Shoftim 5761

Tora - Torah

Parshat Shoftim 6 Elul, 5761 August 25, 2001

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Rabbi Zalman Packouz writes in a D’var Torah based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin: The Torah teaches an important lesson about choosing friends and life mates in this week’s portion. Regarding a woman captured during war, the Torah places all sorts of restrictions in the way of marriage over a period of thirty days — so that the passion of the soldier will cool. The Torah states regarding the soldier’s ultimate decision, “And it will be if you did not want her” (Deut. 21:14). Why does the Torah speak in the past tense (“did not want her”) when referring to the decision the soldier makes at the end of thirty days? The Torah “should” have spoken in the future tense –“and … if you will not want her.”

The answer is that there is a difference between the term chaishek, which means passion and lust, and the term chofaitz, which means wanting because of a rational decision that something is good for you. The Torah is telling us that a person who wants to marry someone only because of infatuation and a passion that is based on good looks never really wanted the person from the very beginning (therefore the past tense is used). It was just desire, not an honest love for the other person.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, spiritual leader of Aish HaTorah defines love as “the pleasure of seeing virtue. It is based on the reality of knowing the good qualities in another person. Infatuation, however, is blind. It is when your emotions prevent you from seeing the entire picture and you mistakenly believe that the object of your infatuation is totally perfect and without any faults.” Love is not blind, it is wide-eyed; infatuation is blind. If you think the other person is perfect — watch out!

When someone commits to a lifetime of study in the martial arts, they would do well to learn some lessons from this seemingly unrelated D’var Torah. Many students begin because they see someone do something amazing at an exhibition (a break, a form, a weapon) and want to be able to do it. They want the Black Belt! That kind of “passionate” student never lasts. The reasoning is wrong.

After teaching for over thirty-two years, I can spot the “passion” beginners right away. They start off in a whirl but die out quickly.  To paraphrase the Pasuk, “And it will be on your first day of practice that you did not want to work that hard in the first place…”

On the other hand, the  “only-thoughtful” beginners don’t usually have what it takes either. They are too analytical and talkative to the extent that they would rather talk than do.

 Which students make the best martial arts marriages? The  “passionate-thoughtful” ones. They find the balance that it takes to start in a blaze and to keep the fire burning.

A long-term student needs to understand how that person they saw could do what they did. It took both hard work and a great passion to accomplish it.

In Rabbi Weinberg’s definition of love, I can say I love martial arts because I can see the innate virtue and value in it. Nevertheless, this might not be enough. It takes passion too to keep one’s love for the art alive and to bring it to deeper and deeper levels of understanding and practice. Just like a good marriage.

"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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