Va’y’chi 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Va’Y’chi 16 Tevet 5760 December 25, 1999

Tora Dojo Teachers and Parents: If you share and discuss the Tora-Torah with younger students, tell it in your own words at their comprehension level rather than try to read it to them or have them read it.

In the Parsha, Yaakov, knowing that his death is close, prepares to call his sons for their final blessings. First he calls Yoseph’s sons, Ephraim and Menashe and blesses them and says that all future generations should bless their sons to be like them. An obvious question: why not bless them to be like Judah (the tribe of future kings) or Levi (the tribe of priests, where Moshe and Aharon come from)? Why Ephraim and Menashe?

One reason is that they were, according to tradition, the first two brothers in the Torah to get along with each other! They helped and supported each other all their lives. But more important: They were born in Egypt, in a world where it was difficult to be Jewish, tempted by society: food, dress, language, etc. It would have been unlikely that they would be “as Jewish” as the sons of Jacob at home in Canaan. Yet Yaakov says they are like Reuven and Shim’on!

How did this happen? Yoseph’s incredible self-knowledge and self-discipline kept him true in his connection to Hashem through all those years away from home and he passed this down to his sons. I once heard someone say in a debate over ‘who is a Jew?’: “You’re Jewish if you grandchildren are Jewish!” On some level it is true.

How often in yeshivot, for example, students leave and stop practicing their Judaism, their “physical discipline with a mental thrust that is spiritual, celebrated joyfully“. Ephraim and Menashe didn’t. Thanks to Yoseph’s upbringing, they stayed true to their Yahadut (Judaism).

By the way, the Shabbat evening blessing for girls is “to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah”. Traditionally, the matriarchs mothered the Jewish people and provided the roots, the grounding, the nurturing for the children in the home. The girls didn’t need the blessings of Ephraim and Menashe because they didn’t go out into the world to be tempted and influenced by it. Now so often women are in the workplace and are much more influenced by society than before… with the internet and TV, society comes into the house even if they don’t go out… perhaps, we should blessall the children to be like Ephraim and Menashe.

How often is it that truly enthusiastic Tora Dojo students leave for college or go to Israel and, even though we have classes there, don’t continue their training. They are not willing to make the extra effort and make the time (you can’t always find the time; you have to make it) to work out.

Our problem, perhaps, is that as teachers we don’t successfully transfer our love of the art to the students. They may not see the importance of practicing in all conditions, easy or not.

Let me tell you a story. Two weeks ago our home was robbed. In the middle of the day (with the alarm on) some punks smashed open the door, stole VCR’s, cable box, and a few jewelry boxes from our bedroom dressers that, unfortunately, held my grandmother’s irreplaceable pearls and Lillian’s engagement ring. They also took a handcrafted wooden box made by a master craftsman who was a former student of mine in North Carolina. They were in and out of the house before the police got there, thanks to the alarm. Yes, I know: they are lucky I wasn’t home.

For insurance purposes, I had to track down the craftsman-student and get a letter attesting to the current value of his work. He had studied with me in 1981-82 and then moved out of town and had to stop classes. He had reached yellow belt before having to leave classes. In the course of our conversation he told me he was still practicing what he had learned from me every day! Still practicing what he learned almost 18 years earlier! He must have some stance and punch by now! Imagine: he maintained the self-discipline to practice on his own with only a yellow belt’s training.

If there is a lesson to learn from Yaakov’s prophetic choice of Ephraim and Menashe, it is to be self-disciplined and steadfast in our quest for self-knowledge and personal mastery. It is to know who we are and stay grounded and focussed in our yahadut (Judaism). It is to be in the world but not of it.

Shabbat Shalom

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted 'Tora tiger' logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.
"Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.
Note that the Tora Dojo comments are highlighted in a different color. This should help teachers in their sharing Tora-Torah with younger students at their level of comprehension. If any of you would like to contribute some "Torah" from time to time, send your suggestions (keep 'em short and ... in by Sunday, please) to michael@kodesh.org. I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well.
"Tora-Torah" is published by Kodesh, Inc. Kodesh is a non-profit organization devoted to personal growth, mind-body effectiveness training, spiritual awareness. It offers programs to help the student "alter the state of his/her consciousness" through education, experience and joyful celebration.
© 1999 Michael Andron - All rights reserved.
email: michael@kodesh.org