Bechukotai 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Bechukotai 22nd Iyar, 5760 May 27, 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.

“If you will walk in the way of My laws…”, says Hashem, then the rains will come in their season and blessings of all sorts will follow. If not, then the opposite will occur. This is a fundamental law of the universe. We can see this law expressed in the second paragraph of the Shm’a. If you walk the correct path, Hashem’s light (“the rains in their season”) will shine on you. If you turn from the path, then you will be lost on the earth. This doesn’t mean that only good rewards will come to those on the path and punishment will only come to the wicked. Clearly, bad things happen to good people. It does mean, however, that if we abide by the fundamental laws of living, we’ll be able to find greater meaning in our lives and see the divine guidance that is all around us all the time. We will come to understand that even the “bad” events are there to teach us and guide us to a deeper understanding.

In some traditions they call this law karma. Karma means action, not fate. If you act in accordance with the universal laws of living (for example, the Mitzvot or laws of B’nai No’ach for the world) then you will reap the rewards of that life. In martial arts we are told to walk the path of the Tao (spelled Tao and pronounced Dow… I’ll use Dao from this point on). Is there anything in common here with all these paths?

I’d like to suggest that the key to all of these is action. In other words, it’s not just knowing and studying about the path but walking it! When we take responsibility for our actions and don’t blame others for our laziness or anger or mistaken choices, then we are on the right path. The cobblestones of the “path” are the laws of action.

There is a bizarre story in the Gemara Avoda Zara about Eliezer ben Dordia. Briefly, Eliezer lived a depraved and sinful life. Once an event occurred that shocked him into the realization that he was not going to get into heaven. He was prompted to repent. First he asked the mountains to seek mercy for him. When they refused he asked heaven and earth to seek mercy for him. When they refused he asked the stars and constellations. Finally, when they all refused he said “It depends on me and me alone”. He sat with his head between his knees (the fetal position that many prophets used to meditate) and cried uncontrollably until his soul left his body. A heavenly voice then declared that Rabbi Eliezer ben Dordia was accepted into the next world. Rebbe declared that Eliezer had received the rewards of serving Hashem in an hour! And, he even got the title Rabbi!

The key to the story is that before Eliezer took responsibility for his very sinful actions, he blamed his environment (the mountains where he lived), he blamed fate and upbringing (nature and nurture, heaven and earth), he blamed fate and the astrological influences (the stars and constellations). Finally, he realized that he alone was responsible for his actions. He accepted that and cried true tears of prayer.

Eliezer ben Dordia finally found the path that Hashem had set for him. The obvious lesson is that if we each follow the path set out for us, taking responsibility for our actions, thoughts and words, then mercy, kedusha, and inner peace will be ours. It’s up to us.

In Chinese, the character for the “way” (Dao) is made up of two sections. (see your local TDA T-shirt. It’s the character for DO in DOJO). In the middle of the character is a symbol of the “center”, or leader, which looks like a sketch of a primitive chief with a deer-antler’s headdress, antlers and all. The lower (and left) part of the character looks like a path or road with a man walking on it. It also looks like a river with a boat moving along it.

Putting these two together, we could translate this character as “the path of the leader that flows like water” or “yourself, flowing with the path like water”. Or, “if you walk along the path, then you will understand the Dao and touch the leader within you”. The choice is yours.

Let’s look at this on a very basic Tora Dojo level. If you don’t work out and you don’t get better and you don’t get the belt… don’t blame it on the workout. Don’t blame it on your teacher. Don’t blame it on your lack of talent. Don’t blame it on not having a place to work. Accept responsibility for your actions. Get off your couch and get on the path.

Siddhartha Gautama said: If you hit a bell with a pebble you’ll make a small sound; if you hit it with a mallet you’ll make a large sound. It’s all up to you and the choices you make.

One of my Karate “grandchildren”, Barry Adler (a student of Sensei Sidney Bender’s, my former student, and Sensei Chaim Goldfedder) sent me a beautiful D’var Tora on this week’s Parsha which gives a very practical spin to this idea, both in Torah and Tora Dojo.

The Parsha opens with the words, “Im bechukosai taylaychu” and the Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh comments that the pasuk should be taken literally. Even when you are going and travelling on the way you should still study the ways of the Torah. While it is very difficult to study a complicated subject while travelling, subjects can be broken up into smaller units that can be studied more easily. Over time much can be accomplished. This concept has practical applications to our everyday lives especially our practice of the martial arts. As busy as everyone is today, we often have difficulty finding time for a major workout. However, if we follow the Torah’s example, we can take our spare ten minutes and practice one form a few times or throw some kicks. Over time the effect is cumulative and much can be accomplished.

Now. Get up off the couch and walk along the “way. Study some Torah; read some martial arts books; and then…. Practice! We need theory and practice in both Jewish life and in martial arts.

That’s my motto. DAO it and DO it!

"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.

"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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