Rules for the Shabbat Olympics
Today, in case you hadn't heard, the London Olympic Games will commence.
To celebrate, and in recognition of the proximity of some of our shuls to some of the events, wouldn't it be fitting if we were to hold an "Olympic Shabbat" this weekend?
Obviously, on Shabbat, events such as cycling, shooting, sailing and probably archery, have to be excluded on halachic grounds. In addition, our congregations are probably not that sporty, and our older members would struggle with the likes of trampolining and weightlifting. So, in the spirit of being inventive, I've found some alternatives.
Weightlifting: The obvious substitute is Torah lifting. Who can lift the heaviest scroll in the shul the highest and widest? Extra points if you can lift two simultaneously. The entire shul is disqualified if one is dropped.
The shul is disqualified if a scroll is dropped
Athletics: On your marks - who can read the Amidah the fastest? Every syllable must be pronounced (silently) and correct body movements must be observed in the appropriate places.
High jump: For this, the mechitzah, which in some shuls divides the men from the women, needs to have an adjustable height. At the end of the service, men will attempt to jump into the women's section and vice versa, with the height raised until only the fittest remain. It is advisable to have a defibrillator nearby for health and safety reasons.
Equestrian: The adjustable mechitzah may also be used for this event (it may be easier getting horses through the doors than new members).
Synchronised event: Will need to be postponed until Sunday. Teams must synchronise the wrapping of tefillin while reciting the appropriate words in unison. Style and elegance are vital and points will be deducted for any slipping headgear or untidy straps.
Handball: A tricky one, it will depend on full support from the congregation. After each man is called up for an aliyah, he needs to shake hands with the all the congregants in the fastest time. The higher the numbers at the service, the greater the number of points, which are then divided by the time elapsed.
Fencing: This will take all the skill of the attending referee (rabbi) who will take a point from the sidra and explain what it means. Competitors then have to quote rabbinical authorities' different interpretations until a conclusion is reached. Note that this event is quite likely to overrun its allotted time.
Wrestling: This will take place at the kiddush. Athletes need to use all their strength and skill to find the optimal position at the table and grab as much food and wine in 20 seconds, knocking any opponents out of the way with sharp elbows, then devouring the contents without dropping any crumbs or stopping for a chat. It is advisable to go into training before this highly competitive event.
Taekwondo: As above, but rougher and so more suitable for buffets at weddings and barmitzvahs.
Of course, keeping fit is not just for the Olympic season. What about alternative fencing on Succot, using the lulavim to duel? At Pesach, we can offer the shot-putt contest, using extra large cinnamon balls that competitors must rotate seven times on the bimah and project to the furthest point in the shul's car park.
Rabbis can give their longest ever sermons, in the hope of winning the marathon and beating the record of 16 hours and four minutes - after which the congregation needed resuscitation. It is hoped that the Chief Rabbi will present the winning rabbis with the medals: Goldberg, Silverstone, and Bronstein.
Neil Abrahams is treasurer of Catford & Bromley Synagogue