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religious life vs. secular life


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Tammuz 4, 5774
Rabbi- I attend a public high school and I run distance for the track and cross country team. Running has become a very serious part of my life in the past few years. I was handed my cross country schedule recnetly and was cross-checking it with my calender at home and saw that one of our biggest meets is on October 4th- Yom Kippur. We have a little meet on Rosh Hashana but I can easily skip that meet to attend services. I am not very observant but I have always gone to services for both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Last year I skipped a cross country meet for Yom Kippur but since then I have really excelled in running and am stuck on what to do. I am a big part of contributing to my team’s success and I have colleges watching my running times. The meet on Yom Kippur is huge and highly competitive. I know that if I run there I will get a good time, which will also help with colleges and everything. If you can please give me some advice on what to do that would be great! Thank you for everything.
ב"ה Shalom From the very wording of your question, I believe you have the fortitude to make the right decision that you cannot participate on Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the holiest day in our calander, it is the day when G-d seals your fate for the coming year. The only thing which sets Yom Kippur sets aside is danger to one's life as you know. Yom Kippur is part of your upbringing and heritage; it is part of your family tradition and your national identity. You know very well that it is not something you can not forfeit. Having said ,that I really share the feeling you are having. You look forward for the big day and it comes out on a day when you just can't be there. The feeling is hard. You want to be there for your team and for yourself. However, you are being tested to show greatness. Many Jewish sportsmen before you have stood up to the test. In 2001 ESPN ran an article on Shawn Green, former Major league baseball player, who sat out a critical game against the San Francisco Giants because of Yom Kippur. His inspiration was the Jewish pitcher Sandy Koufax , who in the fall of 1965 when the Los Angeles Dodgers were up against the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, the opening game was scheduled for Wednesday Oct. 6 which came out that year on Yom Kippur. Koufax did not come to pitch, and in fact the Dodgers lost that game 8-2. Koufax was not particularly observant, but as he later stated, "There was never any decision to make ... because there was never any possibility that I would pitch. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish religion… By refusing to pitch that day, Koufax became inextricably linked with the American Jewish experience and was remembered in highest respect in the" Jewish Hall of Fame" and was also held in high esteem by his team.. I wish you well and I am sure you will overcome this seemingly insurmountable hurdle. With all my best wishes.
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