Yitro 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Yitro 22nd Shevat 5760 January 29, 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.

The Ten D’varim. The Ten commandments. The Ten Challenges.

Ten is a very important number: Hashem created the world with ten statements, forged the Jewish people by means of the ten plagues and re-created the world through the ten commandments.

What about all the other commandments? Aren’t there 613 commandments and seven major Rabbinical ones too? Yes, of course. And all these numbers teach us a few things. If you take the 613 and the 7 you get 620. That is the gematria of keter, which means “crown” (numerical equivalent of the letters, each Hebrew letter having a number value as well). This teaches us that Hashem gave the Torah as a crown of holiness to the Jewish people and the world. Why is the 620 number so important? Because there are exactly 620 letters in the 10 commandments! They comprise the 620 “fiber-optic” pillars of light that connect man to Hashem. It’s as if each letter in the “big 10” commandments refers to one of the 613+7 Mitzvot. Remember, also, that the word mitzvah doesn’t just mean commandment. It means connector. By doing a mitzvah with the right Kavana, we connect our soul to its Source.

What’s with the numbers? The Kabbalists teach that the inner holy mathematics of gematria comprise one seventh of Torah wisdom. So there are lessons to be learned by studying these relationships.

For example, the word “Torah” itself has a gematria of 611. We might imagine that the word “Torah” should probably total 613 or the number of commandments in the Torah. If so, which two Mitzvot are missing? The number 611 comes to teach us that the Jewish people heard the first two commandments directly from Hashem and the other 611 were taught by Moshe. The people couldn’t handle the awesome power of direct revelation.

The truth is, though, that no one person could perform all 613 Mitzvot. Some Mitzvot were given by Hashem just for the time of the exodus. Some were just for theKohen Gadol (the high priest), some for the regular Kohen, some for the Levi, some for farmers in Israel, some for men, some for women, etc.

Because it is such an awesome task to learn all the ones we are responsible for, many great teachers tried to offer a simpler model or basic principle as an entry into this world of Mitzvot.

For example, there is the famous story of Hillel and an arrogant fellow who challenged him to teach him the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel told him that what was hateful to him he shouldn’t do to anyone else… all the rest is commentary on that basic principle. Now go and learn all of it and see why that is true.

Let me offer a “guiding principle” too. Since the Ten Commandments came on two tablets of stone, let’s focus on two principles.

Two stone tablets. The first tablet deals with Mitzvot for making life holy by connecting to Hashem’s light. These include: I am Hashem, there are no other gods, don’t take Hashem’s name in vain, honor the Shabbat and, fifth, honor your parents, teachers, siblings, (Sifu?) etc. because they are partners with Hashem in giving you life and helping your soul grow.

The second tablet deals with raising the level of “holiness” between man and man: don’t kill, commit adultery, steal, covet or bear false witness.

We might consider summarizing the two basic principles that correspond to the two tablets this way:

Be A Godwrestler and Be A Mentch!

To be a Godwrestler, a Jewish peaceful warrior is to wrestle deeply, and with great patience and perseverance, to remove the veils that separate us from Hashem.

To be a mentch is to use the Mitzvot to remember that there is a divine spark in each of us that needs to be honored. These Mitzvot include all the guidance about lying, stealing ideas, jealousy, greed, honesty to others and ourselves, correct use of the power of speech, and so forth. It’s about being careful about human nature… our own as well as that of others.

I’ve always been moved by the fact that the “bridge commandment” between the two tablets, the fifth commandment, is about honor. To honor, we must be aware of that divine spark in every person, shining silently behind the veils.

There is an old Zen saying: When pointing at the moon, don’t confuse the finger with the moon. Think of the Mitzvot as the fingers and our relation to Hashem and his sparks that fill the world as the moon.

It seems as if all the Mitzvot we have to do are endless. But they are all, in one fashion or another, reminding us of these two principles: to Godwrestle and to be a mentch in relation to others.

There is a lesson here… both for the more observant and the less observant among us. For the more observant, let’s not get so caught up in our doing of the Mitzvot (the fingers that are pointing) that we forget the purpose for all of it (the moon). And, on the other side, for the less observant, let’s not spend all our time talking a good show by focusing on the moon so much that we forget the self-discipline for achieving our goal.

Tora-Torah for today: Practice your forms as a “moving meditation” that will help draw you closer to the ‘force’ that is our link to Hashem. Be a Godwrestler.

More Tora-Torah: Be a mentch. As good martial artists, truly honoring others is critical. Not just honoring Sifus. Not just classmates. Not just bowing with apparent respect and thinking otherwise inside. But for real! TaShih always taught that one of the things that made Tora Dojo different was that we not only learn the skills but that we teach others (when your rank and skill allow). L’lmod u’l’lamed; to learn and to teach, by word and by example, is the Jewish way.

What if you’re being attacked and it’s gone beyond the point where it safe to you? Hashem tells us. Defend yourself. But remember that your ego is a mask, a veil, too. Don’t fight back to support anger or revenge or fear. Fight to preserve the spark.

BOOKS TO READ with some interesting insights on the Ten Commandments:
· The Ten Challenges: Spiritual lessons from the Ten Commandments for Creating Meaning, Growth and Richness Every day of Your Life by Leonard Felder, Ph.D.
· The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life by Dr Laura Schlessinger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel

"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