Friday, October 26, 2012

Shooting Hoops on Shabbos?

Five Towns Jewish Times    by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

They can be found in virtually every neighborhood in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway.  Walk from Lawrence to Woodmere and you will find many dozens of them.  And, even on Shabbos, they are being utilized. They are portable, movable, basketball hoops.

The question is - what is the Halachic status of this pastime - when done on Shabbos? Should parents discourage their children from playing ball on Shabbos?  Is there a difference between very young children, children who have reached the age of Chinuch, and children above the age of Bar Mitzvah?

Certainly, we can all understand the sentiment that children need to be given some space and time to let off  steam or energy.  Every child is different and "chanoch lanoaral pi darcho."  If the underlying aspects of this activity are not forbidden, should wereally be making an issue out of it?

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Taanis 4:5) tells us of a great city named Tur Shimon with its very own Tomchei Shabbos that delivered 300 barrels of material to the poor each Friday. The Talmud, however, goes on to explain that this city was ultimately destroyed. Why was it destroyed?  One opinion says that it was because of untoward activity. Another opinion says that it was on account of, yes, ball playing.  Gulp.

Ostensibly, it was ball playing on Shabbos as most of the commentators explain. Indeed, Rav Huna in Midrash Aicha Rabasi explicitly states that the ball playing was on Shabbos.  This Yerushalmi is cited by the Bais Yoseph (OC 308).  Finally, there is a third opinion (See Rokeach Hilchos Shabbos 55) that they played ball on Shabbos and did not learn Torah.

What is remarkable is that nowhere in these sources (other than in the words of the Rokeach) is the exact problem with ball-playing on Shabbos fully or even partially explained.  What was the exact violation?  There is, of course, an entire litany of halachic possibilities as to the exact nature of the problem (which, as the reader may have surmised, will be explored), but perhaps the very silence of the sources is instructive in and of itself.

Perhaps, the reason Tur Shimon was destroyed was that this remarkable town - with such remarkable chessed going on in its midst should have utilized the Shabbos as a means to further their Dveikus Bashem - their cleaving to Hashem.  Excessive ball- playing, or any other mundane activity can sometimes be indicative of a lack of such a relationship with Hashem - and that lost opportunity may very well have been the  reason for Hashem not having saved this town from destruction. [For rest of article click Five Towns Jewish Times]


  1. I wonder what the "untoward activity" was that might have destroyed Tur Shimon. I bet it was closer to sexual molestation of children, gulp, gulp, than wearing shatnez and talking in shul.
    Stay safe Five Towns and friends.

  2. Here is long article on this subject:

  3. Rabbi Pruzansky, a modern orthodox rabbi with much direct experience (and commentary) in what is going on in the modern orthodox world, must be commended for his courage and bravery -- and taking a lot of heat -- for publishing statistics that may make modern orthodoxy look really bad, on this very issue that Hoffman discusses above.

    My take is that whatever the merits of the precise percentages, the overall point is that the statistics are really really bad. Rabbi Pruzansky may have mentioned the study, but he in fact speaks from first-hand pulpit experience in that community.

  4. Hoops sure beats texting on shabbos.

  5. WHat happened to the Rav of the shul deciding and instructing his kehila what is best for them ?? Why are we commenting on what others do ???? Not everyone is the same let's worry about our own shmiras shabbos and let the Rabbanim of the five towns worry about what they feel is necessary to be 'meorer' the public about .

  6. That is what Rabbi Hoffman concluded there Dvarim Pshutim

  7. If you read carefully you will see he ended his article with his own opinion what he thinks should be done - while throwing in earlier the 'ask your Rav' - But do you truly believe that one should give Mussar and Tichachah in numerous public forums and throw in - 'you should really ask your Rav' - If I should ask my Rav then why are you getting involved ???? If someone would approach you or your family with rebuke and veiled threats of destruction and throw in 'you should really ask your Rav' That's ok ???? - As great people have said 'other peoples gashmiuis is your ruchnios' - let's worry about our own Ruchnios

  8. Playing ball on shabbos is a problem when there is no eruv. Otherwise what melacha is involved? Oh, right, none. Kids need to be kids and sports are good for them.

  9. btw, I would think that forsaking eretz yisrael to live in some luscious galut paradise like the 5 towns is a far more serious avera than letting the kids there play ball on shabbos, no? At least Tur Shimon was in the Land of Israel despite whatever flaws it had. This seems to be a case of losing the forest for the trees.


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