Paintball, Boxing, and Other Unsafe Amusement


paintballBy Rabbi Yaakov Rappaport

Paint ball is a game in which two teams fight against each other using guns that are powered by carbon monoxide. The guns shoot paint balls which travel in excess of 150 miles per hour. When the paint ball hits the target of the other team it is frequently accompanied by a small bruise marking the point of impact.

The question therefore arises as to whether one is allowed to play such a game since when he shoots his gun and hits his opposing team mate he may cause a bruise? Causing a bruise in this situation may be a prohibition from the Torah. How do we know in general that causing a bruise is an issur from the Torah? The Gemora in Makos 23A learns from the posuk “Loh yosif pen yosif” – that one should notadd on to malkus an extra malkus, lest you do so. The messenger from Bais Din may not add more whippings than the guilty party is required to receive. The gemora in Sanhedrin 85B tells us that if a Shliach Bais Din who is performing a Mitzvah by punishing the guilty party is prohibited from adding even one extra lash, how much more so is it prohibited to hit an innocent party who is underserving of such treatment. Based on the above it is clear that one who hits a fellow Jew is transgressing a Torah prohibition of “Loh yosif pen yosif”.

The Gemora in Kesubos 32A discusses the five payments required when one injures his fellow Jew. They are 1. Nezek – Damages – how much the person became devaluated through the injury 2. Tzar – Pain 3. Ripui – doctor bills and medication 4. Sheves – lost wages due to not being able to work 5. Boshes – shame.

In paint ball there are no doctor bills or payment for loss of work due to the minor bruises involved but nevertheless it could still be considered a bruise in that the one who inflicted the damage could receive malkus for transgressing the prohibition of “loh yosif pen yosif”.

On an ideological level it is not clear if playing paint ball is an issue. On the one hand one can argue that it is not proper to play war games which involve violent action. On the other hand one might argue that paint ball teaches survival skills and the value of team work.

Our focus is on whether allowing my friend to inflict bodily harm upon me involves any Halachic issues and considerations?

Wrestling and Boxing

A related subject concerns wrestling and boxing. The Teshuvas HaRosh discusses a case where two individuals wrestled with one another as a sport and when one upended the other on the floor he accidently blinded him. Is the damager responsible for the five payments mentioned above? The Rosh rules that he is not obligated to pay. The Mechaber in C.M. Simon 421: 5 rules also that he is patur. The Sema there in s.k. 10 explains that there are two reasons that he is not obligated. The first is that since both participants agreed to engage in this recreational sports activity with the full knowledge that accidents are possible to happen it is considered that they both forgave each other for any monetary responsibility that might occur. The second reason is that although Odom Mued L’Olom – a person is always considered responsible for his actions, however the Rosh is of the opinion that if it is an Ohnes Gamur – a totally uncontrollable accident, in such a case we do not say the above rule and the person is exempt from any monetary responsibility. Since in wrestling the individual is under attack and must defend himself it is considered an Ohnes Gamur. The Ramban argues on the exemption of Ohnes Gamur but the Mechaber agrees with the Rosh and the one who caused the damage is absolved from any fiscal payments.

The same question we raised earlier concerning paint ball can be asked. True, there is no monetary obligation as a result of boxing or wrestling as a sport or for that matter paintball but does the damager transgress the prohibition of “loh yosif per yosif” for inflicting the bodily injury?

We find a dispute among the Poskim concerning this question. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav in Hilchos Nizkei HaGuf in s. 4 writes that although the Mechaber freed the one who damaged in the above cases from monetary responsibility based on the forgiveness of the one who received the damage however no one has the right to forgive the physical injury. One is not allowed to permit someone else to inflict bodily harm since a person’s body is not his own. It belongs to Hashem. So too the Chavas Yaer in Simon 163 rules that even in monetary matters one can not forgive any prohibition. An example is the prohibition of ribis. Although the borrower consents to paying the interest he has no right to transgress the Torah’s prohibition. So too concerning bodily injury. One can not forgive the issur of “loh yosif pen yosif” of his partner. The Chazon Ish C.M. Simon 19:5 agrees with the Chavas Yaer.

We find other Gedolim who disagree. The Minchas Chinuch in Siman 48:3 states that there is no prohibition to allow someone to slap you in the face. The Mechaber’s exemption for damages caused through wrestling, according to the Minchas Chinuch, apply to the issur of “loh yosif pen yosif” and not only to being exempt from the five payments. The Turei Even in Megilah 28 agrees.

American Summer Camp Activities

What is the practical outcome of all of the above? For example, can an American summer camp permit their staff or campers to be involved in a paint ball activity? On the one hand it would seem that we need to be machmir. One reason to be more stringent is that there were three poskim who prohibited dangerous sports activities, even with forgiveness by the injured person, and only two pokim who permitted. The majority prohibited such activity. Also, we are dealing with a prohibition of the Torah where we have the rule of sofek d’oraisah l’chumrah i.e. when in doubt be stringent. Rav Elyashiv Zt’l in fact prohibited paint ball activity based on the above.

American poskim however have been more lenient and have relied on what Rav Elchonon Wasserman H’YD has written in the Kovetz Heoros Simon 70. He writes there that prohibitions pertaining to Bein Odom L’Chaveiro and interpersonal relationships are only prohibited if they are done in a destructive and harmful manner. Loshon Harah is a good example. If the evil gossip is said l’toeles i.e. for some benefit to a fellow Jew, under certain criteria, it is in fact permitted. Based on this reasoning, American camps have permitted paint ball activities which are done for fun and in a good natured manner and are not intended to be destructive or harmful.


{ Newscenter}


  1. This is of course very interesting. Does Hashem decree that paintball is an impure game of inappropriate direction and foolish enterprise?

    I would think that had I played paintball in my earlier days, I would likely not be playing any further today. That said, I would not count it as a sin but I might look back and laugh at my maturity.

    Still, Wrestling is a very intelligent sport for an aggressive young youth and I have seen many young men excel from the skills learned in terms of perseverance, direction and form from that sport. I would not think it should be ruled out but if your child is such that it would be an inappropriate feeling for him to be on the mats, one might think it was not a good thought.

    This sort of rabbinical discussion is very interesting. It makes you wonder if Hashem is going to decree our people unsufferable.

    But the reality is that Torah guides us to know that G-d has in fact authorized a world where there are some dumb recreations and this is not the evil that the world must put an end to.

    So I would not get to upset if a child wanted a slightly dangerous activity. The resulting bruises can teach him some dignity from what he might go through in his own pain and suffering. Overall, its not a mess. But to avoid bodily injury is smart. A true yeshiva student is going to spend that time studying. Maybe go for a running or swimming experience.

    I never did either of these activities and it is unlikely I would endorse them in my own children. But if that is the whole purpose that they want to live that day, I would oblige.

    G-d is with the creative mood and the trust in good sense. I can not think this is bad.

    I would be the one to tell you not to parachute or rock climb. That is the bruise that does not go away.


  2. Don’t forget football (especially tackle) and hockey as well as basketball and baseball (where the contact is more incidental but is also inevitable).

  3. The Canisters are filled with compressed Carbon Dioxide, not Monoxide.

    Additionally, Rambam only holds one responsible if the attack was דרך נציון ובזיון. It thus follows that Rambam would also hold paintball to be permissible, assuming all parties are mochel.