Oz Torah: A Jewish view of ball tampering – Ask the Rabbi


Q.  The ball tampering scandal has shaken the cricket world. Is there a Jewish perspective?

A.  Cricket has become a religion for some people, but there are moral limits to what bowlers, batsmen and others should allow themselves or be allowed. Better not to have cricket (or any sport!) if there are no standards.

Whether it is test cricket or any other kind, everything must be above board and beyond reproach. It is like business ethics, where the unequivocal Biblical rule is “Just weights and measures shall you have” (Lev. 19:36, Deut. 20:10, 23).

Whatever you are involved in, you must not harm another person or compromise your own conscience. Even if your honesty and integrity do harm to your cause, even if they mean that your place in a team is affected, even if your team is deprived of a win, you have to do the right thing (Psalm 15).

There are all sorts of dodges which you can resort to: but if they smell even a little bit iffy, they’re not for you. Why do I use the word “smell”? Because there is a halachic concept that prohibits not only the wrong thing but something that seems like it.

So you’re going to tell me that sport is very cut-throat and it has no room for saints?

The Jewish answer is twofold:

1. sport must never be above ethics, and if it is there’s something wrong;

2. whatever you do, you have to try to be a saint. We are told in Pir’kei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers (2:5), “In a situation where there is no man (i.e. no ‘mensch’), you must try to be a man”.

So you’re going to tell me that you just have to win this match? Good luck to you, but win because you’re good, not because you cheated to get there.

So you might lose the game? Winning is nice, but being clean is even better.


Q. So many rabbis are mentioned in the Talmud, but why does there not seem to be a Rabbi Abraham, Rabbi Isaac or Rabbi Jacob?


A. There are a number of rabbis called Isaac and a number called Jacob, but as you say there does not seem to be a Rabbi Abraham.

Perhaps it is because the towering stature of the original Abraham is such that it would be difficult for any rabbi to be worthy of this name.

If I am right in this assumption, it applies only to the Talmud, since later generations had no problem with the possibility of a Rabbi Abraham.

The only Biblical name that Jews avoided throughout history was Esau. No parent wanted to burden a child with a name that had such unsavoury antecedents.


Q. Recent discussion has focussed on whether there is a difference between anti-Judaism and antisemitism. Are they not one and the same?

A. In a leaflet entitled “The Religious Factor in Antisemitism”, the Council of Christians and Jews in Britain set the scene:

“Antisemitism has many roots, some of them social, some economic and political, and some religious.

“These last may be traced back through the centuries to the development in Christian thought and teaching of a tendency to hold ‘the Jews’ responsible in a particular sense for the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus and to interpret their sufferings, so often inflicted upon them by their Christian neighbours, as an indication of divine displeasure.

“So deep an impression has this made on the thoughts and feelings of non-Jews that the allegation that ‘the Jews killed Jesus’ is still a factor in twentieth century antisemitism. It was prominent in the Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe.”

The term antisemitism, probably coined by Wilhelm Marr, came into regular use in the last third of the 19th century. Whilst feeding on centuries of anti-Judaism, it put Jew-hatred on a new footing.

Previously, Jew-hatred had a largely religious basis (“Jews rejected Jesus – therefore God rejected Jews”) and Jews could generally release themselves from the curse by means of baptism.

With the secularisation of European society, however, the Jew was seen not so much in terms of Christian dogma but in pseudo-scientific terms (“Jews are inherently inferior with evil and dangerous inherited characteristics, and not even by baptism can they escape their genetic traits”).

It was deemed irrelevant for a Jew to convert to Christianity, assimilate or marry out, or all of them, and Jews had to be banished or exterminated.

In theory this was antisemitism and not anti-Judaism. But the tragic fact is that on countless occasions during the Holocaust, church-going Christians (not the brave and courageous moral and humane souls who risked everything to save and succour persecuted Jews) took part in and justified the annihilation of Jews on the basis that Jews deserved their punishment.

When Rabbi Weissmandl of Slovakia asked a high church official to protect the innocent blood of Jewish children, he was told, “There is no innocent Jewish blood”.

These are issues which continue to challenge the Christian conscience in the midst of the genuine Christian endeavour at t’shuvah.


Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com

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