Tetzaveh 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Tetzaveh 13 Adar I 5760 February 19, 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, my Bar Mitzvah Parsha teaches about the clothing of the Kohen and Kohen Gadol. Why is the clothing they wore so important? Couldn’t they perform the Mishkan or temple requirements without special clothing? After all, to draw an analogy, can’t we break the boards or perform a Kata without wearing our belt or sash?

The Gemara states that if a Kohen were to serve without his priestly clothes, his service would be invalid (Zevachim 17b). Without their clothes, the “priesthood” was not upon them. We also learn that “every Torah scholar who wears stained clothing is punishable by the death penalty” (Shabbat 114a) since he represents the Torah itself.

The opposite is also true: “Anyone who wears the cloak of a Torah Scholar and yet is not a Torah Scholar himself, is prevented from entering the domain of Hashem” (Babba Batra 98a).

So, it seems that clothes make the man! Why? It’s not just wearing the clothes. The Gaon of Vilna and others said that clothing is a symbol of ones midot, one’s character traits. What you wear on your outside reflects what’s happening on the inside. No doubt the clothing of the Kohen in particular kept the heart and spirit of the Kohen in a purer state of being.

In Tora Dojo, we have certain clothing specifications. In the “olden” days (early Tora Dojo) everyone used to wear a Gi. They were white, a symbol of purity. The Gi was a reminder that every form you did represented a warrior fighting for his/her life. Were you to die in battle you would be properly attired for death. Also, Gis had no pockets. No possessions, no egos, and no illusions about the importance of these things. After Black Belt, you wear the clothing of the people, represented by the Black Gi. The lessons were so internalized, that they were inside you and didn’t need the “white” reminder. It became “second nature”.

The custom is never to wear the color Black in class (the belt or the workout clothing) unless you have reached that rank. (“Anyone who wears the cloak of a Torah Scholar and yet is not a Torah Scholar himself, … hmmm.)

Two extreme cases (extremely funny ones too) come to mind. Once when Andrew Hirsch and I were still Brown Belts, TaShih brought in a very difficult board. No one could break it. TaShih said anyone who could break the board could wear his belt! Andy broke the board. TaShih took off his Black and Red belt and went over to Andy and tied it around his waist. The look on Andy’s face was not joy… it was fear! He was afraid his waist might disintegrate for just having the belt tied around him! He couldn’t wait to give it back.

On another occasion, I had a Brown Belt (now Black) who was visiting my home and by the time he was ready to leave, the night had turned chilly. The only sweatshirt I could lend him was a Tora Dojo black one. He said he’d rather freeze than wear that sweatshirt before he got to Black!

It’s not just the rank… it’s a reminder of where you are in the growth process. In TDA, you are learning a method of self-discipline to make yourself into a Mishkan (see last week’s Tora Torah): to remove the veils and discover that your soul is already “logged on” to Hashem’s broadcast frequency. The belt represents both your inner and outer achievement in the art… and you don’t wear it until you have earned it.

Ah, the belt! When you tie that belt on, you know your place in the never-ending path of growth and learning. Even now, as we have the more relaxed dress of the Chinese schools, we still retain the belt. And I believe that is as it should be.

The belts reflect growth: White and Yellow represent the innocence of the flower blossoming on the tree. The seasons go on and many of those flowers just blow away… especially after a good rainfall. A challenge or two, a failure, come along and so the white and yellow students stop working and quit.

Next comes Green, the green leaf of the tree. The leaf is a more permanent part of the tree than the flower and it is the green leaf’s breathing that keeps the tree alive. Green belt is a good rank to work on breathing and connecting to the energy around us.

Purple represents the fruit of the tree, the part of the tree that assures that the species has a future since it holds the seed of the next generation. Brown is the trunk of the tree, as it roots to the earth and stands firm in a storm. Black represents the earth, the source of life for the tree from which it draws its nutrients.

And after Black begins the lifelong flirtation with Red, the sun-source of light and life, without which the tree will wither and die. All the ranks between 2nd and 7th degree have varying degrees of red mixed with black,

At 8th or 9th degree (as yet undetermined) the red color is mixed with White. I believe this is a hint at a return to the purity and child-like wonder of the beginner. After decades of work and self-discipline, the Master at that level — with its touch of some “white” consciousness– understands what keeps the teaching and the practice alive and fresh and inspired.

Finally, having surpassed even that level, the ultimate connection to the “sun-source” becomes the inspiration for the whole system or “forest” of students. A full Red belt is worn only by the Grand Master of the system. And there is only one TaShih!

The belt is not just an ornament for the ego (although it could be… so be careful). It’s a reminder of how far you’ve come in your search and how far you have to go… and the responsibility that comes with each step along the path to honor and help others along that same path.

As I wrote years ago to one of my Black Belts, the belt should be a daily reminder to…

Balanced, centered, understanding nature’s plan.
Flexible, bending to the storms of change without breaking
An individual, yet tuned to the vibrations of the whole
Moderate in your demands and expectations
Rooted for survival, reaching upward toward the light,
and bearing your fruits in season.

"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.

© 2000 Michael Andron - All rights reserved.
email: michael@kodesh.org