B’shalach 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat B'shalach 15 Shevat 5760 January 22, 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.

This week’s Parsha tells of the awesome miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea. Here are the particulars: The Israelites, having broken free of their slave consciousness enough to leave the “narrows” of Mitzraim are led by a divine cloud and a pillar of fire. When they get to the Sea of Reeds, the cloud goes behind them. Next, the pillar of fire goes behind them. They are told they must take action. In an act of perfect faith, they move to the sea. The lower water forms a walkway so the Israelites don’t have to walk on the mud of the river bottom and then the rest of the water divides to the left and right. The Egyptian followers move also, but lacking the same faith, get caught as the space between the walls of water collapses. The Israelites, safe on the other shore and in a state of prophecy, sing a “song” celebrating Hashem’s triumph.

Some Rabbi’s see the whole book of Shemot (Exodus) not only as the most important story of the Jewish people but as a guide to something much deeper. Each Pesach we read in theHaggadah that we should try to imagine that we today came out of Egypt. When we try to imagine ourselves living in that kind of slave existence, it is very difficult. It is not so difficult, however to imagine ourselves as being slaves to our desires (greed, jealousy, etc.) and our possessions and our negative attitudes (egotism, self-centeredness, stubbornness, etc.).

If we view the whole story of the exodus like that, then what does the splitting of the Red Sea (the sea of reeds) represent? It becomes the story of each of us as we try to leave our lower, material-based, self-centered way of looking at the world. We try to see a bigger picture. We try to leave our narrow thinking (Mitzraim, Egypt, means narrows). As the sea splits, we also imagine our mind opening and even our brain hemispheres separating, opening up some new way to touch Hashem’s presence in the world.

In practice, one way to do that is by deep contemplation or meditation. We try to quiet the noise in our minds and all the hyper energy we have inside us and be still. We try to open our minds to achieve a higher state of knowing that is beyond our day-to day thinking. We want to “touch” a state of pure knowing.

The Brain, the Eyes and the Mind

One of the most interesting lessons I’ve ever come across to help silence the mind and prepare oneself for Kata and inner work is called ocular divergence. Simply stated, ocular divergence is when your eyes, which normally focus to the same point in front of you, each focus straight forward instead. Your field of vision expands and you view the area in front of you peripherally.

According to a number of researchers of this subject, when the eyes go out of focus this way, the two halves of the brain un-couple as well. Something happens neurologically in the brain that actually frees the mind to function more freely, creatively, and artistically. You can practice this with simple exercises for peripheral vision. Raise both hands in front of you and watch them both simultaneously. Both hands will seem to blur and yet you’ll still see both hands. Looking at the “Magic Eye” pictures that you see in books and stores is also a simple way. Most Chi Gong exercises have that move as well.

Incidentally, research shows a relationship between the field of vision (made wider by this practice) and stress, performance, etc. In Light: Medicine of the Future (Bear & Company Publisher) by Dr. Jacob Liberman, quotes studies by Anderson and Williams (“Seeing Too Straight; Stress and Vision”) that found that “stress directly affects the peripheral field of vision, thus reducing how much we see. They discovered that as the degree of stress increased, so did the likelihood that an individual’s field of vision would contract when required to respond to a visually demanding task. They also speculated that coping ability, rest, and diet, if out of balance, could worsen the problem.”

Using what is called “syntonic therapy, Dr. Liberman showed how the field of vision could be changed dramatically and many problems were helped. For example, he found that “withdrawn children came out of their shells, hyperactive ones calmed down … 75% of the subjects reported improvements in their school work, 40% showed visible improvement in their handwriting.”

Expanding our peripheral vision (seeing both columns of water as we walk through the sea of reeds) is something we do naturally in the practice of Kata, freestyle, etc.

When we do a Kata, we can use this model of the splitting of the Red Sea to help us perform more fully. Prepare by being still, putting normal lower thinking (those columns of clouds and fire) behind us. As our hands come up to bow, we should not watch the center of the bow where the hands join, but the arms coming on the right and left. See them both and gaze outward peripherally. This relaxes the mind. Instead of using your two “physical” eyes (which are now gazing peripherally) imagine you can see the energy all around you with a “third eye”, so to speak. See this energy with an “eye” that is gazing from the occiput, or back of the head at the base of the skull, where the knot of the tefillin is placed. What you “see” is the energy that moves us! It is not through logical thought or even intuitive thought that you will know this. It is sensed with a higher kind of knowing. Now we are ready to take action. Let the body move or be moved by that divine energy. That is when the Kata becomes a “dance of light”.

Oh, and by the way…when the hemispheres split… then the boards and stones will too.

"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