Friday, December 26, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Eema got a no-bend brace for her knee. I was able to ditch the splint this morning, got the stitches out and a bright pink cast. I'm allowed to drive, but I shouldn't drive long distances, for now, since not having my foot elevated makes it hurt. I'm so happy to be out of the splint! I'll be in the cast for anywhere from 8-16 weeks. I'll see the surgeon again in a couple of weeks and try to find out more about that. I saw my X-ray. I have 6 titanium screws and a metal plate in my ankle now. Who says a diamond is forever? Titanium hardware -- that's forever. lol. I can't wait to be able to get the cast off and start rebuilding the muscles in my calf and ankle. My toes are exposed. I can wiggle them, in the meantime, to help maintain the muscles in my lower leg.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Getting a little of my sass back. And my desire and drive to clean up/take care, more.
Just when things were getting boring, my mom dislocated her knee this morning, then popped it back into place. Then it popped out again. I believe she will go to the doctor tomorrow (or I will rat her out to her mother and then my Bub will drag her to the ER, and won't that be fun? Nope.).
I'm glad I know I'm not MacGuyver or House. My mom is as stubbornly autonomous as I am. It's kind of amusing. I love her. I'm running low on vics and will be able to drive again, soon. Can't wait.
I hope everyone's doing well. I've been having a hard time dealing with Mike's death, but some days are better than others. A friend said he's my angel, now. He would believe that, so I'll go with it. He wanted nothing less than for me to be happy. I'm very happy he's not in pain anymore. Love is funny, but it's good. I learned a lot about love and friendship from him. That lives in me.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
a couple of weeks later, I got my leg broken in 3 places at judo. i'm scheduled for surgery this friday. going to have some metal in me, for a while. also dealt with this mostly on the board.
so this post is basically, hi, i'm not dead. I also decided to go back to school to become a cross between a physical and an occupational therapist. I want to help people apply principles of tai chi to live better in their houses. just need to find a local program and get into it.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Not traditional; contains kol isha, musical instruments, etc., but it reached lots of people who wouldn't otherwise have had any sort of YK shul experience, and that rocks. And Naomi Levy's pretty neat (it can be argued she is occasionally inappropriate, but I'm not one to knock her; outreach far outweighs inappropriate). Kind of makes me want to go to JTS.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I'm drawing from Hillel, as discussed in R'Tzvi Hersh Weinreb's recent address to the DNC. This is Judaism 101; universal message is key.
“V’ahavta le-rayacha kamocha.You should love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Ma da’alach sanei, lechavrach lo sa’aveid. That which is hateful to you do not do unto your neighbor.”
I've also seen it as this: Ma d'sani lakh, l'chavrakh al t'avid
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow
Which one is it? I'm not sure. But here's an essay on Hillel and objectivism. (I am not familiar with the work of Ayn Rand; please refrain from throwing fruit at me.)
“Tzadikim gemurim einam kovlim al horah elah mosifim ohr. The truly righteous do not bemoan ignorance; but they spread knowledge and wisdom.” -Rav Kook
I am also a big fan of
Im ein ani li, mi li?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
U'kh'she'ani l'atzmi, ma ani?
And once I am for myself, what am I?
V'im lo akhshav, eimatay?
And if not now, when?
"Kamayim HaPanim al Panim, Kach Lev HaAdam" (just like water reflects a face, so too does the heart of mankind). Mishlei [Proverbs] (27:19)
And from the seder:
Ha lachma, ha lachma anya, di achalu, achalu avahatana, b'ara b'ara d'mitzrayim, b'ara b'ara d'mitzrayim. Kol dichfin yeitei v'yeichul, kol ditzrich yeitei v'yifsach. Hashata hacha, lashanah haba-ah b'arah d'yisrael. Hashata avdei, lashanah haba-ah b'nei chorin.
is a veritable wellspring from which heimish afrobeat lyrics can be drawn.
I enjoy working the front desk at a medical practice. I don't know much about quickbooks, but the rest of it is pretty cool. I could do that.
Still looking for a full-time gig. Have editing work lined up for this week (rosh hashanah notwithstanding). Happy to be here, happy to be alive.
Keeping the creative juices flowing, getting ready for 5769.
Keeping an eye on the child abuse thing. Terrible stuff. Florida was good; I want to go back. Donna the Buffalo continues to move me. Jeb's solo album is awesome. I've been playing it a lot.
Tons of good shows coming up in the NYC area; picking them carefully, due to budgetary constraints. This, too, shall pass.
Saw my doctor; he switched some stuff around and took good care of me. Got some acupuncture and plum blossom got rid of one issue. Taking an herbal formula for some boo boos that weren't going away, and they're finally healing; YAY!!
Did some laundry, doing some job hunting. It's all good. Realized I have a knack for digging guys who are more observant than I (currently) am. That's okay; if I were dug back, I could easily see me becoming more observant; kind of heading that way, anyway, without losing sight of my own message being more global than insular. Someone who's right for me will understand that tikkun olam doesn't mean living in a terrarium.
In the meantime, I think having a full-time gig will make me feel more able to date (maybe; the other half of me has long been ready to start a family). Slightly concerned re: the desire of a local to hook me back up with the past stopping a potential present from moving forward, but I know that's really bs and if someone likes someone, they do, period. We're not in high school, anymore.
There are some beautiful people in this world. I smile, when I think of them. I like it.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
contains link to: Preventing Child Sexual Abuse within Youth Serving Organizations: Getting Started On Policies and Procedures.
CDC published Child Maltreatment Surveillance: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements.
While I'm at it, here's a link on Preventing Falls in Older Adults
Torah Umesorah (click link above and scroll down to #27 for the rest of this post)
A good comment from VIN that lays out some practical ideas on handling this. (scroll down past the initial part)
Stop pointing fingers at people who are trying to help -
A. point your finger at your telephone and call the Menahel or Rosh Yeshiva or Administrator of your kids yeshiva or day school.
B. Ask them what they are doing as per background checks of Rebbes and teachers
C. Ask them if they have fingerprinted and DNA cheek swabbed the Rebbe/Teacher
D. If the answer is not satisfactory get together with the other parents in your kids class/school and demand that action be taken - and yes you can change how the school/yeshiva operates
E. Worst case change which school/yeshiva your child attends - arrange a sit-in protest in the yeshiva/school - do something preventive
Sunday, September 14, 2008
if you're not reading the comments, you're not really reading them.Abuse Victim Sues Principal is working to eradicate child molestation from yeshivas and other non-public schools (below is copied and pasted from link above) By Michael Orbach
Issue of Sept. 12, 2008
A Cedarhurst attorney, Elliot Pasik, who has made it his mission to combat child sexual abuse in the Jewish community, is representing a 23- year-old whose accusations have rocked the Satmar community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
As reported in The Jewish Week last week, Joel Engelman was 8 years old when, he said, the principal of the United Talmudic Academy in Williamsburg first summoned him to his office, seated him on his lap and began touching him.
This was the start of systematic abuse that allegedly continued several times a week for two months, ultimately destroying Engelman’s faith.
Engelman’s story, detailed in a lawsuit filed on Aug. 27, is one that is far too common in the Orthodox Jewish community, Pasik said.
Pasik and the Cedarhurst law firm of Gerald Ross filed suit on behalf of Engelman, listing the United Talmudic Academy (UTA), The Satmar Bungalow Colony and Avrohom Reichman, the former principal of UTA, as defendants. The suit alleges that between October and November of 1993, Reichman molested Engelman repeatedly.
Engelman confronted Reichman in April 2008, according to the suit, after hearing of similar abuse complaints made against him, and made one demand: that he leave his job in the UTA and never teach again. In exchange Engelman and his family would take no further action.
Satmar community officials became involved and after a negotiation, which included a polygraph test that Reichman failed, he left the school. But less than five months later, in August, Reichman was videotaped teaching in the Satmar Bungalow Colony, a children’s camp.
The lawsuit seeks damages based on the abuse that Engelman allegedly suffered at Reichman’s hands, the failure of the UTA to prevent said abuse, and finally, breach of oral contract by Reichman’s return to a teaching position. The suit also alleges that the Satmar officials were aware that the statue of limitations on the criminal prosecution of Reichman’s actions would expire when Engelman turned 23 in June and waited until then before returning Reichman to a teaching position. Engelman is suing the three defendants for $5 million.
Engelman’s case is the most recent child abuse scandal that has rocked the Jewish community.
“It says lo sa’amod al dam ray’echa. Do not stand upon the blood of your brother. It’s a chiyuv [obligation]; It’s what G-d wants us to do. It’s as much of a mitzvah as putting on tefillin, observing Shabbos, davening, or anything else,” Pasik said.
His goal is “eradicating the horror of child sexual abuse in our yeshivas and all religious and non-public schools in the state.”
And beyond the abuse itself is the outrage Pasik feels over the culture of silence around it that he has found in yeshivas:
“One would think that when it comes to protecting our children in the holiest places we would come together, but we’ve proven unable to do this… What would Rav Aron Kotler say to this? What would Rav Yoel Teitelbaum say?”
Engelman’s case provides another example of schools that Pasik feels have failed to take appropriate steps to protect their students.
“We’re seeing many laws limiting the places where convicted sex offenders can live. Here in the Jewish community, rabbis are still making the mistake of restoring sex offenders to classrooms,” he said. “There’s no cure for pedophilia. You don’t put a recovering alcoholic in a bar and you don’t put a sex offender in the vicinity of children.”
The reason why so many cases are cropping up in the Jewish community, Pasik maintains, is because of ignorance and obstinacy, and a leadership that is unaware of the true nature of child abuse. He also blames lax regulations in non-public schools. Fingerprinting and background checks are required for all employees in public schools and each teacher is a mandated reporter for abuse and neglect. The same is not true for New York State’s non-public schools, which together educate over half a million children.
The reason for the discrepancy, Pasik says, is that until recently private schools were thought to be capable of self-governing, a belief that in light of recent events, is no longer tenable.
“Unfortunately over the past four years we’ve seen proof that this attitude is badly misguided,” he continued. “We’ve seen a terrible clergy abuse problem afflicting both Catholic and Jewish institutions.”
Pasik says he approached both Agudath Israel and Torah U’Mesorah to take up self-governing laws like fingerprinting but was rejected. It was a disillusioning response and made Pasik consider a different road: government.
New York State Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) twice supported legislation Pasik proposed to require private schools to fingerprint and perform criminal background checks. It passed 60-1 in the senate but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower Manhattan) twice refused to bring the bill to a vote, calling fingerprinting an unfunded mandates on private schools.
The problem of serial child abusers in the Jewish community, in Pasik’s mind, stems from amisinterpretation of the idea of teshuva, the Jewish concept of repentance.
“Many rabbis rely on teshuva when dealing with child molesters. What they fail to understand is that the concept should not be applied with a child molester returning to a classroom. The teshuva for a child molester is removing him from any close proximity to children. You don’t allow a child molester to do teshuva at the expense of young children. You don’t restore a Lanner; you don’t restore a Reichman; you don’t restore a Kolko to a classroom.”
Rabbi Benzion Twerski is a Borough Park-based psychologist and the head of a task force on child abuse recently formed by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind. While not commenting on the Engelman case, citing unfamiliarity, Rabbi Twerski supported Pasik’s position on fingerprinting and background checks.
“The resistance to that actually bothers me because it’s an indication that there is what to hide,” Twerski said.
The Hikind taskforce is developing a protocol to deal with future abuse cases in the Jewish community.
“Developing policy is complicated,” Twerski explained. “It has to be sensitive to secular law, to Shulchan Aruch, and we’re not going to be doing anything irresponsible on either end. I’m not willing to do anything that the community won’t follow because then we’ll be where we are now. “
Pasik seemed to differ. “War has to be declared on child sex abuse,” he asserted. “You don’t win wars by treading water. You win wars by strong tough laws.”
However, both Twerski and Pasik agree on one thing.
“We have a system here that has not serviced us,” Twerski said. “Our mistakes were very costly ones.”
Pasik has been combating child abuse in the frum community for the last six years; he has encountered ignorance, naiveté, and in some cases, outright evil, he said, of which Joel’s case may be the latest installment. Asked if he was frustrated by the response of a community that is only now coming around, he almost laughed, before responding gruffly:
“Tzedek tzedek tirdof. Pursue justice and live.” He then added: “It will make you live.”
agudath i. supports background checks
from comments here: Nursery School Permit Plan Draws Outcry
By ELIZABETH SOLOMONT, Special to the Sun
April 25, 2007
Several religious groups are fighting a health department proposal that for the first time would require permits for some faith-based nursery schools.
Representatives of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and Agudath Israel of America, among others, voiced their concerns at a public hearing April 19 on the health department's proposed amendments to article 47 of the city's health code, which regulates child care services.
The measures, which officials said were designed to improve child safety, would require about 500 nursery programs to obtain city permits, meet certain education standards among teachers, and conduct criminal background checks on their employees for the first time. Currently, religious preschool programs that are attached to elementary schools are exempt from permit requirements, thanks to their longstanding "No Permit Required" status.
Advocates have said the proposals are in line with efforts the past few years to improve safety at child care centers. Opponents have said the changes would place undue financial burden on them and possibly force some of them to close.
"The concept of permitting is offensive to us because the permit process encompasses many things that relate to what actually takes place in the religious classroom," an executive vice president of Agudath Israel, David Zweibel, said. "Who is fit to be a teacher? How many students can there be in the classroom? Things that go to the autonomy of the educational experience, which to us in the religious community is a matter of religious freedom."
Acknowledging the opposition, the health department a day before the public hearing announced an extension of the public comment period through July 30 in an effort to work with the community, officials said. "We are considering all comments very carefully and think important points have been made. This is precisely what the comment period is for," a spokesman for the department, Andrew Tucker, said.
At last week's hearing, City Council Member David Yassky, who represents parts of Brooklyn, joined religious advocates in voicing concern over the proposed changes. "The First Amendment protects religious institutions against overregulation by the government. The Department of Health simply should not be regulating religious education," he said.
What is wrong with people?!
This also has me pretty steamed, but is completely unrelated: California's Proposition 8
If a gay couple wants to have their reception in a kosher catering hall that's part of a shul, I think that's nice that they want to serve kosher food to their guests. It's not like the shuls have to host the weddings.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
RE: the bannage
I got the google news alert on the music ban 'cause Lipa's name was in it. Frum Satire's post on it links to a couple of really good posts on the topic, notably Y-Love's and the one at Wolfish Musings (Wolfish Musings rocks, btw).
Big cheers to Jameel for this post on getting tough on agunah. What was most surprising to me is that there are some women who won't grant their husbands gets. To me, this is equally reprehensible, and these women should be pursued with equal "that's not cool/stop it" as men.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
(Names are changed for her privacy; she and I shared an office. We didn't always get agree about everything, but there was always mutual respect.)
When I arrived at the office yesterday morning, (our supervisor) told me that you had been let go.
My immediate reaction was an unrelenting sadness – sad because of the position that you are now in – sad because I had lost my (not always) .
Professionally and personally you have nurtured me in countless ways:
In areas that I was unfamiliar with I always knew that I could turn around and ask your advice – whether it would be how to find some important information on the Internet – the meaning or correct use of a word – the correct approach to answering a “[first name of publisher] question”.
I am a healthier, more productive and kinder person for having known you. Because of you [her acupuncturist/my East Asian medicine mentor and sensei] and [her flute teacher, with whom I connected her] are a part of my life – because of you I learned how to be kind to my cat. I am a better person in so many ways for having known you and I sincerely appreciate and will always be grateful for your influence on me.
I am here – if I can help – just ask.
So I emailed her back, thanking her for her note and asking her how I might word some of what I did for her, professionally, on my resume. She replied:
Don’t limit yourself to just Software research.
What I found amazing about you – and I counted on -- was your ability to find anything on the Web – to input the most precise search query which would return only the most relevant sites.Please use me as a reference since I am the head of the web department at [where I worked].
In the meantime -- have brains, will travel (and half-asleep right now, pardon me). Challenges welcome. I need to tweak my resume; I'll take care of that this week. Things will work out for the best, in the long run.
I certainly wouldn't mind working someplace shabbos-friendly, but it would have to be a really cool job if it were the kind that would require me to wear a skirt every day. (By cool, I mean something challenging.)
If you add a peeled, chopped zucchini to your potato kugel recipe, it makes the kugel extra wonderful. I see no reason not to substitute the oil in potato kugel recipes with applesauce. But that's coming from someone who made up an applesauce noodle kugel recipe.
I love my family.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Valley's renowned guitarist dies at 56
Bruce Fessier • The Desert Sun • June 11, 2008
Richard Mikuls, who played with legends of the music world, had a
Richard Mikuls, who reigned as the Coachella Valley's guitar king in
the early 1990s, died Monday at an Ironwood Country Club condo in Palm
Mikuls, who had been in poor health for years, died of a heart attack.
He was 56.
Mikuls had been touring and recording for five years with Peter Tork
of the Monkees. Before that, he was the lead guitarist in a band that
pioneered the unplugged concept in the Coachella Valley called
Unplugged, the Band. Led by John Stanley King, it was named the
valley's favorite band two years in a row by Desert Sun readers.
Randy Hewitson, owner of Musicians Outlet in Palm Desert and a rhythm
guitarist in that band, said Mikuls had been in demand in Los Angeles
since he was 17. That's when blues great Albert Collins had to get him
off the stage of the Roxie nightclub because "the union man is
But, even while playing regularly in L.A. studio sessions, Mikuls
would drive to the Coachella Valley once or twice a week to play with
"He was, in my opinion, the best guitar player I've ever heard in my
life," Hewitson said. "It was unbelievable when he played. There'd be
guy groupies - four or five guys who would be standing in front of him
to watch him play."
His friend Tim Riley of L.A. said Eric Clapton once heard him play in
Palm Springs and exclaimed, "This man could teach me blues guitar all
Mikuls grew up in the Palos Verdes area and played in his teens with
jazz guitar great Lee Ritenour.
He went on to play with Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Donny Hathaway,
Freddie Hubbard, B.B. King, James Moody, Stan Getz, Chuck Berry, Sly
Stone, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and
the Pointer Sisters.
Mikuls recorded two solo CDs, "Evil Secret Agent" and "Blow and Go."
He also made a compilation CD, "Songs from The Boneyard," and a DVD of
his art work.
A life celebration for Mikuls is planned from 1 to 4 p.m. June 21 at
CopyKatz, 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs.
daughters, Melody Garrard of La Quinta and Carrie Mikuls of Hemet; and
a sister, Carole Mikuls of Hemet.
Videos of Richard playing.
Bloggers post about Richard.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
than I do for someone who rocks it orthoprax but feels nothing inside
but what do I know?
I do know that what I respect (or not) doesn't matter to anyone but me. And I know I'm not in this world to run around passing judgment on others for how or what they believe (or don't).
graphic bleeding cupping pics of spider bite venom extraction available upon request
I am distancing myself from one at my education's expense
that totally sucks
but I can understand folks being put off by that much time spent together
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Here's a bit about last night, copied and pasted from the band's board:
Rocks Off Boat Cruise NYC 7/10/2008 Setlist
Hole in the Bag
This Aint Work
3 on the B
All I want is
Aint no telling
You've got it all
Return to Gijon
Give me a minute Pt. 2>
Word Love ** Special guest Rhianna ( http://www.last.fm/music/Rhianna No not that one. A much better one from Leeds. She's a friend of the band and an AMAZING vocalist.
One Note Brown
Thank you for lettin me be mice elf.
Here's a clip of them doing their tune "3 on the B."
I'll try and get some pictures up on my facebook account later. My user name there is Sarah Bee. Feel free to say hi.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Saw Penguin Revolution on Saturday night. It's ridiculous how good their trumpet player is. Not a bad guy, either. Long Beach is full of wonderful guys who aren't interested in me (and the one who is, is not for me). I might as well become Breslov. lol I'm kidding. I'm not going to wear skirts every day.
Looking forward to some live music this week, this weekend. Life is good. I had some great chats with my dad yesterday and helped my step-grandmother find her youthful smile again. My dad had a chest pain yesterday, while we were driving.
While it would be ideal for him to just die of a heart attack (no prolonged hospital/aging ickiness), I'm very glad he didn't have a heart attack while he was behind the wheel. The thought of my father dying upsets me very much, but I realize it will happen, one day. I hope I am there when it does. That would be a horrible phone call for my stepmother/sister to have to make.
My sister had a friend over while I was there yesterday. She introduced me to him as her half-sister. It's true, we're only 50% blood relations. I never held that against her, 'cause it's not like she chose to only be 50% related to me. I don't think she holds it against me that we're not 100% related, I think she was just being factual.
Still, it was the first time I'd heard myself referred to as a half-sister before. It was kind of weird. Oh, well. I really am. It's not like I live there, or anything. More like a 5% or 10% sister, if you measure by time spent. 3%, maybe.
Just got word that a friend's pop died. RIP. :( :heart:
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
NEW FEATURE! Get Shabbat Times for any US location sent to your mobile phone instantly.
Simply text ShabbatTimes followed by your Zip Code to 41411
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Here: ... she said this only to her brother, who was also Moshe’s brother. Clearly Aharon was not going to spread this around; it was to stay between them. Despite the local nature of this infraction it was still inexcusable.
(The whole entry is really good. I recommend checking it out.)
Friday, June 20, 2008
The Mitzvot of Health and Exercise
Practical Directions and Mystical Insights
Including the Halakhot of Martial Arts and Chinese Medicine
By Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 1997, 2001 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
For more expanded information on this material
including a full review of the Laws in the Shulkhan Arukh,
please order a copy of our free tape: The Torah of Martial Arts.
Click here to order.
Yehudah Ben Teima says:
Be courageous as the leopard,
Light as the eagle,
swift as the deer,
and strong as the lion,
[so that you will be able]
to do the will of your Father in Heaven.
Ba'ey Gufa Takif Gibar KaAri
One needs a body strong as a lion
(in order to merit Torah).
Zohar 3, 160a, Otzar HaZohar 4, 823b
One of the most important elements in the path to G-d is the health and strength of the physical body. Throughout the generations our Rabbis have emphasized how important is the Torah commandment to be healthy and strong. In our many sins today, unfortunately many people in the religious community do not properly observe this most important obligation. In order to fulfill the Biblical obligation to maintain our health, the performance physical exercise should be viewed as a part of the fulfillment of this Torah commandment.
Even with right eating there cannot be good health without exercise. These are the words of one of the world's greatest physicians who just so happened to also be one of the worlds greatest Rabbis. I am speaking, of course of RaMBaM (Maimonides).
In his law code, the Mishneh Torah (Deot 4:14,15) Maimonides writes that one is to "exercise and exert oneself greatly."
These words of advice are more than a simple admonition. RaMBaM's Mishneh Torah is a book of laws, not a book of suggestions! Therefore, exercise is required by Jewish law, period.
In many sectors of today's religious Jewish communities exercise is almost never performed, and if performed only in minor amounts. In our many sins, one of the greatest ills that affects religious Jewish people is obesity, and this is not caused by a hormonal problem, but rather through poor diet.
Some members of the community have begun to realize the importance of cardiovascular work. Yet, so many others, including many prominent Rabbis still have a very flippant attitude towards any type of sport or exercise.
They consider exercise and sport to be "bitul Torah" (a waste of study time). What makes this attitude even more insulting is that it contradicts the very words of Maimonides recorded in his Moreh Nebukhim (Guide to the Perplexed). It is best that I let Maimonides speak for himself.
"For there are many things that are necessary or very useful according to some people, whereas according to others they are not at all needed; as is the case with regards to the different kinds of bodily exercise, which are necessary for the preservation of health according to the prescription of those who know the art of medicine . . .
Thus those who accomplish acts of exercising their body in the wish to be healthy, engaging in ball games, wrestling, boxing and suspension of breathing . . . are in the opinion of the ignorant engaged in frivolous actions, whereas they are not frivolous according to the Sages."
(Moreh 3, 25; Pines ed. vol. 2 pg. 503)
Those within the Torah community who do not actively support and promote physical strength and exercise are not in keeping with the letter or the spirit of the holy Torah.
Even the Kabbalah holds that the strengthening of the body is important thing. According to one discussion in the Talmud, physical strength was a prerequisite for receiving the Divine spirit that reveals prophecy.
There is much to discuss regarding the Kabbalistic importance of having a physically fit and strong body. Throughout Kabbalistic literature there is discussion of the essential relationship between force (tzura) and form (homeyr). In order for anything to exist in the real of form (the physical world) there must originally exist its spiritual counterpart (force) which is its soul. Everything in the universe follows this pattern of force and form, body and soul.
The source of this is in the realm of the supernal sefirot. The primordial light of G-d was too vast and bright to be received by the created forms below. Without the benefit of G-d's sefirotic lights, the lower forms could not exist. G-d, therefore, congealed aspects of His primordial light into a selection of vessels of sorts which would siphon the light and concentrate it into a form which would be condensed enough for the individual lower creations to receive.
The forms through which the primordial light was condensed became known as the vessels, i.e., the sefirot. Thus was created the necessary relationship between light and vessel, force and form, body and soul. One is the source of life, the other is the manifestation of life. One without the other is incomplete.
It is this concept that truly separates Judaism from many of the other religions of the world. Judaism holds that the physical world is integrally good and not something to be avoided or transcended.
Our ultimate home at the end of the cycles of reincarnation is not some spiritual plane far removed from the physical world.
Our ultimate reward and home is the resurrection, where body and soul will be perfectly united in holiness, living here eternally upon the physical earth.
The process of the rectification and preparation of the physical world to receive and reveal its inherent holiness takes a considerable amount of time, specifically seven thousand years.
In the realms above, the supernal sefirot simply did not just receive the primordial light as a glass being filled with water from the faucet. Before the vessel could receive the primordial light it had to be strong enough to do so.
Therefore, the vessel's receiving of the primordial light was a slow process of entering the vessel a little bit, thus expanding its boundaries and then withdrawing. This process continued over and over again until the vessel was finally strong enough to receive it's full measure of the light.
One might ask the question why did not G-d create the vessels finished and ready to perform their tasks?
The answer to this reveal G-d's plan of mercy for His universe. Nothing in the universe is created in its finished state. Everything comes forth in an infancy state with the purpose of growth and maturity.
In this way, everything has the opportunity to learn as it grows. With knowledge comes awareness of G-d. With awareness comes the appreciation of G-d's grace. With appreciation of G-d comes the love of G-d. With the love of G-d comes merit and reward. And this is the whole purpose of creation: so that G-d could bestow His mercy and goodness on His worthy children.
For if we were all created full, there would be no option for growth. Without growth there could be no movement and thus no reward for movement. G-d would then not be able to righteously bestow His goodness. This would thwart the purpose of creation.
So, it is necessary for there to be a vessel in order for the light to be able to shine. It is also necessary that the vessel build itself and prepare itself in order to merit the reception of the light in its fullness. What does all this have to do with exercise, you ask?
I am sure you know the great Kabbalistic principle: As it is above, so it is below. Force and form follow one another. As the supernal vessels above needed to expand their strength in order to receive the fullness of the primordial light, so must we expand and strengthen our vessels, i.e., our physical bodies if we wish to receive our share of the supernal light, which is the spirit of holiness and Divine revelation.
Exercise, therefore, is not something simply physical, performed to make one look good. Exercise becomes an important Kabbalistic practice which prepares one's vessel, i.e., one's body to receive the spiritual light.
Physical exercise is not for the sake of good looks, but rather for the sake of good health.
In the first of the primordial worlds, the light of the sefirot originally entered into the vessels full blast, all at once. The vessels were not strong enough to receive the light. They, therefore, shattered. The broken pieces became the source of evil in the universe.
In order to repair this state of affairs, G-d proceeded to form new vessels, and, in order for these not to break like the originals, slowly introduced the light into them.
The Ari'zal teaches that a small amount of the primordial light first entered the vessel and then withdrew. The vessels expanded just a little bit to hold that light. The light entered again, this time a little stronger and then withdrew. The vessel expanded even more to support the light. This procedure of "pumping up" continued until the vessels were strong enough to receive the full light.
As it is above, so it is below. Our physical bodies were created in accordance to the supernal sefirotic image. When we exercise our muscles, we increase our physical strength.
When this is accompanied by proper mental and emotional discipline once can achieve a harmony of heavenly and earthly forces that truly manifests holiness (and all around health).
The spirituality of physical exercise is not something that should surprise anyone. Although neglected for years by the Torah observant community, Jewish history is full of tales about robust men of spiritual and physical strength.
Even in our century some Rabbis have come forward as praised the value of physical exercise. The great Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak Kook even wrote about the Kabbalistic value of exercise.
In his work Orot (Orot HaTehiya 34) he made the controversial statement that the performance of physical exercise is as important as, and performs a similar spiritual service as does the mystical Kabbalistic meditative practices. Only a very high level Kabbalist would have the prophetic insight to be able to recognize this.
While it is clear from Jewish law and the Kabbalah that physical exercise is important, still many people in the religious community do not participate in any body building physical activity.
Especially in the yeshiva high schools is there a pitiful lack of physical education. Some rabbis mistakenly claim that physical education is a waste of time, time that should be spent learning Torah. While I most certainly support the constant learning of Torah, there are still other mitzvot which need to be done.
No one has ever dared suggest that prayer be abolished in lieu of Torah study. There is room in the busy day for both prayer and study. So why is it then that the Torah commandment to safeguard our health is not given the same emphasis.
In my opinion the lack of physical exercise on behalf of certain elements within the religious community is nothing other than sheer laziness! The religious community must be in peak spiritual shape and physical shape. This honors the name of G-d.
Physical exercise and rectification of the body are extremely important mitzvot with very profound Kabbalistic significance. Again, one should deeply explore ones heart so as to discover the true reason why there might be any aversion to exercise.
Working out in a gym is not the only way to develop physical strength. Maimonides specifically stated that ball games are also good for this purpose. I know of a number of Yeshiva students who are good basketball players. This type of activity needs to be encouraged. Whatever it takes to be in peak physical shape is a Torah requirement that must be addressed by every sincere seeker of G-d and observer of His Torah.
With all the talk of physical exercise for one's muscles, we must not forget that there is still yet another level of physical training. This is the practice of martial arts.
I have been a student of martial arts since my teen age years. Of all the different styles that I have studied I have found the styles that have come from China, most popularly known as Kung Fu to be the most sophisticated and the best.
Over the years I have watched demonstrations of masters who could perform seemingly impossible feats. All these masters say that they are able to accomplish these feats, not through physical strength, but rather through the cultivation and directing of the life force energy in the body, which they call Chi (Qi).
As I advanced in my martial arts studies, I naturally was exposed to this and other correlating aspects of Chinese medical philosophy and practice. I have found them to be quite profound and extremely successful in the prevention and treatment of disease.
In my opinion, traditional Chinese medicine, which includes the systems of acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine and Qigong offer tremendous healing benefits not yet known in the western systems of "modern" medicine.
There is so much medical evidence as to the authenticity of traditional Chinese medicine that many insurance companies have started to include their practices within their medical insurance policies.
This "Chi" that the Chinese speak of correlates almost identically to what traditional Jewish sources refer to as the Nefesh level of soul within the body.
In Lev. 17:11, it is written that "the soul (Nefesh) of the flesh is in the blood."
According to the Chinese classics, the Chi is called the "commander of the blood." Regarding the relationship between the Qi and the blood it is written:
"Qi and blood are substances essential for life activities of [the] human body. They are separable but closely related through interdependence and interaction.”
(300 Questions on Qigong Exercise, 1994 by Lin Housheng and Luo Peiyu,
Guangdong Science and Technology Press, Guangzhou, China, page 23).
This correlation so intrigued me that I wanted to learn much more.
Now, Nefesh means soul. It is the lowest of the five levels of soul and corresponds to the Asiyatic realm of the physical.
As is clear from Lev. 17:11, the Nefesh is the life force of the body. It is also the lowest level of human consciousness, again that level which connects the soul to the body.
Therefore, any work which helps to nourish and cultivate Nefesh strength is of great value in the Torah path.
The study and practice of preventative medicine is a Torah obligation. Maimonides writes this clearly throughout his writings, even in Hilkhot Deot (quoted above). If the cultivation of Chi/nefesh would help a Jew fulfill the mitzvah of health, then it is a mitzvah to learn about it.
In brief this is how the Chinese interpret Chi (Qi):
"Qi (vital energy) is something by which the ancient people understood the phenomena of nature.
They considered Qi to be the essential substance forming the world and through its movement and change to be the cause of things coming into existence in the universe.
In light of this viewpoint, medical workers tend to think that Qi is the fundamental substance to constitute the human body and that its movement and change account for the activities of life.
It is mentioned in . . . The Law of Medicine, "A thing takes shape when Qi accumulates and the thing dies out when Qi dissipates."
(ibid. page 21)
The concepts of Chinese medicine are most different than those of western medicine. Yet, no religious Jew should dismiss the Chinese medical system and the philosophy underlying it on the grounds that it is based upon foreign religions.
Chinese medicine and its underlying philosophy are not Avodah Zarah (idolatry) as are similar practices that come out of India.
No one today would condemn standard western medicine as being forbidden by Torah Law because it is was developed by Christian doctors. Similarly Chinese medicine cannot be dismissed simply because it is Chinese or that it shares certain non-idolatrous philosophical principles with oriental religions.
The philosophical aspects of Chinese medicine are far removed from anything religious or spiritual as seen by the practices in the modern People's Republic of China. Medicine is medicine. Chinese medicine works. It does not use any spiritual components, only certain biological energies that are in all of us. Therefore it is totally permissible according to Torah Law.
One of the Chinese methods of preventative medicine is called Chi Kung. This is a system of calisthenics, stretching, breath control, relaxation and massage.
Chi Kung practices are of many different kinds and a mastery of them may take a number of years training. But the medical benefits that come forth from them are surely worth the investment of time.
I highly advise that whoever has access to a teacher of Chinese medical practices should take advantage of the opportunity to learn. Even if there is no physical teacher available there are a number of good books on the market which explain these medical practices in an easy way for the layman.
In most major metropolitan areas there are Chinese doctors, who having been educated in China have come to the United States for their practice. I personally suggest only going to a Chinese doctor who has the appropriate, legitimate credentials. As with Rabbis, so it is with practitioners of Chinese medicine; there are a lot of people out there who claim to know a great deal, when in reality they know next to nothing.
Always choose your Rabbi and Chinese doctor with the same amount of care.
With regards to the practice of martial arts, I have also found them to be of great personal health benefits. Not only am I able to defend myself in a hostile world, I am also strong and flexible of body.
I highly recommend the study of authentic Kung Fu (from a qualified Chinese teacher) as another excellent method to maintain good health. Kung Fu study also enables it's practitioners to be able to defend themselves.
This is another Torah obligation.
With regards to the practice of martial arts, I am very curious to what Maimonides was specifically referring to when he recommended boxing as a healthy activity (Moreh Nebukhim, quoted above).
The words used in Hebrew are "meshikhat hayadayim" which literally means the pulling or stretching of hands. This is a most accurate description of Chinese martial arts practice.
Was Maimonides referring to some form of Kung Fu? I don't think we will ever know.
However, Maimonides did live in a Middle East which had a very active trade relationship with China.
It is not beyond belief that the greatest Rabbi of the age would know of Chinese martial arts.
Also, Maimonides makes mention of "suspension of breath." This is definitely a part of martial arts training, Chi Kung and of Jewish meditative practices. Exactly what he meant, we may never know.
To sum up the matter of exercise, health maintenance and martial arts in a precise manner: they are all activities required by the Torah.
Also, if they were good enough for Maimonides, they are good enough for me.
If any Rabbi wishes to challenge the requirement of the regular performance of exercise, health maintenance and martial arts, let him take up his argument with Maimonides.
E-mail Rabbi Bar Tzadok at
Yeshivat Lev Torah - Collel Benei N'vi'im
18375 Ventura Blvd. Suite 314 Tarzana, CA. 91356 USA
(Tel) 1-818-345-0888 (Fax) 1-818-342-988
The Written Works of Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 1997 - 2006 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance 5
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade, 10
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: 15
I am the captain of my soul.
-William Ernest Henley, 1849–1903
from Wikipedia: At the age of 12, Henley became a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. In spite of this, in 1867 he successfully passed the Oxford local examination as a senior student. His diseased foot had to be amputated directly below the knee; physicians announced the only way to save his life was to amputate the other. Henley persevered and survived with one foot intact. He was discharged in 1875, and was able to lead an active life for nearly 30 years despite his disability. With an artificial foot, he lived until the age of 54. "Invictus" was written from a hospital bed.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Us, and them
And after all we're only ordinary men.
Me, and you.
God only knows it's not what we would choose to do.
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat
and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which
and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end
it's only round and round.
Haven't you heard
it's a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
Theres room for you inside.
(spoken: I mean, they're not gonna kill ya, so if you give 'em a quick short,
Sharp, shock, they won't do it again. dig it? I mean he get off
Lightly, 'cos I would've given him a thrashing - I only hit him once!
It was only a difference of opinion, but really ... i mean good manners
Don't cost nothing do they, eh?)
Down and out
It can't be helped but
there's a lot of it about.
And who'll deny
it's what the fighting's all about?
Out of the way, it's a busy day
I've got things on my mind.
For the want of the price
of tea and a slice
The old man died.