Rebbi Takes Class On Trip To……The Horse-Race-Track?


racing.jpgThe NY Times Reports: Rabbi Israel Rubin conceded that it was an unusual field trip for his students. They were here at Barn 70 on the backside of Saratoga Race Course on Friday morning to see a trainer about a horse. The trainer was Bob Baffert, and the horse, Maimonides, was a fast one who just may capture the Kentucky Derby next May.

The Kentucky Derby did not interest Rabbi Rubin. He does not attend horse races or gamble. In fact, upon hearing about the colt, Rubin thought long and hard before arranging to take his students here.

“Some may think this is sacrilegious,” he said.

Ultimately, however, the rabbi and his students were drawn here from the Maimonides Hebrew Day School in Albany for what is in a name.

The school and the colt are named for Moses Maimonides, who lived more than 800 years ago and is considered among the greatest Jewish philosophers. He was the chief rabbi of Cairo and the physician to the sultan of Egypt.

“He blended religious study and intellect with worldly manners to heal the sick and guide the healthy,” Rubin said.

“He was respected and honored by both Jews and Arabs. This is especially relevant now in our life and times.”

Maimonides is owned and was named by Ahmed Zayat, an Egyptian now living in New Jersey who did not know about Rubin’s visit, and when told of the smiles of the youngsters petting the nose of his expensive colt was beyond gratified.

He is a Muslim who grew up in a suburb of Cairo and had put much time and effort into bestowing the name Maimonides on his prize purchase.

“He was a very special man who was highly regarded by all people, regardless of faith,” Zayat said of Maimonides. “What has happened with Sept. 11, Iraq, and what’s going on in the region is contrary to the way I grew up. If this horse was going to be a superstar, I wanted an appropriate name. I wanted to say something with the tool I had, which was a horse. I wanted it to be pro-peace, and about loving your neighbor.”



  1. Uhm Ahmad Zayats name is really Ephraim and he is an observant Jew living in northern NJ. I know this for a fact since I sit next to him in shul almost every shabat and his kids go to school with my kids. He is a huge baal tzedokah who gives unselfishly to many organizations here and in Israel.

  2. Sounds like a fun trip, sorry I’m not a student at this yeshiva. Could also add in some rosh hashanah info, “May it be his will that we will be like a head and not a tail”.

  3. I once heard Rav Reuvain Feinstein shlita give a shiur about the difference between how a Torah Yid watches a baseball gave versus how a goy does it. He was commenting about the time some baseball player didn’t want to play on Yom Kippur and R. Reuvain spoke about how by Torah Jews, the conversation leads to talking about which melachos might be violated, how there might be an eruv around the park, etc.

    Similarly here. It is very easy for us yeshiva people to become very smug in our frumkeit and forget that there is a tremendous Jewish world out there that has little or no shaichus to Torah. Frum Jews make up maybe 5 – 10% of Yiddem. These people, like this rabbi, have the unbelievable difficult job of trying to impress young children who come from secular houses with the importance of Torah and the plesentness of Torah. Sometimes, that means conecting Torah with something that would turn on a little kid, like a horse. I still remember how my first grade rebbie gave all the children candies as we learned the alef-bais and our first pasuk. Those of you who were blessed (and it is a tremendous bracha) to be born into or grow up in a frum house, should not be quick to judge the kiruv methods of those working on children who were not so blessed.

  4. Sammygol,
    At least today with all the sects of Chasidus and yeshivas splintering we’ll have more names to name our favorite flavors after!

  5. sammygol
    Do you think it might be more of an anxiety or offense to men than women? I wouldn’t mind a ‘Sorah sunday’,Bruria bandana’, or “Devorah Divine Dappers’.

  6. No one is being smug here. They are defending the Torah and it’s Talmidei Chachamim that are walking Torahs!
    I am sorry to say but with all due respect you completely did not understand Rav Reuvin and you can not apply it here. What I believe Rav Reuvin was saying there is that a Torah Jew is supposed to take the secular, like a baseball game (if and when they HAVE TO to be there for some reason, but not that they should look for reasons to go) and turn it into Kedushah, by way of turning it into Torah. For example in your case they spoke about the halachot that may apply to a Jewish player and Shabbos.
    What I am sure Rav Reuvin did not mean is that we take Kedushah and C’VS turn it into the opposite.
    We don’t name a horse after one of the GREATEST RISHONIM, period and we surely dont take young innocent children to see the horse and corrupt there fundamental beliefs and underlying respect for Torah and it’s great sages. by bring the children there it completly justifies the action (the naming of the horse) and has corrupted these childrens reect for Torah. To put it similar to the other poster who brought out the example of the wine, would you name your dog after a great rosh yeshiva ( a prize winning dog of course) and then take children to see it and show it off, OF COURSE NOT!!! (i wouldnt even use a rosh yeshivah name as an example here). IS THIS WHAT WE ARE TEACHING CHILDREN!? Is this the repsect we want them to have for Torah?!
    If the Rabbi needed an activity for his Kiruv work as you want to explain for him, then he can take them to a regular farm and show them ‘regular’ animals and bring out Torah and mussar that way. but you dont watch some one ( who surely isnt Jewish despite what the other poster said about sitting next to him in shul) name a beh-Hay-ma after a one of the greatest Rishonim and then some how TRY to justify it by making it into a ‘Torah’ trip for CHILDREN! That’s not Torah by any means, It’s a krum ‘Torah’ trip and there is no excuse for it. I think we should all call this Rabbi and NICELY exlain to him his mistake so he can do teshuvah for it beofre Rosh Hashana and i am very serious about it. The is nothing worse than being mevazeh a great Rabbi none the less a Rishon.
    Oh and by the way, how did the NYT learn about this innocent Torah kiruv trip for shalom and happen to be there on the day it happened to take pictures and write about it?
    People should know that the NYT is not a friend to the Jewish world. Lehavdil, would it be ok to write about the horse being named after the muslims mohammed or the christians pope and so on. There would be riots breaking out if someone named there dog mohammed and publicized it. Again, it’s a prize winning dog and it’s for peace so it’s ok. Right?

  7. illini07

    do you really need a Rav to tell you that naming a horse a (a low dirty animal) after one of the greatest rishonim is WRONG?! Do you need to ask the shaila if that’s the appropriate lesson for children?!
    when a person mevazeh ‘s the Torah it’s everyones obligation to speak up about it. and if you read my post correctly you’ll see that I wrote the word ‘nicely’, meaning it should be done with Kavod and derech eretz and as a kiddush h-shem.
    oh and by the way what happened to the THE OTHER RABBI’S KAVOD – THE GREAT RAMBAM! YOUR SO WORRIED ABOUT THIS ‘Rabbi’ but the Rambam’s kovod or lack of it DOESN’T BOTHER YOU?
    it’s clear as day to me and If you need to ask the shaila you will see that I am right.

  8. bad news race fans Maimonides finished third in a four horse stakes race today at Saratoga. In his defense his regular jockey was injured and he had a substitute rider which might have had an effect. I guess you might say that today at least we had a shver Rambam.

  9. I read recently in the israeli yated about a family from bnei brak who went up north and were staying in a tzimmer (cottage) in froye kibbutz.
    once while strolling in the woods the father chanced upon a large motzaiva reading kever SHIMON HATZADIK, so as the father and children all
    were davening one farmer came and than another and another, and the crowd burst out laughing.
    turns out they name there horses after people and this was a wonderful horse therefore befitting of the name.
    ENDING: he notified many of the wonderful organizations and the had the matzeiva removed!!!

  10. This brings back memories of when I used to own races horses (nowhere near this caliber though). We ran under the name Maccabi Stables. Our silks (jockey’s shirt) were solid dark blue with a large white magen dovid on the back. So even in this environment that is foreign to the frum world, we were able to add our own ‘kedusha’. (Please don’t write that horse racing has nothing to do with kedusha. I know that. It’s being use figuratively.)

  11. Actually, Think Straight, we did use a Jewish jockey. His name was Fishman. He wasn’t one of the top-tier jockeys so he didn’t get many mounts. It was just our way of trying to help out a landsman make paranasa. So even at the race track you can do mitzvos!