Tazria 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Tazria 3 Nisan, 5760 April 8, 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.

Years ago I was giving a series of  lectures on energy healing at an ashram (a yoga retreat) in the Bahamas. Each morning the participants at the retreat would awaken just before dawn for a half-hour meditation session followed by a physical yoga class. As I passed by the meditation area, I noticed many students either sleeping or snoring. I thought to myself how it might be better to do some of the physical yoga first to wake up! Shelmut haguf kodemet shlemut hanefesh: perfect the body first and the “soul” second.

On the other hand, don’t we daven first thing in the morning? Perhaps if we are still in a half dream state, it’s easier to get into a meditative connection with Hashem. And in davening, we sit and stand and bow periodically to keep alert even if we are tired.

As I pondered these ideas, I thought about the sequence in Tora Dojo. Generally, we must learn to control the physical first. Later on, Qi Gung and meditation follow to harness energies to empower the physical. Our goal there is to become aware of the life force all around us and through us and to learn to direct that life force with our Kavana, with a clear and focused mind.

So which is correct: body first or mind first?

This week’s Parsha provides some insight. It deals with tum’ah and tahara, usually translated as pure and impure, clean or unclean. If one studies these complex categories and the rules that go with them, it is obvious that these terms and descriptions don’t refer to what we would call “sanitary conditions”. These categories refer to a much deeper state of purity and impurity. They refer to states of proximity and distance from Hashem.

In basic terms, purity, tahara, has to do with the connection to life and the living force of Hashem, and tum’ah represents a proximity to “death” or a distance from Hashem. That explains why certain situations create tum’ah.

For example, a menstruating woman, a new mother, anyone in contact with a corpse, a male who has had a seminal emission: each of these cases are one step removed, for a period of time, from “life” and indicate a proximity to “death” or a “life not possible”.

The universal “cure” for this tum’ah is to enter a mikva at the appropriate time, which like the womb, is in a perpetual state of life. The womb is concerned only with life and nurturing it. The mikvais the perfect reminder of our connection to the living divine force around us.

The key to understanding these states, it seems to me, is the connection to life and Hashem’s truth, light and energy. When one is connected to that light and energy, then one is in a state oftahara, purity. When one is distant from that life force, one is in a state of tum’ah, distance-from-life-force… a death-force if you will.

So how do all these musings answer my question: which is better: body first or mind first?

My conclusion from all of this is that, in general, the “body first” concept is right. But, I think a short reminder meditation is important before we begin. To help keep myself on track, I like to do a short Qi Gong exercise to remind me that I am immersed in Hashem’s light and life force all the time. I recommend this even for beginners who may not know how to use this energy or state of mind. It sets the tone of what we are connected to, what we are doing this for… or will be as we get into it more deeply. That is why I begin my classes with a short Qi Gong form. The only problem is when we do it to learn the moves and forget why we are doing it. Don’t forget the lesson: “when pointing at the moon, don’t confuse the finger with the moon!”

Let’s go ones step further. To do forms without that “life force” is to practice “dead forms”. That kind of martial arts is tamay (impure). To practice forms with an awareness that we are trying to connect to Hashem’s light and life force in the world is tahor (pure) and divine. I think that’s why healing arts were practiced by all advanced martial arts masters: it reminded them from moment to moment how their practice was involved with life and living. It’s so easy to forget and become self-centered rather than Hashem-centered, That is the challenge of our art. That is what makes Tora Dojo practice alive, Jewish and a holy act when practiced at its highest level.

"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