Yevamos 63a: Babe Ruth and the Jewish Question

Yevamos 63a: What is the meaning of the verse, “All the families of the earth will be blessed in you”? Even the families that live in the earth are only blessed for the sake of Israel. “All the nations of the earth [will be blessed for his sake]” – even the ships traveling from Gaul to Spain are only blessed for the sake of Israel.

ואמר ר׳ אלעזר, מאי דכתיב: (בראשית י״ב) ונברכו בך כל משפחות האדמה וכו’ אפילו משפחות הדרות באדמה, אין מתברכות אלא בשביל ישראלֹ (בראשית י״ח) כל גויי הארץ ־ אפילו ספינות הבאות מגליא לאספמיא, אינן מתברכות אלא בשביל ישראל.

A little Jewish boy on the East Side of New York came home from school and with great excitement told his grandfather, “Grandpa! Imagine! Babe Ruth hit three homers today!”

“Tell me,” asked the old man, “what this Babe Ruth did – is it good for the Jews?”

The above joke appeared in “A Treasury of Jewish Folklore,” published in 1948 by Nathan Ausubel, p. 426. Little did whoever cracked the joke know how much truth lay in it.

On March 16, 2013, speaking at a melaveh malka for K’hal Shaarei Shalom of Nostrand and Avenue P, Rabbi Avrohom Daniel Ginsberg, rosh kollel of Bais Medrash of Flatbush, told the following story. R’ Chatzkel Levenstein and the Mirrer Yeshiva arrived in Brooklyn shortly after WWII. In the summer of 1948, the great baseball star Babe Ruth died, and approximately 80,000 people participated in his funeral. R’ Chatzkel came into the beis medrash then, gave a klop, and remarked about the sadness, the atzvus, that had descended upon the populace with the death of the baseball hero, which puzzled him. He was bewildered by the veneration for a mere ball player. Rav Ginsburg humorously described how people tried to explain to the great European baal mussar, R’ Chatzkel, in Yiddish, the American national pastime of baseball, and the greatness of Babe Ruth. Their efforts were in vain, however, as R’ Chatzkel remained baffled as to how Ruth’s athletic feats, great as they were, had earned him such veneration. According to R’ Shlomo Brevda, who was one of the Americans present then along with R’ Refoel Green, that experience, along with its accompanying feeling of dissonance, was an impetus for R’ Chatzkel ultimately deciding to leave America and move to Eretz Yisroel, where he subsequently served as mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva and Ponevezh in Bnei Brak until his passing, approximately 25 years later.

Perhaps, then, the home runs hit by Babe Ruth helped build two of the greatest yeshivas in the world!

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