Monday, March 7, 2011

WRONG on the Shabbat issue

A local story, that of a 7-year old Teaneck girl who was unable to compete in a gymnastics competition has gone national. The Associated Press followed up on a story that appeared locally in the Record last month.
According to the news reports, Amalya Knapp is unable to compete in gymnastics competitions on Shabbat, thereby forfeiting the events.
What the AP story (and the Record story before it) seem to gloss over, is the fact that there is no universal prohibition from competing in athletic events on Shabbat.
Case in point is Naama Shafir. Naama is the starting point guard for the University of Toledo women's basketball team. She leads her team in points, assists and 3-point shooting. She is an Orthodox Jew. And she plays on Shabbat!
She wears t-shirts under her basketball uniform for "tzniut" (modesty) reasons, she travels to game venues before Shabbat, walks to the arena, plays in the game, and remains in the venue until after Shabbat.
Naama is from the town of Hoshaya, in Israel. She qualified to play for Israel's national team but had an issue with Shabbat. The Rabbi in her hometown, Rav Chaim Bogonski, "paskened" that she was able to play on Shabbat (because it's for fun) but not practice on Shabbat (because that's work). [This is a Rabbi who lives in Israel, not one of the Teaneck Fakers who preached how important it is to live in Israel, yet remains in his comfortable Teaneck pulpit.]
The local Chabad Rabbi in Toledo, Rabbi Yossi Shemtov, helps her with meals and she travels with another player or assistant coach on Friday, so she arrives in the opponent's home city before Shabbat.
So before we take it for granted that engaging in sports on Shabbat is forbidden, we should look at the actual halacha. I don't want to hear the excuse, it's not "Shabbisdek" or it's not in the spirit of Shabbos. That's not halacha.
None of the newspaper articles I read about the Amalya Knapp situation mentioned how or who prohibited competition on Shabbat, or quoted any halachic sources to that effect. They only accepted the unsupported position of the parents that it was prohibited to play sports on Shabbat.
I'm still waiting to read the words of an actual Rabbi saying where the prohibition on sports competition on Shabbat actually comes from.
Until then, I can sympathize with Amlaya Knapp, but the blame is on her parents for just assuming she can't compete. Not on any gymnastics organization.


tovmeod said...

ialcut iosef

nosson said...

kny said...

This is a great point and one that can be applied to Jewish Orthodox actors and dancers as well. There is no prohibition against acting and dancing on shabbat either. There are ways to be an orthodox jew and not have it hold one back from pursuing a goal in these areas. That is not to say that there won't be things that cannot be done but as long as one is following halacha it would seem that the interpretation of "being in the spirit of shabbas" is a grey area and up to each individual family.