Shortly after Moshe received the Torah, we are told of the Children of Israel (Shemot 32:6) that:

ויקמו לצחק

They got up to play.

Presumably, they understood from the Torah that had just been given that they ought to be playing games.

Unfortunately, the verses don’t seem to be very clear regarding what exactly they were playing.

So please enlighten me.

Which sports, games or other pastimes, can you find mentioned or hinted to in Tanach, Talmud, or elsewhere in Jewish literature?

This question is Purim Torah and is not intended to be taken completely seriously. See the Purim Torah policy.

closed as off-topic by msh210 Mar 23 at 22:30

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  • In modern Hebrew “to play” is “לשחק”. If the q presumes the interchangeability as of יצחק-ישחק (cf. Jer. 33:26) you may want to add that point. – Oliver Mar 8 at 15:10
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    The same sport as Ishmael in Genesis 21:9, Isaac in Genesis 26:8, and Joseph in Genesis 39:17? – Alex Mar 8 at 16:16

It seems clear to me from many places that Soccer is one of the Torah's most important games. A few examples:

  1. The going rate for a soccer match back in the day was 400 silver coins, as the Torah states: ארבע מאות שקל כסף עובר לשוכר - Bereishis 23:16 - "400 shekels was the going rate for a soccer match"
  2. Rambam delineates 13 principles of faith. The eleventh is the principle of שכר ועונש, soccer and punishment, implying that there are merely two options in life, either soccer or if not soccer, punishment.
  3. Playing soccer alone is not as good as with a friend - טוֹבִ֥ים הַשְּׁנַ֭יִם מִן־הָֽאֶחָ֑ד אֲשֶׁ֧ר יֵֽשׁ־לָהֶ֛ם שָׂכָ֥ר ט֭וֹב בַּֽעֲמָלָֽם: - quoting Koheles 4:9 - "Two are better than one, in that which they have a good game of soccer when putting in effort"
  4. Pirkei Avos 2:15 - There is lots of soccer.

This is small selection of the many Biblical, Talmudic and later Rabbinic references to soccer and the rest of the topic is left to the reader.

My sincere apologies to the English amongst us who do not appreciate using the word soccer, but it was just too tempting.


I think this is really the cherry on the cake... We find that one of the greatest soccer players of all time is actually an angel. The story is told of the wife of Manoach to whom an angel appeared to inform her that she was going to have a child and to instruct her that the child would be a nazir. At the end of the story, Manoach asks the angel what his name is. He responds "והוא פלאי", which means "My name is Pelé", one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

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    Not to forget the captain of the team of the 3rd century BCE: Antigonos, Man of Soccer – Joel K Mar 9 at 17:03
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    The Torah's reference to Pele is uncanny. – DanF Mar 10 at 17:54
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    @DanF A פלא indeed – Moshe Steinberg Mar 10 at 18:32

It seems that in this particular instance, they were playing a giant game of checkers.

One of the teams' colors was red (Exodus 32:7):

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר ה' אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה לֶךְ־רֵ֕ד

God spoke to Moses, "Go to red!"

They had already gotten quite far in the game, because many of them already had been kinged (33:6):

וַיִּֽתְנַצְּל֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־עֶדְיָ֖ם

And the Children of Israel took off their crowns.

God was quite upset about this game because this is one of two games he dislikes in particular (Psalms 101:7):

לֹֽא־יֵשֵׁ֨ב ׀ בְּקֶ֥רֶב בֵּיתִי֮ עֹשֵׂ֢ה רְמִ֫יָּ֥ה דֹּבֵ֥ר שְׁקָרִ֑ים לֹֽא־יִ֝כּ֗וֹן לְנֶ֣גֶד עֵינָֽי

One who does rummy will not sit in my house; one who speaks of checkers will not stand in front of me!


The Jewish people needed not fear when they left Egypt, since they practiced Karate, as it says (Chagai 2:5):

אֶת-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-כָּרַתִּי אִתְּכֶם, בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרַיִם, ... אַל-תִּירָאוּ.

Because of that which you had Karate with you when you left Egypt ... have no fear.


The very first words of the Torah are, "In the big inning..."

So obviously they played baseball. Indeed, we find them going to games long afterwards. There was a team in Reuven's territory, "base ball Me'on" (Yehoshua 13:17); inter-team agreements, "base ball bris" (Shoftim 9:4); and Achav built a stadium for it in Shomron (Melachim A 16:32), although later it was destroyed in a riot (Melachim B 10:21-27).

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    Maybe the big inning was in cricket? – Double AA Mar 8 at 17:17
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    @DoubleAA Eventually, yes, because the baseball stadiums were repurposed for that, as it says in the Tochacha, יירש הצלצל - the cricket will take it over. – Meir Mar 8 at 17:29

They were playing the popular game "Chamesh Avanim" (a.k.a. Kugelach, see this imamother post for rules). This is clearly detailed in Shmuel Aleph 17:40:

וַיִּבְחַר־ל֣וֹ חֲמִשָּׁ֣ה חַלֻּקֵֽי־אֲבָנִ֣ים
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones


Three-player hackey-sack is considered to be an honorable game, as it says (Shmuel 2 23:19)

מן-השלושה הכי נכבד

Hackey with 3 is honorable


As noted by @Moshe Steinberg, the game was obviously soccer, which ties nicely into Purim as Mordechai himself was a goal-keeper:

(וּמָרְדֳּכַי יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ (אסתר ב' י"ט
And Mordechai sat (was a keeper) in the king's goal

But there was no greater player than G-d himself, as quoted by King David:

(וַיָּרֶם קֶרֶן לְעַמּוֹ (תהלים קמ"ח י"ד
And he (Hashem) raised a corner kick for the entire nation

(reputation too low to add a comment directly to @Moshe Steinberg's superb answer)


Having just heard about

  • Ya'akov's multipurpose staff,

כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִּי אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה

וַיִּקַּח לוֹ יַעֲקֹב מַקַּל לִבְנֶה לַח

  • and the karban pesach eaters' staves,

וְכָכָה תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ מָתְנֵיכֶם חֲגֻרִים נַעֲלֵיכֶם בְּרַגְלֵיכֶם וּמַקֶּלְכֶם בְּיֶדְכֶם

  • and Bil'am's staff,

וַיִּחַר אַף בִּלְעָם וַיַּךְ אֶת הָאָתוֹן בַּמַּקֵּל

they were inspired to play the limited-resources classic שלש מקלות!

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