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Yeshiva boys and sports activity


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Nisan 25, 5778
During my recent visit to Israel, I was taken to several Yeshivot and was surprised to find that no Yeshiva student whatever age was engaged in any kind of Sports activity. Young men sitting over the "Good Book" all day most of them with reading glasses some of the boys looking sickly. I have come to understand why these young men are not willing to join the Israel Defense Forces, physically they would not be to serve since their state of health would not be acceptable. This was confirmed to me by a Major of the Paratrooper Brigade. Could you enlighten me where I am wrong in assuming that studying at a Yeshiva is detrimental to health?
Apparently you only visited haredi yeshivas, and not hesder or mechina yeshivas. The latter merge their yeshiva studies with army service, and actually produce a very high percentage of of combat soldiers and officers in the IDF (in many units they are actually the majority!). These are the yeshivas where I learned and where I teach, including the Beit El Yeshiva which sponsors this website. We strongly believe, as apparently you do as well, that the original Torah of Moshe, Joshua, King David, Samson et al is the Living Torah which calls for "a healthy soul in a healthy body". Unfortunately, the haredi yeshiva world is still living in the "exile mentality" where the Jew is seen as a sickly victim (as it was before the Holocaust), and spirituality is seen as contradicting worldliness. Their curriculum is almost totally Talmud and neglects not only physical health and exercise, but even neglects the study of Tanach (Bible), Jewish philosophy and ethics, as well. Now, that after 2,000 years of exile, we are returning to the Land of Israel, eventually, and inevitably, the original, true and appealing well-rounded Torah will surely prevail and will be rediscovered by them, as well. It's hard to take the Jew out of exile, but it's even harder to take the exile out of the Jew! Hopefully, they will rediscover that Chanuka is not only the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days, but also the military victory as well!
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