start training and stop quarreling

Joseph Flavius writing in the time of King Herod described the jews as a fit and hardy people who partook in athletic activities much to the delight of King Herod who liked the idea of a fit workforce. In terms of modern day Olympic activities the modern incarnation of Israel has been somewhat wanting with regards to the medal podium. The state has been reasonably effective in deterring terrorism,fighting wars, agriculture, advances in medical technology, and other hi-tech pursuits but with the exception of the completion of the Torah cycle, there is a empty patch with regard to Olympic excellence. After all, Israel was supposed to be the “new jew” , a revamped version now shorn of all the stereotypes of the Diaspora: the jewish limp, head size, and other physical defects that would imply an absence of virility. Perhaps the need to take god to task in a holy quarrel has not been resolved, the paradoxical sense of being forsaken at the finish line….

From the archives: a page from a German newspaper advertising men’s swim wear, circa 1930.—Leo baeck

There will have to be an opening of the contract, an 11th hour meeting of the highest rabbinic authorities, a subpoena of the god to at least, in an exploratory manner question question whether his side of the covenant had been broken. Perhaps the excommunicated souls of Spinoza and a rash of other heretics who could dust off a discus and javelin and break some records in messianic ecstasy, the ying-yang and eternal I-thou should be good to ink a few promising endorsements. Maybe the answer is to stock the team with atheist athletes, who couldn’t care if god is indifferent to their performance anxiety issues, indifferent to the fate of the believer and its paltry rewards of Olympic hardware to date…

So, does this covenant include a performance clause for promises unfulfilled?  A good quarrel with the ultimate umpire, after all can’t expectations be stretched across the finish line? Or maybe, the power of positive thinking, visualizations of success has been muddied by the age old adage of “always expect the worst.”…

—At the same time, the Jew, especially his physiognomy and physiology, was tenaciously intertwined with notions of unmanly passivity, weakness, hysteria, and pathology, all bred by the lack of outdoor and healthy activity. The Jew’s legs and feet in particular were characterized as non-athletic, unsuited to nature, sport, war making, brutality, and violence. This sissy Jew was characterized as ‘hysteric’, the result of prominent nineteenth-century anti-Semitic prejudices.—Read More:



(see link at end)…LONDON – “They think they have an Olympic torch? We have the real Olympic torch, it’s the Torah hakedosha (the holy Torah),” thunders Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff at the end of a seven-year daily study of the Talmud.

Rabbi Lieff, a popular ultra-Orthodox orator from Brooklyn, has crossed the Atlantic to perform as the guest speaker at the Siyum Hashas, a ceremony marking the completion of seven and a half years of daily Talmud study at the Royal Festival Hall in London. This is the twelfth

e that religious Jews around the world are completing the Daf Yomi, the daily page cycle, but the first that has ever coincided with the Olympic Games.

So when 3,000 mostly ultra-Orthodox men gathered Monday night in the center of the British capital to celebrate Talmud learning, some of the speakers just couldn’t resist comparing the two events.

—Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford, running with borrowed shoes because his were stolen, failed to qualify for the semifinals in the 400 meters at the London Olympics.
Sanford did not have an opportunity to warm up before Saturday’s race, according to reports, and finished fifth in his heat in 45.71 seconds, his best time this season. He had argued with the judges to have more time to put on a pair of loaner shoes but was denied.
The U.S.-born Sanford told the Israeli media that he could have run faster in his own shoes, which he said were stolen.—Read More: image:

Ultra-Orthodox lawyer and chairman of the Siyum committee Rapahael Bergman, who also served as the master of ceremonies, opened the evening saying that “not far from this prestigious building there is a lot of activity which probably needs a lot of stamina, a lot of running. It fits the description of anu ratzim vehem ratzim (we run and they run).” Everyone present in the vast hall knew what he was referring to – the prayer said by some Jews after Torah learning, comparing the studious with those who while away their days in empty pursuits. The prayer ends with the sentence “we run and they run – we run to the life of hereafter and they run to damnation.”

That was not his last sports analogy. “We run a much longer marathon,” Bergman said, “a marathon unprecedented in history. That is the avoda (work) of the yid (Jew).” Read More:

Josephus’ account of Herod’s own Olympic games reveals to us a new phase in the development of the athletic world-view of antiquity. Whereas Jewish objections to Greek sports were primarily due to their inherently pagan character (as well as to their immodesty and frivolity), the Romans introduced a new dimension to the arena: cruelty which even surpassed that of professional hockey.

The classic examples of Roman viciousness were the throwing of prisoners (among whom were probably numbered many captured Jewish freedom-fighters) before wild beasts, and gladiatorial combat. Herod included such displays in his own games, to the delight of the pagan tourists and to the indignant shock of his Jewish subjects.

This sadistic side of athletics seems to be the one that figures most prominently in rabbinic writings.

Thus “theatres and circuses” are commonly condemned in the Talmud as places of idolatry and evil, though Jews are permitted to attend the events even on the Sabbath, because they might be able to save the lives of victims (by indicating through the “thumbs up” gesture their wish that the victim’s life be spared).

One noted rabbi, Simeon ben Lakish, was forced by economic difficulties to take up the life of a gladiator. The talmudic legend describes how his eventual opting for the life of Torah was at the expense of his physical prowess–the two worlds were perceived to be inherently antithetical. Read More:

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