Lets try an experiment. I’m going to type a word and you tell me the first three words that pop into your head. Here goes……
So…Intelligent? Sardonic? Kafka-esque perhaps?
What about the word athletic? I’m guessing not. While we may hold 22% of all Nobel prizes we have won only a single ESPY (Jason Lezak). Now i’ve heard arguments on the subject ranging from nurture (we encourage intellectual pursuits) to nature (we’re just not built athletically). These may hold some water, but from a historical perspective, I blame the Maccabees. Judah Maccabee hated competitive sports. Indeed, he publicly condemned them as a hellenistic influence from the Greeks and abolished athletic displays once he rededicated the second temple. It makes sense to me: a culture that outlaws sports would not be very good at them. Now there are of course exceptions to this rule. And we as Jews are very proud of these exceptions. Which is why I’ve never watched a single game of baseball, but I know who Sandy Koufax is. Judah Maccabee’s decree is of course ironic for two reasons: 1).Because Judah Maccabee might be the only biblical Jew besides Samson considered buff (His nickname was ‘The Hammer’ for crying out loud. The only person I’ve ever met nicknamed the Hammer was a quarterback from the midwest with abs you could grate cheese on and a dead ringer for Captain Planet minus the green hair and blue pallor) and 2) Maccabi, the athletic commission in Israel is named after him. The Maccabia games, held every year in Israel, are truly a tribute to Jewish athleticism in the 21st century. I am proud to say that not only did I compete in them in the year 2000, but I brought home a gold medal. It was of course for the most grueling portion…Talent. Take that Judah Maccabee.