Non-Yiddishe Nachas

Non-Yiddishe Nachas

The video “Best Job” has been watched over a million times since it was posted 5 days ago. It’s a video about the mothers of Olympic champions, and how much nachas they get seeing their children winning medals after so many years of motherhood. Like a lot of people who watched it, it moved me to tears…But then I kicked myself for getting all teary-eyed. For a child to be a champion pole-vaulter or javelin thrower or gymnast is NOT the cause of yiddishe nachas. But yanno what I would really love to see, JewishMOMS? A video just like this one, but about mothers getting true YIDDISHE nachas…Footage of JewishMOMs’ hard work and struggles followed by Yiddishe tears at a bris or bat mitzvah or a long-awaited wedding. Footage of a JewishMOMs blood, sweat and tears raising her kids followed by footage of a selfish child finally learning to share or a class bully finally being kind or an off-the-derech child finally coming home to his roots…Thanks to Prague JewishMOM Teresa Vanova for sending this my way…


  1. I am dry-eyed.

    My heart goes out to the children who practice their sport or skill many hours per day under great pressure to win the gold medal instead of “wasting time” — that is, playing — like regular children. It’s unnatural. Not the way children are meant to live.

  2. I believe that some of these parents are raising their children to do what they’ve seen as a G-d given ability, and that they are also raising them with the message “it’s not about winning – we love you as you are and support this in you since YOU want it.” they might also raising them with belief systems, that their abilities are in the context of doing God’s work. that having been said, yes, the whole Olympic craze of being perfect has its problems. but so does studying most of the day, most days a year, in a yeshiva with no exercise and no sunlight. we need not be judgmental.

  3. Right on, Chana Jenny.

  4. Our goals as Jewish Moms are much greater and higher (spiritual as well as physical)…but even seeing what these women do to reach their “goals” as mothers is moving. We work hard, we daven, we wash dishes, we put on band-aids, we daven, we help teach them how to cope through life’s challenges, we daven, we daven, we daven…May we all be zoche to raise amazing children and have true Yiddishe Nachas! 🙂

  5. I”m totally teary eyed. What did it for me was the kids thanking their Moms and expressing the appreciation they felt for all the hard work their Moms had to put into them. Rishe, I hear what you’re saying, I would never wake my kids at the crack of dawn to practice a sport so they could win a gold medal in the olympics. But I WOULD wake my kids at the crack of dawn for davening or something that we felt was important for them. Thanks Chana Jenny!

  6. Working hard at a goal and disciplining yourself and getting the rewards of good self esteem and pride (the good kind) is something to indeed be inspired by and get teary eyed. I am not for parents who push their kids when they don’t want it, and would just rather play jump rope outside, but if this is what the child wants and has a special talent, why not learn and be inspired by it? Jewish kids need to feel proud about what they do as well, and parents get great nachas from their nachas after reaching goals. Why does it have to be a brit mila or an upsherin or as you say a long awaited marriage to be proud. Happiness and confidence is actually not a goyish concept, guys. Try it on sometime.

  7. I’m teary-eyed. Rationally it makes no sense to devote your entire childhood to the goal of swimming butterfly stroke 0.6 seconds faster than the other guy, yet I think we can all see the mashal of the struggles we have as mothers in helping our kids overcome their challenges and reach their potential… And the idea of them thanking us is very moving.
    Of course, the fact that it was an ad for laundry detergent does kinda ruin the moment!

  8. JewishMom

    thanks naomi, that explains why I got teary eyed I think. Cause I really think pursuing sports at an Olympic level is SUCH a value-less waste of time. But as a mashal for our parenting struggles, this commercial is so true…

  9. Chami, I agree with you that happiness and confidence are not goyish concepts.
    But letting little children “decide” what kind of life they “want” at age six or seven – that is.

    • it’s not letting them decide what kind of life they want at 6. if Hashem gave a child a special talent or an overwhelming desire to do something, i believe it’s a gift and it would actually be wrong not to support them in their pursuit. Hashem did not create everyone to fit in 5 or 6 “acceptable” talents. to pursue these talents with discipline is no more or less a waste of time than to spend years in medical school getting no sleep in the process or other tracks in life people pursue. what matters is how you live and what you do with your talents and what kind of person you come out of this world in the process. that’s the only thing that counts. People make the grave mistake — with devastating results —that only place value on someone who sits and learns all day. remember there was yissachar AND zevulun. In addition, i have learned that we will be taken to task for the pleasures that we did not take advantage of when we are in bet din shel malah. my point is that we do not have to be so judgemental and we can definitely be inspired by those who have overcome challenges and won, and gone through great discipline to achieve their goals. They in fact are very Jewish concepts and provide yiddishe nachas–guilt free–if it is allowed.

  10. Amanda Elkohen

    Before he was Frum, my DH wrestled with the goal of reaching the Olympics. He was accepted to the US national team and traveled in the Junior Olympics in HS, before a knee injury in football ruined his chances in wrestling. He had a normal childhood, (played Soccer, was an Eagle scout, etc)and didn’t start wrestling until Junior High. Would his time have been better spent elsewhere? possibly, but I’ll tell you one thing, his wrestling discipline developed in his teen years is what drives him to be successful in his Yiddishkeit now. He’s confident that those hard years of training drove home that if you want it, you can get it, you just have to work hard, which is what he’s done with Torah study for the last 10 years. Setting hard-to-reach goals and achieving them through discipline and hard work are the ikar to learning to be successful. If it’s pinning last year’s state champion on the wrestling mat because you out-trained him this year, or Learning through a particularly difficult gemarra until you have it baal peh doesn’t matter, in the world of being a successful individual, at least. And as parents, we should be thrilled to help our kids develop these skills, however they come.
    You will find very few former Olympians (I know 2 former gold medalists personally) who are not also successful in whatever else they put their mind to.

    • JewishMom

      wow, this gives a whole new twist to the whole debate…fascinating. Winning the olympic medal not as the ultimate end but as a means to an end….

      • I agree with Amanda. We really can’t compare our “yiddishe” goals to “goyishe” goals. What we can do is find the common thread. Any caring parent wants her child to learn discipline, to find and nurture his strengths, to care about self-development and progress, to be hard-working and to strive for what they believe in etc etc ….. the “means” themselves are, in fact, the goal. Any parent with a kid who has those “middos” or “qualities”, can be proud of their child, no matter what their cultural background.

      • Since it is my wrestling career that is under discussion I will chime in.

        The first thing to understand about professional atheletes and even more so about Olympic atheletes, that 99.9% of the time, it is not the most talented that make it to the Olympics(or even national competitions). It is those who work the hardest. Those that have the most discipline and determination.

        While I give all the credit in the world to someone who actually walks away with an Olympic medal, most never will. For the vast majority of us, simply making it to the Olympics, or making the national team, and being able to retain one’s place there throughout even a single season, is the ultimate accomplishment.

        Most Olympians(and national team members) are not supported by their respective countries. Which means that in addition to needing to work, sometiems 8hrs a day to maintain their physical edge, they are also out trying to drum up sponsorships. Somehow that part gets left out of all the great Olympian movies.

        Having made the US National team(until an unrelated injury ended my Olympic dream) and having had the opportunity to represent the US internationally, and successfully, is still counted as one of my greatest accomplishments. However, as my wife alluded above, the lessons I took away from that experience are invaluable.

        The first lesson I took away was that there was nothing that I could not achieve with sufficient determination and hard work. One of my coaches, Dan Gable himself a four time Olympic gold medalist, used to say, the key to success is easy, find out what the competition is doing and do twice as much.

        The other thing I learned was extreme perseverance. At that level of competition illness and injury cannot be allowed to stop you, and unless it is really dire, even slow you down. Even now, this is what keeps me learning three sedarim a day, every day, if the kids kept me up all night, or if I spent the night in the ravages of a stomach flu, as long as I won’t make the blatt messy, I’m going.

        The truth is there are few things in this world that can teach those lessons to that degree, aside from elite sports and elite military units(which is probably why I work(ed) with latter). In my opinion those mother’s have every right to be immensely proud, and the Yiddishe Velt would do well to reconsider their attitude on sports(like the Rambam suggested).

        • JewishMom

          I am finding this whole discussion really fascinating, thanks so much for sharing your experience

        • my husband is a long-distance runner. when we first did teshuva, he asked his Rav about continuing to work towards his dream: participate in the New York Marathon. His rav said yes.
          after he participated in it, he found that his Rav used his story as an example of how to implement the concept of Ratzon, similar to what Rabbi Tzdok says, where one can accomplish anything as long as he puts his Will to it.

          on a lighter note, my mother has always said that it is not the truly talented that usually “make it”. It is usually those with the greatest drive. which is why you can walk into an art museum and say to yourself, “that’s art? why, even I can do that!!”….

        • you just said it in a way i have been trying to without success this whole time. thank you for being an example and sharing it for others so that they can widen their perspective.

  11. Me, too! Thank you so much, Rabbi Tzadok.
    How do we get the Orthodox world to reconsider its attitude about sports? They’re important for the reason Rabbi Tzadok gives – building character which you then use your whole life for kedushah – and also for simple physical health. Why must the typical Talmud student be pale, thin, and hunchbacked? And if he goes to play basketball for a half hour a day, he is labeled a “bum”? It’s simply wrong. The Rambam is right.

    • Hear hear!!! This IS getting really interesting.

      I often struggle to understand how the Torah world learns and reveres the Rambam, but somehow doesn’t quite “live the message”. This is a very distressing thought for me as a baalat teshuva with four boys either in or on the way to the Talmud Torah system.

  12. Let me share a story. Dan Gable after being awarded his first Olympic Gold medal, refused to speak to reporters and give interviews claiming that he was exhausted, understandably so, and retired to his room.
    The next morning the reporters were waiting outside his door. He came out, said not a word, and took off on a 7mile run. When he returned from the run to change(as it would be into his training clothes to make use of the Gym), the reporters asked him what he was doing.
    His initial reply: “The clock has been restarted”.
    The reporters asked, “What clock.”
    He replied, “The Olympic clock.”
    A little known piece of Olympic lore, is that at the training center in Colorado, each sport has a clock that counts down from the end of the final competition of their sport at one Olympics to the commencement of competition at the next, so that the Athletes know exactly how much time they have to prepare(it also has been shown to help them focus by having a fixed goal in sight).
    What Dan Gable(a man who would go on to win his next three Olympic Gold medals without his opponents scoring a single point against him) was doing was preparing for the next Olympics. No party, no siyum, no resting on his admittedly well deserved laurels. He simply restarted the preparation for the next.
    That sort of dedication, drive and determination is what the Olympic Committee of every nation hopes to instill in its athletes, even those who never make the national team, let alone an Olympic team.

  13. whoa, this is starting to sound like an Olympics recruiting blog…we need to remember that these are GREEK and not Jewish values. It doesn’t matter how much the Olympics taught you perserverance, you’ve WASTED years of your life in pursuit of utter uselessness. Years of girsa d’yankusa, lost on athletic tips and techniques. And having known a few Olympic hopefulls, I can’t help of think of the (related) injuries and dashed hopes they were scarred with at a young age, despite their efforts (which are not always enough!) But I think the most salient point is the famous mashal: if you are asked to build a table, and you put in a lot of effort but it still comes out crooked, no one is going to want that table. No one will appreciate your crooked product. But if you toil and Torah and mitzvos, at avodas hamiddos, at chessed–even if your results are lackluster, Hashem appreciates your efforts. You still get a gold medal on His podium.

    • Good thing no one told Rabbi Yishmael that learning things from Greeks was a bad idea. Otherwise he nay not have plagerised Plato’s 13 rules of dialetic as his 13 principles for Torah study.

      • Chana, I disagree. Not everyone grows up frum. Nothing is ever wasted if we choose to use it or learn from it at a later stage in life, as when someone becomes torah observant after living a secular life for many years. This is the essence of drawing holiness from the profane: the ultimate tikkun.
        If someone can use the qualities they learned as sportsman, supermodel or wall-street powerbroker for Kiddush Hashem, then who can say that their years of gaining that experience were wasted?

        • YL, I didn’t say there was no to’eles in his Olympic past, I completely agree that there is great to’eles in being a ba’al teshuva and having non-frum experiences–primarily because they make you appreciate frumkeit even more! How would you view a ba’alas teshuva who said the years she had a great body and flaunted it all over town were “some of the best years of [her] life”? You’d think something was really lacking in her hashkafa, I think…
          There’s a difference between appreciating what we’ve learned from our past and proposing it as a good option for the future. Would you want to be one of these Olympic moms?

          • You do realize that all of the Rishonim said that exercise and sport was extremely important don’t you?

            You claim that competition is a Greek idea. Then say working hard on whatever level to whatever outcome will make us all equally rewarded. That idea is entirely Greek, it could have been copied directly out of Plato’s Republic, or the monologues of the souls in Hades from Homer’s Odyssey. It is also a view that our Rabbis thoroughly rejected. See Rambam’s pirush on the 10th chapter of Sanhedrin(which actually became one of the fundamentals of the Jewish faith), for a full treatment see Yesodei HaTorah(a pirush on those fundamentals of Jewish faith) by Rabbi Shimon Algassi.
            While this idea that we all get a gold star for (supposed as without any sort of testing who is to say who is giving full effort)effort despite the results may be a great lesson for young children in Gan. Ultimately it runs contrary to the basis of Jewish faith.
            The original Mifal HaShas was run like an Olympic training program, and their a few(very very few) Kollelim that still run that way. The truth is the average learner doesn’t want to spend that kind of self-sacrifice on Torah. They would rather run to every simha and levaya then be occupied with their daf.

  14. There IS a difference between competitive sports and the Olympics. The Olympics, as you may or may not know, are based on Avodah Zarah (look at the origins of the games, and many of the “traditions” therewith).

    Sports, exercise, etc. – those are all completely usable for increasing in Avodas Hashem.
    Olympics – may not be “kosherable” (although of course lessons learned from there in the past are still good lessons)

    • that was exactly my point–thanks N for stating it more clearly. Keeping in shape, letting loose, exercising your heart–all of these have absolutely nothing to do with dedicating two-three decades of your life in Olympic pursuits. I am not sure why people feel Rambam said otherwise…

    • So we have moved from Bittul Zman to Avodah Zara. Interesting, though innaccurate. The modern Olympic Games(run by the IOC) are only loosely based on the original Greek games, and then the primary carry over was the supposed idea of peace(supposedly during the Greek games the Greeks had to stop fighting one another during the games), and the IOC has has it’s mission statement, “To foster international communication and peace”

      There are no sacrifices to foreign deities(or any deity for that matter). In addition, as more and more Orthodox people have begun competing at an Olympic level, major Rabbanim(including the Rabbanut) have ruled that there is no inherent halakhic problem with competing in the games and that even women(in certain events) may compete(that came up with an Orthodox TKD competitor in last summer Olympics).

      As far as dedicating 2-3 decades of your life to Olympic pursuits, unless your name is Dan Gable, and you go on to be the winningest coach ever, after being the winningest competitor ever, that’s just not going to happen. This may surprise you, but most Olympians(until the actual run up to the games) have full time jobs and do their sport as an extremely dedicated hobby.

      • A) Not all Rabbonim agree with you.

        B) Are you, or are you not, promoting specifically that frum Jews train for and compete in the Olympics? My first impression was not, now I seem to be hearing yes.

        I have no problem encouraging men, women, bochurim, girls, and all children to be involved – even very involved – in forms of physical exercise, dedication, and perseverance.

        From there to competing in the Olympics, however, is a big leap.

        • There are very few things that ALL Rabbanim agree on. Perosnally I hold by Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Shlomo Amar, they had no problem with it when approached for psakim… So neither do I. There are a great many Rabbanim that say internet access at all is equivalent to Avodah Zara, but here we all are. So really this argument is a moot point.

          The second question you have.
          A)Am I actively advocating that Jews(or anyone) be groomed for Olympic level competition… NO.
          B)No one trains for the Olympics unless they have made their national Olympic team. However the step between local competitive sports clubs and the Olympic team, depending on the sport can be enormous or it can be minuscule. In most of the sports I competed in in my younger years(wrestling, Track and Field, 4 position riflery) the step between is minuscule.
          c)Personally I am going to encourage my chidlren to take part in sports. If that leads them to the Olympics(which it probably will not to be entirely honest), I’m not going to protest, and in fact will be a very proud and happy parent. I do not see Olympic competition as something inherently non-Jewish.

          Hopefully that answers all of your questions. I really have no desire to continue to argue this as it would be pointless. You follow your Rav. I will follow mine.

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