The Sabbath Soccer Dilemma

imagesThough no one will ever accuse me of correct religious observance, since becoming a Jewish mother I’ve always maintained that Saturdays are meant for rest (and the occasional mani-pedi.)

Shabbat at the Yenta house starts with candles on Friday night and usually ends with Havdalah, but sometimes we forget or we’re out and we just sing “Eliahu Hanavi” loudly (especially fun for El Yenta Man on date nights.)

There are a lot of rules about what you are and are not supposed to do during the time in between, but we just do our best to enjoy our environment and each other. I personally avoid laundry, dishes and the computer. If EYM feels that driving to Home Depot and planting some flowers sounds like a good time, he’s welcome to have at it. But our loose-and-fast rule is if it feels like work, it can happen on Sunday.

During the year or so before Yenta Boy’s bar mitzvah (come to think of it, he’s a man now, so perhaps we’ll change his name here to Smaller Yenta Man, SYM for short) we spent some time on Saturdays at synagogue as well. We’d get up late, make my famous challah French toast, don some nice duds and go sit together in a beautiful old building, reciting the prayers of our people (of course, at our synagogue the prayers sometimes sound very different that everywhere else, but that’s a topic for a different blog post.)

Even though the kids grumbled about it on the way, they chanted the V’ahavta loudly and Little Yenta Girl always trotted up to the bima to help with the Torah undressing. My philosophy around Judaism is to do things out of joy rather than obligation, but I daresay that the Yenta family came to look forward to synagogue on Saturdays. And not just because they serve lunch afterwards.

So why stop, you ask? The Saturday following SYM’s big BM began LYG’s first soccer game, and the times have conflicted ever since.

But if you were really committed, you’d find another activity for your kid, you say. Maybe. But LYG is a talented player, which means she’s moved up to the superspecial youth development league that treats her and the rest of the nine-year-olds like they’re training to take on Real Madrid. Two practices a week, multiple games a weekend, travel to glamorous places like Augusta and Macon.

Our reluctant involvement in Fascist Soccer (I was calling it “Nazi soccer” but I decided that was disrespectful to Holocaust survivors) is driven only by the clear evidence that LYG is thriving from the physicality and teamwork, not to mention developing a lethal left foot (a Jewish mother never pooh-poohed a scholarship to anything.)

But Fascist Soccer is cramping my Shabbos Style. Now instead of sitting in an air-conditioned sanctuary wearing my good earrings and a nice dress, I’m slathered with sunscreen in an unshaded green field, swatting the most ferocious and evil swarms of biting gnats known to humankind. It feels like work.

Though I do so love to watch my girl and her Princess Warrior teammates run and play and whoop it up, I end up screaming things like “Offsides!” and “When is this stupid ref gonna get some Lasik?!”

So I’m trying to reconcile my Sabbath Soccer Dilemma. Do I bring a thermos of Bloody Marys to the field to make the games more enjoyable? Do we split the family, with one parent doing soccer duty while the other takes SYM to synagogue, like we did last Saturday? (Shhh, don’t tell EYM they served lemon chicken, his favorite lunch.) Do I construct my own chuppah on the sidelines, giving a spiritual flair to sun protection?

The season only has a few more weeks, so I suppose like most things, it will resolve itself, and we’ll get back to synagogue more often.

But by then I might be used to bringing a lawn chair and cocktails everywhere on Saturdays.

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