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What to do for Recreation?

4 Sh'vat 5772
The Question:

I was learning mishnah berurah siman 307 sif 16, where it says that I cannot read any english books, even during the week.
I am assuming that this would apply to movies as well. It’s difficult for me to understand this since I am unable to learn 10 hours a day. What are the gedarim- what books can I/can’t I read and what movies can I watch? What am I allowed to do for enjoyment?
What about sports games, such as the Super Bowl?

Answer:

The ruling you quote is stated in found in the Shulchan Aruch itself (307:16). It certainly applies to movies, too, as the Mishnah Berurah writes concerning theaters, and so on.

However, it is also clear that it is permitted to read works that possess benefit of one sort or other, such as works of wisdom, mathematics, physics, and history too, for it is hard to know how to approach the present without a reasonable knowledge of the past.

Another potential reason for reading is for recreation. For somebody who feels he needs some recreational pastimes — and this applies to most people — it is permitted to read material of varied nature, including non-fiction and fiction, provided it does not lead a person down avenues that are not in line with halachah and Jewish values.

As for movies, there is a basic problem in watching movies, in that the vast majority include material that is inappropriate.

Watching sports does not involve a halachic problem per se, but the question is where to draw the line between necessary and beneficial recreation, and simple time-wasting. This is a difficult line to draw, and it is easy to get drawn in to the global “sports culture” of idolizing sport stars, and following sports much more than “required.”

Therefore, it is difficult to give a hard and fast halachic ruling on the subject, but after assuming the “need,” the advice is that one should be wary, and preferably to make gedarim (boundaries) for oneself, setting aside a certain part of the day, or a certain time, for “recreation” of some sort, and ensuring that it doesn’t spill over into the rest of the day.

In addition, perhaps playing sport is a good idea. Rather than merely watching others, playing the sport is beneficial not only as recreation, but also as physical excercise, and maintaining healthy living. Organizing football games might be hard, but there are individual sports that can be easily arranged.

Good luck!

 


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