Shemot 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Shemot 23 Tevet 5760 January 1, 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.

In this Parsha, there are two things that strike me: one has to do with names (shemot) and the second has to do with Hashem not answering Moshe’s question.

Let’s start with names. Of course the name of this book of the Torah is “Shemot” which means names. Jewish names and Chinese names are an important part of Torah/Tora Dojo life. (See Parshat Yayishlach on “what’s in a name”; If you didn’t save it, go to, click archives and then Tora-Torah for all past Parshiot.)

Even though the book begins with the very specific list of the names of the sons of Yaakov, we then read that a “man from the house of Levi married a daughter of Levi”, bore a son, hid him for a few months and then took him to the river. No names are used to tell us about Moshe’s parents! It’s as if they had no identity.

The Maharal says that Par’oh (Pharoah) chose the river for the destruction of the Jewish people because water is something without any form, taking the shape of whatever contains it. That was Par’oh’s strategy: to remove any trace of identity from the Jewish people so they would have no self-confidence to fight back or leave. When Par’oh’s daughter gives Moshe his name, it’s as if he becomes the first of that generation to be removed from that state of formlessness and have purpose in life. His name implies his mission: that he is destined to ‘draw out’ the Jewish people from the formless slave-mentality state of existence and define their ‘name’ as the children of Israel. It’s almost as if Moshe had his “Black Belt name” right from the start. He certainly seemed to have that name and that Black Belt when we see the way he ‘took out’ the Egyptian slave master!

Incidentally, we might see a positive spin on the idea of the formlessness of water used in this story if we look to the Japanese concept of mizu no kokoro, which refers to the mind being calm like the surface of undisturbed water. This concept in application means that having a ‘mind like water’ allows the martial artist a perfect reflection of the opponent’s movements, both psychological and physical… so that one’s responses, both defensive and offensive, will be appropriate and adequate. (see Nishiyama and Brown, Karate the Art of “Empty Hand” Fighting.) Try and relate this idea to the following.

The second bit of Tora-Torah that caught my attention had to do with the dialogue between Moshe and Hashem. Moshe asks Hashem (3:11-12) “Who am I that I should go to Par’oh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” Hashem answers “I will be with you… and when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” The Dzikow Rebbe was troubled by this response (as discussed in Sparks Beneath the Surface by Kushner and Olitzky).

He teaches: “Indeed the Torah was given on a low mountain to teach us humility. But in that case, why wasn’t it just given on a flat field? Perhaps to teach that sometimes even against your will, there is a need for little bit of self-esteem in serving God.” He explains that we already know that Moshe was the most humble of men. Hashem’s answer implies that Moshe needed a little bit of self-confidence above his humble personality to get the job done. So he answers “For I will be with you”, to support and to help you. And the proof will be that after the exodus, you will worship on this mountain… and not a flat field. This is to remind us that sometimes a little ‘chutzpah’ is necessary to do what is needed. Not on the highest mountain, mind you, but not on flat field either.

A common problem facing the martial artist is finding the balance between the humility necessary for success in the art and the self-confidence necessary to fight and win… or even to attempt a difficult form or break. Here we see the answer: as usual, it’s a measure of balance. Being humble before Hashem provides us with the ‘mind like water’ we need to see human nature (and divine nature) clearly and truthfully. But, sometimes action is called for. Having a well-integrated ego (that is, a little self confidence or even chutzpah when the situation demands it), is equally important and something that Hashem (and your Sifu) expects of you.








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Because it teaches very important things: Self Defense, fitness, flexibility, self-esteem, self-discipline, inner control, balance.

That’s Y….2K.

"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 I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well.
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