Israeli Sports & Sanctifying God’s Name

The picture of Rav Leff learning at the Israel vs Scotland game last week has had a tremendous impact around the world. I believe that the clip of the Rabbi learning has brought tremendous sanctification to God’s Name (Kiddush Hashem) and to the Jewish people. However, I must take him to task for his comments made at a shiur and written up by The Yeshiva World below.

Rav Leff basically is embarrassed by the fact he was shown on TV and had to justify why he was at the game. Kiruv, spending time with his grandchildren, Jewish students etc… But one of his comments shows as to how wrong he is as to how the people of Israel must be, we must be one people, Amcha.

From YW, “He also explained that he feels there is a difference between attending a soccer game in Eretz Yisroel versus around the world, with the Chareidi community in Israel understandably needing to maintain clear boundaries between themselves and the secular but Jewish society.”

Instead of using sports as a tool to come together as one nation and one people, he wants to divide the Jews of Israel and keep a clear separation between those who are “religious” and those who are not.

As one who uses sports to teach Zionism, the love for Israel, Judaism and the strength of the Jewish people through sports, I can not accept this statement. Just yesterday I was at an event with NBA Great Dikembe Mutombo and had a chance to speak to him and his wife about their trip. He told me that his day began at Yad Vashem and that he thought he understood the Holocaust, but once there he understood as to how wrong he was. He plans on returning to Israel and now the Jewish People and Israel has yet another ambassador. That’s just one small example.

There is no greater joy than seeing Jews of all stripes at a basketball game in Israel. Sitting together are men and women in black hats, knitted colored kipas, suede kipas, shorts, skirts, head coverings of all types or mine at all. Everyone together enjoying a game and being together as one people, Am Yisrael.

I’ve travelled the world to see sports and have been to over 3,000 live sporting events and go to over 150 games a year in Israel alone (none of which is on Shabbat) and I can tell you that the sports arena is the greatest place that brings all of Israel together as one.

I also teach and travel the world giving presentations about Zionism through sports, in fact I’m about to teach my weekly Zionism Through Sports University class in Tel Aviv.

I was recently in Montreal for a Zionism Through Sports Shabbaton weekend and the crowd couldn’t get enough, it was standing room only for the 4 times I spoke.

Let’s use sports to come together as a people instead of dividing us.

About the Author
The Sports Rabbi Josh Halickman is dedicated to Israeli sports and athletes plying their trade in Israel and around the world. From soccer to basketball to Olympic sports and beyond I'll bring you the latest news, analysis, videos, photos and discussions regarding the latest stories.
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