D’varim 5761

Tora - Torah

Parshat D’varim 8 Av, 5761 July 28, 2001

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R ’Shlomo Ressler writes Although the whole Torah is the word of G-d, Sefer (the book of) Devarim starts by informing us that these are the words that Moshe spoke (11), and G-d confirmed later (3410). Why was this deviation necessary? Why not just continue the Torah the way it’s been dictated so far? Then Moshe goes on to list places where the Jews traveled, but these “places” never actually existed. Rather, Moshe was criticizing the Jews by listing sins they committed, but he merely hinted at those sins. Why was he so vague?

Rabbi Zweig answers that our goal in life is to try to achieve perfection, as people and as Jews. As such, if G-d were to tell us of our flaws, one might falsely think, “Oh, I know it’s a flaw, but I’m not G-d, I’m not perfect, and this is who I am”. This could happen if we compare ourselves to the one giving the criticism, and there’s no way to ever measure up to G-d. By Moshe speaking to us directly, we get criticized from man’s perspective of imperfection, thus making it easier to accept his criticism. Then, because Moshe was pointing out not just isolated improper actions, but actual character faults that needed much work, he felt it necessary to be extra sensitive when bringing it up. This deviation in the Torah offers us an amazing insight into how and when to criticize others If we’ve overcome or improved anything about ourselves, not only are we better through it, but we have an incredible opportunity to give others the strength (the root of the Hebrew word for criticism, or “tochacha” is strength, or “ko’ach“) to overcome similar flaws. All it takes is the guts to criticize a friend, and the strength to support them!

Two important Tora Dojo lessons come to mind.

First. Our teachers… TaShih, the three Lao Shih’s (kol hakavod to Lao Shih Noah Nunberg on his elevation to the rank of “Elder Master”) and so many Sifu’s, Shih Gung’s and Sensei’s… have never hidden their human flaws, nor should they. In spite of those flaws (and perhaps because of the intense drive to rise above them) these teachers have accomplished so much and wish to pass that vision along to you. If we did it, so can you! And for us teachers, there are always new and higher mountains to climb. In other words, we’re certainly not perfect… but we’re waaaayyybetter than we would be if we had never done the internal and external work that Tora Dojo demands.

Second. It’s not only important to know how to criticize others but also how to receive criticism. When we say “thank you” to our partner when s/he hits us in a free-style match, we are thanking her/him for giving us insight into our weakness so that we may correct it. That small “ritual” of saying thank you puts us in a good mind-set for receiving criticism without the ego’s defenses getting in the way. If we could all learn to give and receive criticism in the right frame of mind… perhaps it might do us, and the world, some good!

"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.

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