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Shavua Tov

Only six days until Shabbat!

  • Daniel Botkin


I never had a lot of interest in sports. In high school I was on the boys’ swim team for a while. Back then, the bigots wouldn’t allow biological males to join the girls’ swim team, so I had to compete against boys.

About the only other sport I enjoyed was playing pinball machines. I enjoyed pressing the flippers and watching the silver ball bounce off the brightly-lit bumpers under the glass. My pinball nickname was “Bumpers Botkin.” My buddy Fred, who also played pinball, was dubbed “Freddy the Flipper.”

Other than swimming and pinball, I never had much interest in sports. Even the Olympics and the Super Bowl games bore me. Recently I was reading Josephus, and I happened to read his account of King Herod’s building of amphitheaters in the Holy Land and using them for sporting events. As I read Josephus’ description of those events, I felt like I was reading about today’s Olympics or the Super Bowl. Large crowds gathering to watch wrestling, racing, and other events. Athletes competing for trophies. Musical presentations between the games.

Today’s sporting events are not as bad as those that Herod sponsored. In Herod’s games, the athletes competed naked. Now they do it in their underwear. Herod also had lions and other wild beasts fight against men who had been condemned to death. At today’s sporting events, an athlete can get bruises, a bloody nose, and occasionally a broken bone, but at least they are not being torn apart by wild animals.

Josephus writes about opposition to King Herod’s events. Pious Jews resented the entertainment Herod was offering the people. Ten Jewish men conspired to assassinate Herod, but an informant ratted them out. The ten men were arrested, brutally tortured, and executed. After that, a mob of Jews got hold of the informant, and he was “pulled to pieces, limb from limb, and given to the dogs.”

Herod was determined to find out who was responsible for killing the informant, but none of the Jews would tell him, not even under torture. Finally “certain women were tortured [and] confessed what they had seen done.” When King Herod found out who was responsible for inciting the mob that killed the informant, those men “were so terribly punished by the king, that their entire families were destroyed for this their rash attempt.” (See Antiq. 15.8.1-4.)

Sports were much worse back then, but they were certainly far more exciting. Not that I want that kind of excitement, of course. I get plenty of excitement from walking with the Lord.

| DB


Image: Colosseum in Rome. Roma, Lazio, Italy. Source: Mark Neal,

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