Its 1:00 pm on Friday at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and my weigh-in is in three hours. Ive been limiting my fluids, drying out, to stay within the required weight of 142 pounds. I count the minutes until I step off the scale have my first sips of Pedialyte. I am so thirsty- it will taste delicious!
Following this is Shabbat thank G-d! I look forward to turning off my phone and escaping from the tension and pressure of fight week. On Shabbat, I will finally have time to rest. For me it is a time of reflection, inspiration, and motivation for the coming week. It will also give me the inner focus I need for my boxing match on Saturday night.
It was not always this way. Shabbat was not always something I knew about or looked forward to.
My name is Dmitry Star of David Salita. Originally from Odessa, Ukraine, I moved to the US when I was nine years old. At 13, I joined the Starrett Boxing Club in Brooklyn and began to train and compete. I was always serious about boxing and felt a great sense of responsibility every time I stepped into the ring.
Boxing helped me become more spiritual and develop a personal relationship with G-d. Before every training session, and especially before competing, I would say a few prayers to prepare myself. I always felt guided and helped. Even when things did not go the way I thought they should, I believed everything that happens is for the best.
When I was 14, my mother landed in the hospital. Her roommate was an observant woman, and I struck up a deep conversation with her husband about Judaism, boxing, and everything in-between. Before I left, he took my contact information and passed it along to my local Chabad rabbi, who followedup by calling and inviting me to shul.
At first, I was not very enthusiastic about going. After some thought, I decided to try to see what it was like. What instantly made me feel comfortable was seeing different people from all walks of life sitting and praying together.
I began to go to the synagogue every few weeks for Shabbat. At first, my visits were short, but every time I went, I felt that my battery recharged and I seemed blessed for the following week.
As time went on, I began to start observances that may seem minor, but to me seemed like real changes. My rabbi explained to me that when someone takes upon himself a commandment, it causes a positive change. By taking on a commandment, a person is making a choice to get closer to G-d and follow a better path. His encouragement motivated me to become stronger in my commitment to Torah.
I also grew stronger in boxing and winning tournaments. There came a point where I began to feel uncomfortable about fighting and training on Shabbat. To me, being in the ring is very serious business. Many things can happen, and I have to feel at peace with myself in order to overcome my opponents.
Five years ago, before going to the national championships, I decided not to fight on Shabbat. I was not favored going into the fight, but thank G-d, all turned out well and I won. After that, I won the Golden Gloves and turned pro.
In my contract is a clause stating that I will not fight on Shabbat or any other Jewish holiday. Many people ask me how I can combine Judaism and professional boxing. Chasidic philosophy teaches us that Judaism must fit into every part of our lives. It influences the sciences, art, and for me, even boxing.
We find ourselves in certain situations for a reason. Whoever we are, wherever we are, we can elevate the world around us. May our random acts of goodness and kindness hasten the coming of the final Redemption.
Dmitry Star of David Salita is undefeated (20-0) in his professional boxing career. He is the subject of the forthcoming Disney film, Golden Boy.
Reprinted with permission of The Kosher Spirit.