Ki Tavo 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Ki Tavo Elul 16, 5760 September 16, 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.

The Parsha outlines an array of curses: “And all these curses shall come upon you… because you listened not to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded you…. Because you served not the Lord your God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things. (Deut. 28: 45-47)

The Rabbis learned that a lack of “joyfulness, and … gladness of heart ” are the core of the problem which would lead to a 2,000-year exile. Amazing! This is not a Chassidic parable from the last century or two… this is in the Torah.

As I read different commentaries on the Parsha, I began to speculate on the difference between serving Hashem with simcha (joyfulness) and tuv levav (a good heart). After all, the Torah doesn’t waste words. What is the need for the second part? Isn’t the message clear that not serving Hashem with joy is the problem? What is added by the expression “a good heart”?

Several commentaries suggest that the joyfulness refers to a feeling inside that you alone experience, while the good heart refers to the feelings that come from an external action that you take that impacts on someone else. For us to be effective servants of Hashem we need to strive not only for an inner joyfulness from our spiritual connection to Hashem but also for a heartfelt joy that only comes from our actions taken to help someone else.

For years, when people asked me what was the most important training for my work in energy healing, they were always surprised when I said that I felt Martial Arts, rather than Yoga, was the key. Of course, the Yoga helped me train and discipline my physical, mental and energy “instrument” for healing. As a system of personal health and development, Yoga is unique and unsurpassed. I recommend it highly to anyone for personal well being and for training as a healer.

But the Martial Arts adds a dimension that yoga does not share to the same degree. The Martial Arts teach the student how to extend one’s energy out to another person. Traditionally, one had to learn and master two aspect of training: to take the enemy apart and also how to put him back together! The natural extension of the use of energy for self-defense is to use Qi Gung for healing.

Martial Arts are not done just for us alone, although its benefits are immeasurable. On a higher level, they are done to extend out to others. Yoga (I speak of Hatha and Raja Yoga) is geared to development of oneself in character in spirit. At a master’s level Yoga, too, has elements of service to others (Karma Yoga) but few are aware of this dimension.

Coming back to the Parsha, the joyfulness that comes from developing one’s self to be a more perfect servant of Hashem is necessary but is only half of the work. We need to bring the light back from our mountaintop, so to speak, and share and sweeten the world and the lives of others with that light. Without the second dimension, we are only self-serving self-improvement addicts who live in a spiritual-growth vacuum. That self-serving, in itself, may be the curse referred to in the Torah. When we balance the two, however, then we are doing what Hashem asks of us.

The Tora Dojo moral of the story: practice in peace with patience and perseverance… and share the light of what you learn with others to sweeten the world a bit.

To illustrate this point, I have a small bonus for you. It’s an essay I wrote almost 10 years ago that is closely related to this week’s Tora-Torah. Let’s say we do all these good deeds to help others. How do these deeds affect them? Do the good things other people do affect you? And, more important, is just the doing of the “good deeds” actually good for you? Is it a blessing (not a curse) for us and others?

On Random Acts of Sweetening
The possibilities of how to share and sweeten the world are endless … and it seems that it’s also good for your health! Two interesting articles came past my desk this past month that are related to the stress-relax model we’ve spoken of previously.

The first has to do with the effect of positive events on you. “Sweetening” your own life with pleasant social activities or favorite leisure activities has a powerful impact on your health. In the New York Times, it was reported that a psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook conducted a study showing that “positive events of the day seem to have a stronger helpful impact on immune function than upsetting events do a negative one.” In a study of 100 men over a 3-month period, it seemed that the effects of negative stressors had a negative effect on the immune system for just that day but positive events enhanced the immune system for the next two days.

How was this conclusion reached? “Whenever the men reported cold symptoms, we found an increase in undesirable events from 3-5 days before the cold becomes noticeable, and a dip in desirable events for those days.” That covers the 24-72 hour incubation period for a cold.

Apparently, the surprise in the study was that the “drop in the usual number of pleasant events more strongly predicted susceptibility to a cold than did a jump in stressful events.” Dr. Sheldon Cohen, a psychologist at Carnegie-Mellon University said, “Stress levels on the two or three days leading up to exposure to the cold virus, and especially on the day you are exposed, may be the key to whether you become ill…and the kinds of stress with the most impact are interpersonal, whether marital discord, problems in the family, or conflicts at work.”

What I find particularly interesting about this study is that it points to the idea that there is a value system to the stress-response mechanism that differentiates between positive and negative events (both of which are traditionally included under the title ‘stressor’). Our personalized, subjective world-view, once again, shows itself to be a primary causative factor in the equation for wellness.

A second report in Mental Medicine Update points to our share-sweeten idea not as we do it for ourselves but as we do it for others. Dr. David Sobel, M.D., reported that “more and more studies are showing that one specific ingredient of social contact — choosing to help — appears to have health benefits all its own.” In a study of 2700 residents in Tecumseh, MI, for example, men who volunteer for community organizations were two and a half times less likely to die from all causes of disease than their non-involved peers.

In addition, a national survey of volunteers revealed that 95% reported that helping (sharing, sweetening) on a regular basis gave these volunteers a ‘helper’s high’ which consists of “physical and emotional sensations including a sudden warmth, a surge of energy and a feeling of euphoria immediately after helping.”

They also reported feelings of increased self-worth, calmness, relaxation and better perceived health. Helping can lesson disease symptoms, block pain, improve mood. They go so far as to say: “ One of the best ways to promote your own health or to cope with a health problem is to forget yourself, forget your health, and concentrate on caring for someone else. A regular regimen of helping may be as important to our health as regular exercise and proper nutrition.”

Good food for thought.

"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.

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email: michael@kodesh.org