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Ump Says Boy Can’t Play Ball With Tzitzit; Team Walks Off Field

Little Leaguer has to choose between team uniform, "God uniform".

Little League player steadies himself. (illustrative photo only)

Little League player steadies himself. (illustrative photo only)
Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

For most nine-year-olds, a choice between playing Little League baseball and honoring a religious commandment would be an easy one to make: Mitzvot might be nice, and all, but when there’s a game on the line… well, you know. Not for Yossi, of Fountain Hills, Ariz. When an umpire told him he couldn’t take his turn at bat recently, he calmly tried to explain that the “illegal uniform” was a religious garment mandated by the Torah called tzitzit. The umpire, however, was unmoved, and ordered Yossi to remove the tzitzit for fear that “it could produce some type of interference or unfair advantage.” According to COL Live, Yossi –the only Jewish boy, not just on the team, but in the entire league– respectfully but assuredly walked off the field. In addition, Yossi’s team also volunteered to forfeit the game in solidarity with Yossi. Eventually, following a lengthy on-field meeting between the coaches and the umpire, Yossi was allowed to play, “double uniforms” and all. COL Live offered four lessons to be gleaned from Yossi:

  1. Tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride.
  2. Religious tolerance means to refrain from discriminating against others who follow a different religious path.
  3. The freedom of individuals to believe in, practice, and promote their religion of choice without interference, harassment, or other repercussions shall always prevail.
  4. Ignorance and religious intolerance is still prevalent. The correct way to combat it is to wear “Jewish uniforms” – kippot, tzitzit – with pride.

The website also said that “self-assertion often demands a lot of humility. Doing something out of the ordinary requires putting our image on the line. It means that I care more about my truth than what other people think about me. This is self-esteem that is rooted in soul-consciousness.” It also cited a lesson from The Lubavitcher Rebbe about the relationship between the Torah and the value of humility.

“The Midrash tells us that God chose Mt. Sinai, and not a more impressive mountain, to teach us the value of humility. The question, of course, is this: If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all? Why not a plain, or even a valley? The mere term “Mt. Sinai” is an oxymoron. It’s a mountain, towering and majestic. And it’s Sinai, meager compared to her sister mountains, humble. If humility is paramount, why did G-d give us the Torah on a mountain at all?

“When G-d gave us the Torah and inaugurated us into Jew-hood, He said, “You are going to need to be real strong to be a Jew.” Be a mountain. Have a backbone. Be a charismatic light unto the nations, and don’t give a hoot if people laugh at you. “But be a humble mountain. Humble in your recognition that your strength comes from G-d. Your life’s value is not about your image, it’s about your higher calling. Don’t measure yourself against the standards set by your neighbors; measure yourself against your soul’s potential,” said COL Live.

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83 Responses to “Ump Says Boy Can’t Play Ball With Tzitzit; Team Walks Off Field”

  1. I am asking this as a serious question: Does not a boy wait until bar mitzvah to wear the tzitizit?

  2. Ita Benjamin says:

    Traditionally a boy starts wearing tzitzit at the age of three, Chaplain.

  3. Doug Lewis says:

    Is the commandment not that “you” should see the tzitzit, thus they can be wrapped around the belt as many of my business associates do and the ump would not have noticed them.

  4. Michael Hart says:

    Why isn’t it an option to tuck his tzitsis in his pants?

  5. Are we now in 1935 Germany that we have to hope others don’t notice our religion. This America … Check the constitution I am pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about an ump dictating any caveats to religious freedom.

  6. He should not have to.

  7. The ump should be reprimanded.

  8. Are we now in 1935 Germany that we have to hope others don’t notice our religion. This America … Check the constitution I am pretty sure it doesn’t say anything about an ump dictating any caveats to religious freedom.

  9. Ed Nagler says:

    Even better, let’s applaud his team for standing by their team mate!

  10. Doug Lewis says:

    Why is everything nazi Germany
    At that moment the ump had a boy out of uniform. Kid in our league wore the wrong pants and was called on it. The ump and the boy were both entitled to due process but not at that moment. I went the the league before the season to have kippas approved for my basketball team. The unknowing ump had rules to follow and he should be commended for his integrity. I would forfeit a game if my players were not allowed to wear kipot and tzitzit but I would not spring it on them unexpectedly. It is not religious discrimination because we can’t do everything in a foreign land

  11. Oh my gosh!! Adults grow up , you are teaching children to hate – imposing your beliefs and ANAMOSITY !!
    Let children be children !!

  12. If it is not part of the uniform than he shouldn’t wear it. Where does it end? If you allow this then how about a burka or turban or anything else.

  13. Karen Bryant says:

    Good for them. Nice to see some backbone. We are used to seeing spineless people giving in.

  14. This garment makes no diference, it is made of a very light material .
    Incomparable with a burqa!

  15. Thank you; my next question would relate to the consistency in which the child observes this mitzvoth. Does he wear the tzitizt all of the time, or just in uniform. If he wears it all of the time, then he must be allowed to wear it; this is a constitutionally protected right.

  16. Yes I agree with Doug Lewis why does everything have to turn into Nazi Germany? Is that the jewish version of the race card? Just because an umpire doesn’t consider an item, regardless of its religious significance, part of the boy’s uniform, doesn’t mean he is going out of his way to oppress this kid’s religious beliefs. There is a time and place for everything. God is always with you no matter what you wear.

  17. Adorable little boy with a big glove and a big heart ! And great teammates whose parents are teaching them well.

  18. I have a dream that one day we will live in a world where children in Tzitzit and burka’s play baseball together on the same team and stick up for each other …thankfully we are not in nazi Germany because little boys with Tzitzit were being killed and tortured but this is America where we are constantly working toward a more perfect union… It may make some people who can’t imagine baseball played in a burka uncomfortable. I love children if all races and religions and I can only think of how a child who believes he is serving the wishes of god must feel when he is excluded from something he loves because of it.

  19. Bruce Gelber says:

    All Star on a team of All Stars ….

  20. Chaplain David Robert Grate if he wants to wear it then tuck it in. Just like if I were wearing a cross… jewelery might not be considered part of my uniform, even though it has religious significance to me. I would have no problem tucking it in. It’s not about oppression, its about following rules and being uniform with the team.

  21. In all seriousness, tzitzit worn out by a pitcher does create an unfair advantage (I say this from experience playing in an Orthodox baseball league) because it makes it harder to pick the ball up out of the pitcher’s hand. With that being said, wrapping them around a belt loop is a terrific fix. I don’t see much of an issue when it comes to batting, though maybe it might be harder to pick the ball up off the bat for an infielder. I could not say for sure; I always played outfield. With that being said, wrap the tzitzit around a belt loop, like many kids/adults do and there is no advantage and no reason why kids can’t wear tzitzit. Great job by supportive coaches and teammates. Life lessons are valuable and one was learned, here.

  22. Donny Reich says:

    Elaine, are you an expert in the halachot of tzitzit?

  23. Donny Reich says:

    No, he does not. Some start as early as age 3, or as soon as they are out of diapers. In my school we started in first grade.

  24. Donny Reich says:

    The kid is 9 years old . This is not major league baseball. The umpire needs to lighten up and not take himself so seriously. No harm, no foull by wearing tzitzit.

    I have to add that I have a tremendous amount of respect for this kid. Not a lot of kids can do what he did!

  25. God bless Yossi. Someone has been teaching him correctly. God bless the team and coaches for standing with Yossi.

  26. How did the ump know he was wearing ציצית? If they were hanging out simply tuck them into your pants. Problem solved

  27. My apologies you are obviously correct. As a burka is the same as tzitzit. And those wearing burkas have been given a hard time about their religion throughout the world and throughout history. Stop being afraid to be Jewish.

  28. Ita Benjamin says:

    He wears it all day, like his yarmulke. I think in this case it was simple ignorance on the part of the ump who’d never seen tzitzit before; after consulting with the coaches, the child was allowed to play.

  29. I choose to believe the umpire was simply ignorant. Most of them are 16 year old boys.

  30. Donny Reich says:

    Elaine, Thanks for the lesson on the mitzva and halachot of tzitzit. Are you saying that if the boy is not wearing his tzitzit, he is still fulfilling the mitzva?

  31. I understand where you’re coming from, but it is a simple solution instead of having a team walk off the field.
    If there is a solution use it. My opinion at least

  32. Let children be children for the Love of God. The boy will love God all the more…and his parents, too. I am Jewish, too.

  33. Why can the Christians pray as a team before a game and not take into consideration that everyone on the team may not be. Let’s not penalize someone because of their beliefs. Baseball is a sport, not a religion. Play ball!!!

  34. Can you play ball without tzitzit???

  35. Loren Renee says:

    I applaud the team. That’s real sportsmanship. I can’t imagine the umpires rationalle. I hope s/he is replaced.

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