I’m not defending everything about the Olympics, and especially this one, but that’s not relevant to my point here. We should celebrate the value of camaraderie, and support representatives from countries worldwide while they show us how to treat others with respect.
I wanted to touch on some other benefits we can get from sports which will help us serve God better (eg. learning about leadership and cooperation), but I’ve forgotten about most of them, and my underlying point is a short one anyway.
Let’s just ask ourselves: Does this help us serve God better?
If yes, great, then the Olympics are good. If not, well then, perhaps we should abstain.
Sports and the Olympics will always be what we make of them, just as eating to have energy to greet the day is different than eating out of gluttony. Our actions are not “good” or “bad” inherently, and will be defined by whether or not we are guided by the principles of our Torah when we act.
This is the rule for everything we do, including watching the Olympics.