The Olympics: A Jewish Perspective

The Olympics: A Jewish Perspective
Kerr Street Cafe
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About the Author

Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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The Olympics are absolutely wonderful to watch. The human drama, the pressure to perform, the success of the athletes that almost defies gravity and believability.

As a Canadian, I watch our Canadians strive for gold and cheer their performances. As a Jew I’m also keeping an eye out for the few members of my tribe who are able to perform at the Olympic level, mostly in figure skating. I also watch the 2 Israeli athletes, though they are just happy to be there and won’t be competing for top spots. I was speaking to an Israeli friend who mentioned that Canada won a medal, and now that we have over a dozen, I was quite nonchalant that we won a few, as I’m greedy to win more, especially in curling, hockey and figure skating.

He was amazed at my nonchalance because if Israel won a medal, of any colour, the country would be in an uproar. Same with the dozens of other countries that send just a small group of athletes who are there to compete and can only dream of winning.

That is why I am less in awe of medals and more in awe of the Olympic spirit that underlies the Olympic games. I love the story of our Canadian coach who helped a Russian skier when his skate broke. Or the snowboarders who offer friendly hugs and high fives at the end of their runs celebrating the competition instead of the winner.

I love when athletes pay tribute not to their own abilities, but the families, friends, co-competitors and coaches that helped them reach their goal of competing and perhaps even winning a medal.

As the prophet Jeremiah aptly said, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, the strong man glory in his strength, the rich man glory in his wealth, for all I care about is kindness, justice and righteousness”. I hope all the athletes achieve to the best of their abilities but are also wary of boasting and conceit, rather be humble and thankful of their god given talents.

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