Bo 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Bo 8th Shevat 5760 January 15, 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.

Of all the ten plagues, I have always found the plague of darkness the most intriguing. Perhaps it is because of a never-ending search (through Torah and Tora Dojo) for sparks of light that fill the world. Let me share a few thoughts about this unusual plague.

FirstThere is a Midrash that tells us that during the first three days of this plague that those Jews who didn’t want to leave Egypt also died with many Egyptians. The Ishbitzer Rebbe explains that their reluctance (inertia or even laziness, if you will) was an inherited trait of passivity that goes back to when Avraham vacillated about whether to save Lot.

Sometimes our inability to act in life (teaches Rabbi Wolfe-Blanke,z”l) is the result of an emotional inheritance from generations past. During the plague of darkness, when everyone had to be passive, it shook them loose of their inertia. Afterward everyone wanted to move and act. So this Midrash would then be understood to mean that it was not the Jews who hesitated and died during the plague but the trait of hesitation itself that died.

It’s a Tora-Torah stretch (LaoShih smiled, amused at his own creativity) to suggest that the long years many students spend holding the rank of Brown Belt usually ends when the ‘darkness’ of Black Belt is in view. Here’s an idea! Get up and start to work out now! Let the hesitation and vacillation end and begin a strong, clear effort toward Black belt (or the next level, if you’re there already). Remove the plague of inertial darkness yourself!

SecondShemot (Exodus) 10:21 has the unusual expression va’yamesh choshech, normally translated to mean that the darkness was so thick you could feel it. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev translated the cryptic word yamesh to mean that Hashem put aside the darkness.

[Warning: Tough paragraph ahead!] Which darkness? Briefly, when Hashem created the world, everything was His One light. There was no concept of there being anything else. All that existed was Hashem. And Hashem was ONE. To allow for the creation of the universe and of man, Hashem (using slightly easier language than the original Kabbalistic model) created a bubble within Himself and pulled the full intensity of His light out of the bubble (contraction of light, or tzimtzum). Outside the bubble, Hashem remained One. Inside the bubble, there was now the illusion of space where something else could exist (us!) that was separate from Hashem. Of course we weren’t. But we had to learn that! (Whew. Tough paragraph. For a slightly more ‘poetic’ version of this idea, you might want to go to www.kodesh.org, click archives and select Bringing Jewish Spirituality Into the Jewish Classroom.)

Rav Levi explained that what Hashem put aside during the plague was the “contraction of light”, the tzimtzum, with which He created the world so that Hashem’s pure divine light was revealed. Most people couldn’t handle the intensity of that light (like looking into the sun without special glasses). So they died. What were the glasses or ‘garments’, that protected the Jews who survived when Hashem’s light was revealed in full? The Torah and Mitzvot, teaches Rav Levi. The Torah allowed them to receive the light without any harm to themselves.

Just as Torah protects us from the most awesome of Hashem’s light, so Tora Dojo teaches us important lessons (on a much more basic level) to protect us from energy too great for us to handle. That is one of the purposes of learning to root ourselves.

Many of you have heard the story that over twenty years ago at an exhibition LaoShih Glanz and I were called up on stage to hold TaShih’s feet down to the floor to help amplify his root for a high energy break he was doing. This was pretty new to us at the time. That day, (lifetimes ago) LaoShih Glanz’s mind wandered for just a moment and he “lost his root” at the instant of the break. The energy from TaShih rebounded into him (rather than safely being grounded through him.) Luckily, and due to no great knowledge on my part, my root ‘held’ and I was fine, as the high energy impulse of the break went down my roots and safely into the ground. LaoShih Glanz, on the other hand, could barely speak for about half an hour and he was quite ill backstage until his energy balanced itself out. We all learned a lot from that experience, especially about all the energy ‘stuff’ being very, very REAL!

Thirdlater in the Parsha we find the commandment u’Shimartem et Ha’Matzot, that we must guard/observe the unleavened bread as a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. In Hebrew the word matzot, if read without vowels, can also be read Mitzvot (the commandments). Many great teachers say this is to remind us that when a Mitzvah is ready to ‘bake’, don’t hesitate and procrastinate but go and do it!

This reminds us of the first Tora-Torah above about removing the plague of vacillation and laziness from ourselves. Don’t hesitate. Get up and work out and improve your skill. If you sit there too long, you’ll become chametz ( a bloated couch potato, with a swollen ego to match.)

But remember: the root of the word Mitzvot in Hebrew is “connectors” because a mitzvah done with Kavana is a way to connect to Hashem’s light. So we can read this verse: guard the connectors! As you work hard and aspire to greater and greater heights, don’t forget the roots (as in the second Tora-Torah above).

May your patience and perseverance guide you reach Hashem’s light and bring it into the world to repair it and to sweeten existence.

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, Ph.D. LaoShih, 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