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In what ways can sports be used as a vehicle to serve God and thus, bring us closer to Him?

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  • If you have a friend or know some folk who are lonely and depressed, in need of exercise and fresh air, then organising a regular kosher sports match/team with a shtikel learning in half time, I can't see why that wouldn't be a huge chessed, but certainly CYLOR
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Feb 19 at 21:49
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    Working out and getting your body healthy can be a mitzvah if you do it l’shem shamayim. So by sports, if you do it to get in shape and keep yourself active and healthy that could be a mitzvah Feb 19 at 23:26
  • Rephrase: can playing sports be in line with following God's commandments?
    – Shalom
    Feb 20 at 1:49

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Maybe not directly an answer, but the Lubavitcher Rebbe would often compare sports, e.g. baseball for example, to our Avodas Hashem. In a Sicha, the Rebbe explained (Shabbos Parshas Shemini, 5740):

Chassidic teachings explain that the desire for victory pushes us to reach much deeper within ourselves and discover our hidden potential. Just as a king in wartime empties his treasury in order to win, it is the battle with the adversary that spurs us all to find new abilities.

This type of conduct is evidenced in sports, specifically in soccer, where two teams oppose each other’s efforts to score a goal. Ideally, the players are not primarily motivated by the money they receive (although of course they must be adequately compensated for their training and effort). Rather, it is their personal desire for victory that is the main motivator.

As in sport, in life one cannot move sluggishly. We must keep moving with vitality, running and jumping to overcome the challenge. This type of service is carried out not just with the brain or heart (though thought and emotion are important) but with the action of the feet. Only by means of putting our Jewish learning into vigorous practice can we hope to emerge victorious in our quest to put the globe in the “Gate of the King.”

In mystical thought, the ball represents how our G‑dly activities must encompass every aspect of our being. Aiming for the goal represents jumping directly to the highest levels of spirituality, bypassing the intermediate stages which would be achieved through incremental growth.

See also this fantastic story, between a boy and the Rebbe, where a lesson is shared about baseball:

Shimshon, born and bred in the New World, was very much the "American Boy". Yet he had enjoyed a close and special friendship with the Rebbe prior to the passing of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe — the Rebbe's father-in-law Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn — which continued on after the Rebbe accepted the mantel of leadership. He now introduced his friend and his friend's son to the Rebbe, who greeted them with his comforting and warm handshake, requesting them to please take a seat.

The Rebbe briefly blessed the boy that he should grow to become a source of pride to the Jewish people and to his family. As they turned to leave, Rebbe surprised the three Americans with the question he addressed to the youngster: "Are you a baseball fan?"

The Bar-Mitzvah boy replied that he was.

"Which team are you a fan of — the Yankees or the Dodgers?"

The Dodgers, replied the boy.

"Does your father have the same feeling for the Dodgers as you have?"

No.

"Does he take you out to games?"

Well, every once in a while my father takes me to a game. We were at a game a month ago.

"How was the game?"

It was disappointing, the 13-year-old confessed. By the sixth inning, the Dodgers were losing nine-to-two, so we decided to leave.

"Did the players also leave the game when you left?"

Rabbi, the players can't leave in the middle of the game!

"Why not?" asked the Rebbe. "Explain to me how this works."

There are players and fans, the baseball fan explained. The fans can leave when they like — they're not part of the game and the game could, and does, continue after they leave. But the players need to stay and try to win until the game is over.

"That is the lesson I want to teach you in Judaism," said the Rebbe with a smile. "You can be either a fan or a player. Be a player."

Outside 770 father and son said goodbye to Shimshon, the three now sharing a new admiration of a pioneer in Jewish education

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