Rav Avigdor Miller on Baseball and Avodah Zarah

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Q:
What is wrong with going to baseball games?

A:
It states ולא תלכו בחוקת הגוי –  “You shouldn’t walk in the ways and customs of the nations.” The Rambam states in Hilchos Avodah Zarah that you shouldn’t follow the practices of the goyim. Not because it’s a certain practice that is wrong, but just because we should be different from the gentiles in the way we enjoy, in the way we behave, and even in the way we clothe ourselves. That’s what the Rambam says. Otherwise, if you participate in the things that goyim do, it’s not just that you’re sitting in a baseball stadium. The real problem is that your mind and your dei’os, which means your character traits, will begin imitating the nations with whom you are associating.

Now let’s say you sit down at a ballgame. All of sudden, the pitcher throws the ball and the man at the base gives a whack with the bat and everybody goes crazy: “Whoooo!” They’re shouting! They stamp their feet and he’s running and you are ignited. Your blood becomes ignited by the excitement, which means you are participating in the hevlei hagoyim, the emptiness of the gentiles.To be excited over nothing is avodah zarah.

When Moshe Rabeinu was coming down from Har Sinai, he said, “What’s this kol? What’s this sound that I hear from the camp? אין קול ענות גבורה – It’s not the sound of people shouting thanks to Hashem because they’re winning a victory. That I could understand, to shout to Hashem for gevurah – you’re winning a victory!  ואין קול ענות חלושה – “And it’s not the sound of crying out in weakness. If a person is afraid of losing a battle, he cries out to Hashem for help. That’s also good. So crying out to Hashem in happiness or in entreaty, bakoshoh, I understand. But, קול ענות אנכי שומע – just a voice of making noise for nothing! Noise for the sake of noise! A noise for nothing; that’s avodah zarah, to get excited over nothing. We have to be excited over only one thing in this world: only הללי נפשי את השם – “My soul becomes excited only about Hashem.”

And so, you’re sitting at a ballgame and you go wild over a ball, over a pitcher, over a bat, then you have to know that.you are really sinking your mind into the mire of avodah zarah, and you’re beginning to lose all the segulos, all the precious attributes of the Jewish mind. In order for us to preserve our minds, our emunah, our attitudes, our understanding and our dei’os, our middos of character, our reactions, it’s important to be apart from the goyim.

By the way, it’s important to be apart from wicked Jews too. Not only wicked Jews, even Orthodox Jews who are fools. There are plenty of fools by the Orthodox too; oh yes! You have to be careful with whom you sit with in a beis haknesses. A fool sitting next to you can be speaking loshon harah or leitzanus during the davening. You have to be careful. The Rambam says דרך ברייתו של אדם להיות נמשך בדעותיו ובדרכיו אחר רעיו וחבריו – “A person is drawn in the way he thinks and the way he behaves according to with whom he associates.  Even the Orthodox are included in that.

But to associate with gentiles is a special lav of the Torah. Lo seilchu b’chukas hagoy. It’s telling you that as much as possible you should avoid the things that gentiles do because once you start doing the things that they do, even though it seems harmless, you should know that in all other areas as well your mind begins working like a gentile mind.
TAPE # 928 (September 1993)