About the Blog

Educating fellow Jews about the sporting and defensive use of firearms. Especially Jews in North America, too many of whom are instilled with the belief that guns aren't for nice Jewish boys and girls.

If you know of notable Jewish shooters that should be documented on the blog, even if it is only at the local club level, I am happy to report and profile them. And don't be shy if that person to be documented is you! Please drop me a line at jewishmarksman at gmail dot com. Also follow me on twitter @JMarksmanship.

Friday, October 2, 2009

(Jewish) Spirituality of Marksmanship

Anyone who has seriously pursued marksmanship as a hobby will agree that there is a spiritual aspect to the game (or art, as some call it). Whether your game is Bullseye pistol, smallbore rifle, archery, 10-meter, or high power, you've probably been told to read Zen and the Art of Archery. Its not a bad read, but the fact is you don't need to go fumbling around with Asian philosophy to find a spiritual dimension to marksmanship:
Did you know that the word for sin in Hebrew - chet - comes from the sport of archery? So does the word Torah, which refers to the Old Testament scrolls and the text they contain.

When on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, Jews all over the world recite over and over again in the holiday liturgy the words "al chet," which are usually translated as "the sin," what they are really saying is "the missed mark." Hebrew has no real word for sin. There are one or two other words that refer to what we think of as sin, but none that actually mean "sin" per se.

The word Torah means to take aim. Thus, the Torah teaches us to take aim. And sometimes we take aim and miss the mark.
What's the bull's eye? Judaism has 613 mitzvot (commandments), and while observant Jews try to hit them all, most Jews do not. All those mitzvot are meant to help us sharpen our aim. Torah teaches us how to aim in a righteous manner and in a spiritual manner. And each time we aim and shoot, each time we try to hit the target by performing a mitzvah (singular of mitzvot), we remember G-d. We aim towards G-d. If we hit the bull's eye or even come close, we actually connect with G-d. That's what Torah and mitzvot are all about.
(From What's Archery Got To Do With The Jewish High Holy Days? By Nina Amir)

Your development as a marksman and your spiritual development as a Jew can go hand-in-hand, i.e. the practice of a shooting art can be integrated into deeper understanding and better practice of Torah. We each have our own learning styles. Some by listening, some by reading, some by following example. Even within those learning styles, there are big differences among people. Some can glean wisdom from a short fable, others only through lengthy dissertations.

For me, marksmanship has definitely served as the right medium to expand my understanding of Jewish thought and Torah. If you're of like mind and can share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email. I will begin adding my own insights in future blog posts.

1 comment:

  1. Here's another take. Cultural.

    I shoot on or around Jewish holidays. Many holidays have connections to Jewish self defense:

    Hol Hamoed Pesach - Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
    Hol Hamoed Succot - Jews living in temporary homes fighting off Amalek
    Purim - Jews fighting Persians (again, Amalek)
    The three weeks - Jews defending Jerusalem against sieges by Bavel and Rome
    Chanukah - Jews liberating Eretz Yisrael from Greeks and Assyrians
    Yom Ha'Atzmaut - Israel Independence Day - 'nuff said

    All are occasions to live, and not deny, our heritage, not just religiously, but with things we know we had to do, reluctantly, but with our hearts and souls.

    Kol tuv,