Ha’azinu (Shabbat Shuva) 5761

Tora - Torah

Parshat Ha’azinu 8 Tishrei, 5761 October 7, 2000

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.

As we near the end/beginning of the Torah, two key themes come to mind. The first is the upcoming Shabbat Shuva followed almost immediately by Yom Kippur. The second is the Parsha itself, a song that joins the past, present and future of the Jewish people.

Part 1

On the subject of Shabbat Shuva, I would like to recall the relationship of the Hebrew words for repent and sit. The Hebrew word “shayv“, as we have discussed several times, implies a long-term meditative sitting. The stillness of mind that comes with that spiritual discipline allows us to really pay attention to where “we’re at” and allows us the perspective to change. It begins with steady rhythmic breathing, aiming the eyes and heart to a single point. That is the “stance”, if you will for achieving stillness. It is not the only way to do it but it is time-tested and effective.

When we allow the veils, crust and masks we wear to fall away (see last week’s Tora-Torah) then we come in touch with the true, eternal part of us. That soul is the small spark that is part of the fire that is Hashem’s light. If we can accomplish this, then a Day of ATONE-ment can become a day of AT-ONE-ment. We not only join with the source of our existence but we join with each other as fellow sparks in the flame.

Fasting helps this process. Aside from the attention paid to spiritual pursuits and the turning away from physical needs on Yom Kippur, fasting also provides a shift in the biochemistry of the body that encourages deeper encounters. The combination of breathing, fasting and meditation is universally found among those people involved in spiritual growth. (See Beyond Telepathy by Andrija Puharich, M.D.).

Part 2… (Totally unrelated to part 1)

Shabbat Shuva this year is the fifth anniversary of my favorite “Dojo story”. Since I have heard my own story told back to me with several variations, let me tell you what happened. I was returning from the shul at which I was serving as the “rabbi” when a young man (probably 19-20 years of age) asked me if I had any money. I replied that I didn’t. He pulled out a knife, held it about two feet away from me and asked (in his mind threateningly), “Can I look and see?”

This struck me as funny, all things considered. I laughed. I saw this irritated him somewhat. I stepped forward toward him, now the blade about six inches from my chest. I said, “You know, you are one of the unluckiest S.O.B.’s I know! First of all, it’s the Sabbath so I don’t carry any money. You could have asked a hundred people around here and every one of them would probably have some money. Secondly, there are about 600,000 Jews in South Florida and you picked the ONE Jew who happens to be a seventh degree Black Belt!”

Since I was talking with my hands, I had raised my hand on the word ONE. I then lowered my left hand quickly, slapping the knife-hand to my right and grabbing his right wrist, stepped quickly to the left and behind him. In that instant, I had my left hand around his trachea and my right arm had locked his right arm and wrist (the one holding the knife) against my chest. I whispered into his ear. “O.K., here’s is what we’re going to do. You’re going to drop this knife or I’m going to crush your @#&*#@ throat. O.K.?” He croaked agreement, since I had his throat in my hand and he couldn’t really talk. “Next, you’re going to sit down on the floor and I’m going to walk away. If I see you move before I’m out of sight, I will take the knife, come back here, and slit your throat open. O.K.?” He nodded O.K., several times rapidly, as I recall. The knife dropped. He sat down. I kicked the knife a few feet away, picked it up and walked the two or three blocks until the road curved and he was out of my line of vision. I looked back every few seconds to make sure he didn’t get up. He sat on the floor rubbing his neck and wrist… but didn’t get up. I tossed the knife into the bushes, since I didn’t know whether the eruv extended to that street. Perhaps foolishly, looking back, I never really felt threatened.

Dojo stories are fun… after the fact. I laughed the whole way home. That afternoon, I declined an aliyah so I could bench gomel (offered by my friend and gabbai and Third Degree Black Belt Harvey Grossbard). And the rest is Tora Dojo history.

Oh. Kids! Don’t try this at home.

Part 3 ((totally unrelated to part 1 or 2)

In the spirit of Ha’azinu…

As we near the end of the Torah, I really wanted to write a poem that summarized so many of the themes we spoke of all year. Then I remembered. I had already done that. If you go to back to “archives” and click on Spirituality in the Jewish Classroom: Keynote Address, you will find the text of a lecture I gave a few years ago. It was a keynote address that lead to breakout sessions by Jewish educators on the subject of the Sh’ma.

It’s my song of creation and Godwrestlers and removing of veils and pointing at the moon and sweetening the world. It’s a little long. You may want to print it out and read it slowly over the next few days. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a meaningful fast.

"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.

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