I came across this article today about a young orthodox Jewish boxer and his dilemma between fulfilling himself as a fighter or maintaining his religious integrity. This is really something close to my heart as an Orthodox Jew, a boxing lover and a parent.
For some years I trained in boxing. I’m not a boxer, don’t make that mistake, think of my experience more a in the self-defense/club training style. I’ve done my fair share of sparing and I know my way around a heavy bag (not too bad on a speed bag either). I’ve also trained many young people in the fundamentals of the sweet science, usually within the perspective of Jewish pride and building self confidence.
The saddest thing here is that a parent would allow a child to take the time and effort to nurture the passion and develop the skill that necessarily goes into this type of effort…only to simultaneously raise him in a way of life that would NEVER allow him to truly fulfill his desire for success within it.
Its really shameful.
Boxing is a sport for the hungry. For people who will do whatever it takes despite the mental and physical costs that it demands. To allow a boy to pursue it on a competitive level only to place him in a situation in which his very conscience must by necessity be tormented over the most basic requirements of the sport is wrong.
The lesson here is not about Judaism, or integrity–an 18 has barely begun to live and has no real understanding of the impact of his beliefs or what integrity means. Frankly, people who feel inspired by his example are themselves very lacking in depth of character, forgive me for saying.
The real lesson here is about PARENTING…about how not to guide ones children…and the weak will of a parent who really never let this child think for himself.
If a child wants to pursue something that will present a variety of issues for the orthodox practitioner of Jewish law, then the parent must have the courage and decency to allow the boy to forge his own path as a man and allow him to really choose his own fate. He must let the child understand his own accountability for his choices early on and let him make his own decisions. If he doesn’t pullback and relent from fluttering around the boy, acting as an additional conscience… if he continues playing the type of role described, then how is he doing anything other than belaboring an already difficult decision? In fact, the fathers very presence more than likely determined what the boy would go on to decide. How could it not have?
Unlike the articles author says, this boy is no Maccabee. He’s just a boy. Who, for all we know will have a very long time to regret the decision he made…or was forced into making.