Frum Boy Bravely Walks Off Field When Asked to Remove Tzitzis

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lipskierWhat happens when an umpire instructs a 9-year-old frum boy to remove his tzitzis? The following is an email that Rabbi Mendy Lipskier, Director of Chabad Lubavitch of Fountain Hills in Arizona, sent to his community:

I’d like to share a real life experience that occurred in our family recently. The “Kid and the Yid” is our son, Yossi, 9 years old, an avid baseball fan, and valuable team member on our local Little League team. We recently dropped him off, “uniformed up” at “the diamond” for the regular game.

We do as all little league parents normally do, sometimes we stay, sometimes we drop off. Due to other commitments, this particular day we dropped him off leaving him in his uniform with his coach and teammates.

What happened next was the “foul ball.”

The game was going fine, with Yossi (as always) very actively participating, and very much looking forward to his “at bat.” As he came up to bat, the umpire happened to notice that Yossi wears two uniforms, his team uniform, and also the fringe undergarment uniform of every male Jew – Tzitzit.

And then, for the first time, the umpire insisted that Yossi remove his Tzitzit in that it could produce some type of “interference or unfair advantage.”

Yossi –the only Jewish boy, not just on the team, but we think in the entire league– respectfully explained to the umpire that he is wearing a religious undergarment, had never had an issue with this previously, however the umpire would not listen, decrying in affect “foul ball.”

What was Yossi to do? Disrespect the umpire (an adult), or disrespect his religion?

To Yossi, the choice was easy and clear. He had “two feet on the ground” in more ways than one. He walked off the field and would not play!

But then another thing happened: The game stopped. Fellow members of Yossi’s team volunteered to walk off the field and forfeit the game in its entirety in support of him.

After a significant “pow-wow” between the coaches and the umpire, Yossi was allowed to play, “double uniforms” and all.

So what educational opportunity does this story lend itself to?

1. Tzitzit is a sign of Jewish pride. Jews have always had a way of dress to distinguish them from the people of the lands in which they lived-even when that meant exposing themselves to danger and bigotry. By the grace of G?d, today most of us live in lands where we are free to (and should) practice our religion without such fears.

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, unacceptance and religious intolerance still run rampant, and people exhibiting those traits, among other “blind acts,” might see Tzitzit as just part of a “fringe religion.” However, we actually see it as a symbol of “forget-me-knots.” Today, whether it be a Yamulke, a Mezuzah, or Tzitzit (ideally all), as Yossi did, we should all wear our “Jewish uniform” unapologetically with pride and with our head’s held high.

As we know, 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.


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  1. I love the umpire’s insinuation that tzitzit give an advantage. They do.

    Kol Ha Kavod Yossi, and thank you to the team mates who respected and supported him.

  2. Yossi made a true Kiddush Hashem and his parents can be very proud of him. It is also beautiful that his teammates, who are not even Jewish, joined him in support and were willing to forfeit the game. They must be good boys who are being raised by their families with proper values. Their parents should be thanked as well.

  3. This could have been avoided had we recognized our place in golus. It’s their field and their game and their state and their country. Chazal have instituted many rachchokas about socializing with the umos haolam. Stam yeino, bishul akum, etc. While the boy ought to be commanded for standing up for his yidishkite, the parents on the other hand should not have to put their son through this. The lesson of this debacle should be to try to establish a yiddish team.

  4. The purpose of tzitzit is to remind the wearer to keep the mitzvot (check out the last paragraph of the Shema). Jews are required to dress modestly. Other than that, in most cases where Jews dressed differently it was forced upon them by non-Jewish authorities who wished to prevent open social interaction with Jews. It is only in recent centuries that dress has become an “identity badge.” The dress of modern-day Williamsburg is simply that of Polish noblemen of a few centuries ago.

    Perhaps the umpire simply had no clue as to what the tzitzit means. As the father pointed out, religiously observant Jews aren’t so common in his area.

    That said, we still should praise this boy for making the right choice, and his team-mates for standing with him.

  5. Kiddush Hashem. Me Ki’amcha Yisroel? Kol Yisroel yesh luhem cheilek li’olam haba. Vi’ahavta lireacha kimocha. Am yisroel chai.

  6. Perhaps our teenage bochurim who SADLY routinely play without their tzitzis learn from this 9 year old. He sounds like Rav Amrom Bloi when he fought for Shabbos in Yerushalayim some 50 years ago!
    May the Ribono Shel Olam see who HIS nation is!
    And be proud!!

  7. I’m glad Yossi n”y took this stand and that his teammates backed him up, but couldn’t he have just tucked them in? Also, as a BT, I’ve been forced by circumstances into situations and environments that are not to my liking and in which I’m the odd man out therefore, I cannot understand why frum parents would deliberately put their child in an environment that could be potentially harmful to his ruchniyus. You won’t let your child go to school with these children, so why are you letting him play with them? Playing with your non-Jewish neighbor’s child under your hashgacha is one thing, but allowing him to play with and be exposed to all kinds of other children in an uncontrolled environment is a whole different ballgame.

  8. Oldtimer
    Actually, one of the reasons we were able to be taken out of Mitzrayim was because we would not adapt our clothes to those of the other nations. A Jewish “identity badge” is a very old concept indeed.

  9. #4: Please pull your head out of your gemara, and provide contemporary piskei hallachah to back up your comment, especially given the particular circumstances of this incident and its locations. For example, how does one establish a Yiddishe team for this boy when he’s the only Yid in the league?

  10. Great Chinuch by his parents, Rabbi & Mrs. Lipskier, and his school, Torah Day School of Phoenix! We’re so proud of you, Yossi!

  11. a wonderful lesson for all! when we yiddin are truly proud and emmesdik with yiddishkeit and mitzvos without complexes and with dignity and don’t walk around with a golus mentality our associates even non Jewish respect us in return just for that, as seen in this story the kids team went along with him!

    Yaasher koach yossi

  12. While Yossi is to be commended for his decision to stand up for his religious principles, the fact is that there was nothing problematic with taking them off if he had chosen to do so. He wasn’t being asked to commit a sin. There is no obligation whatsoever to wear tzitzis. The obligation is only when we have a beged arba kanfos, to have tzitzis on them. But there is nothing wrong with taking off the beged if the situation demands it. (I wonder how many people even realize this.)

  13. #4 Seriously?
    What a Kiddush Hashem, Yossi was respectful both to G-D and adults his parents and school are doing a job that is enviable.

  14. For Parshas Shelach discusses the beautiful Mitzvah we are zoche to do. Kudos to Yossi but a greater Kudos to his parents who obviously instilled in him a Jewish pride that he is proud of. When I went to Moscow we were afraid of the Anti-semitism until we met the Chabad shluchim walking around with frocks and all. ASHREICHEM to you that are proud and that is the lesson I learned from Yossi and all proud Yidden.

  15. To Oldtimer: Checkout the reasons we were allowed out of Egypt. One of them was, we didn’t change our form of dress to look like the Egyptians.
    I think that’s over 30 centuries ago!

  16. Yossi, We are proud of you and congratulations to the teammates for standing behind you! In this merit may you and your teammates be blessed with Happiness and Health and long life!!! Yossi, I have only one Wish, let my friends be as supportive as yours!


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