Olympic Meshugass!

I actually listened to the rabbi’s speech today in shul, and most of what he said ticked me off. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe he is usually controversial and I never listened before.


First he talked about being Jewish – that in order to be counted as being Jewish one has to keep the mitzvoth. What? In my understanding if your mother is Jewish, that makes you Jewish whether you keep one mitzvah, 613 mitzvoth or none. I guess his point was really that if the Jews don’t keep mitzvoth there will be no Judaism left. But saying you are not Jewish if you do not perform mitzvoth was wrong. No wonder secular Jews sometimes feel alienated from organized religion, if this is the prevailing attitude,


Then he decided to lambast the Olympics, calling the amazing feats of athletic prowess “meshugass”, ridiculing the respect we have for people who can jump higher, run faster, dive cleaner etc. Apparently according to the rabbi, this is totally wrong. We shouldn’t admire anyone who obviously has these talents because it has nothing to do with who we are as Jews. We should admire people because of their Jewishness, their fear of G-d, their belief in Him, and their daily struggles in order to serve Him. Surely a person who is faster, can jump higher etc is blessed by G-d, surely these are G-d given talents? Ok, maybe worshipping them is too much, but how can anyone fail to see G-d’s gift in Michael Phelps’s swimming? There is something totally unworldly and beyond the norm in that. There were many Jewish Olympians this year – should we not be proud? Is the rabbi saying we should be ashamed to put any emphasis on physical accomplishments?


I am guessing that this rabbi, well into his 70s, has a different mind-set than I do, and sees evil and anti-Jewishness everywhere he looks. What I really hate about rabbi’s sermons is that there is no Q and A period after, that there is no arguing with his point of view. The rabbi speaks, the service continues, and I am left to stew with my thoughts. Of course, I could have discussed it with him after mussaf, at the Kiddush, but would he have spoken to me, a mere woman? Not just a woman, but one with an opinion too. Perish the thought! This Rabbi seems to be all fire and brimstone. I hate that.

6 responses to “Olympic Meshugass!

  1. I don’t know your rabbi, but I wouldn’t give any speech at all if we didn’t have Q/A afterward. No, it can’t happen in shul, because then all of the people who want to get to kiddush would be upset… so it happens at the kiddush, or in Saturday night emails, or later conversations, with men and women as well as the teen and pre-teen set. But it has to happen.

  2. i had some really not-nice things to say about rabbis’ sermons as i was nodding with your sentiments while reading, but now i can’t write them because i see the the rebbetzin’s husband visits here.

    i will just say that i tune out whenever–and it’s too frequent–a rabbi starts comparing us to the “goyyim” or otherwise knocking them.
    i wrote about this here: Thanksgiving Day in Jewish Practice

    “I am guessing that this rabbi, well into his 70s, has a different mind-set than I do”

    it has nothing to do with age, but rather hashkafah

    (i guess he wasn’t rooting for the Frum Taekwondo Girl at the Olympics)

  3. ok, the first link didn’t work.
    try here

  4. Lion-
    I hate rabbis’ sermons – both those of others, and my own. As I think I’ve written somewhere (too lazy to look it up at the moment), sermons are a rotten way to get a serious message across. The time-frame, crowd and venue forces oversimplification.

  5. I’ve been brought up hearing such speeches from teachers at my school. Teachers used to say that by Yavan they were all into good looks and that’s where the Olympics first started. SO they made it sound like a bad thing. But my mother was always into watching it. So I figured there’s just different opinions. But your right Hashem does give these people the amazing talent, so it is a great thing. As long as you look at it the right way, and don’t think that their more powerful than G-d or something like that.

  6. I have to say I agree whole-heartedly with you. Sermons like these are a huge reason I don’t go to temple on a regular basis. I find it very disheartening that your rabbi (and many others – but certainly not all)have a very close-minded view when it comes to religion. Shouldn’t rabbis welcome all different forms of Judaism? Shouldn’t they support variations on the same theme?

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