by Rabbi Jason Bonder, #6PointsCA Faculty Member
Many scholars agree that in Biblical times, it would not have made sense to ask someone if they practiced a religion.
But why not? Didn’t religion, and specifically our Jewish religion, originate in Biblical times? Well, yes and no.
Yes, the ancient Israelites worshipped a god who we now acknowledge as the One. But no, our ancient ancestors would not have seen this worship as “practicing a religion.” They would have simply considered the worship of the Holy One to be part of their daily life. Being Jewish was part of their existence just as much as shepherding, farming, and building. There was not separate entity or activity known as “religion.”
Times have certainly changed since then. Today, we often see our religion as something separate from everyday life. Out there in the world we work, we socialize, we shop, we take our kids to school and we take them to extracurricular activities. Our children are all too often faced with very difficult choices because of their religion and religious studies. Soccer practice or Religious School? The Friday night football game or Shabbat services? In our modern world, the question “What religion do you practice?” is a perfectly understandable question because it is separate from, and often at odds with, everyday life.
As I served on faculty last week at 6 Points Sports Academy, I watched that barrier between regular life and religion disappear. I watched children integrate Jewish values and identity into their sports games and I watched them express gratitude for their athleticism during prayer.
I was involved in a discussion about splitting defenders in Soccer when one of our athletes mentioned that she could relate this to the story of King Solomon threatening to split a baby in two. I watched an abundantly talented athlete take a beginner under his wing and he cited kehilah -community – as his motivation for doing this mitzvah.
As a Religious School director I am constantly talking with parents about the struggles of juggling religious education and extracurricular activities. I always try and stress to our parents that Judaism should not be at odds with our lives. Judaism is meant to enhance our lives. The campers and staff at 6 Points have mastered this concept and they put it into practice each and every day. As a Jewish athlete myself, I was truly inspired by the 6 Points campers and staff. I hope that each of us can learn from this wonderful camp and remember that Judaism can enhance all of our endeavors. It need not take away from them.
Thanks to Alan and Rachel and the entire 6 Points coaches and staff for a terrific week. Most of all, thank you parents, for sending your kids to camp so that they could be my teachers, and hopefully they learned a thing or two from me as well!
Hazak Hazak V’Nithazek – May we go from strength to strength!