A Family Business
KOSHER SUTRA Don’t get too close to your relatives (Lev 18:6)
SOUL SOLUTION Peace with your family.
BIBLIYOGA POSE Tree Pose (stick to your roots, extend your branches)
BODY BENEFITS Strengthen legs and increase your balance.
At this time of year I begin to ask what it truly means to be freed. The journey of Abraham was a profound mission, as he was told to leave his father’s house, birthplace and country, so that he could become his own man and fulfill his destiny free from the psychological trappings of his home town.
During the festival of Passover, many children of all ages complete the opposite journey, as a three-line whip* is called for them to spend the festivities with their parents. In Portnoy’s Complaint, Phillip Roth wrote that “A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!”. For plenty of people, the so-called festival of freedom is celebrated by going back to the house of bondage. Go figure. Eckhart Tolle wrote ‘if you think you’re enlightened, then go and live with your parents for a week’. He wasn’t kidding.
I once tried to teach my parents yoga. The class lasted for at least five minutes. I finally realised that I have a lot of yoga to learn from them. Why? Because they give me the opportunity to practice every principle I am trying to teach, such as moderation [‘Brahmacharya’ in the yoga sutras], being content with the moment [‘santosha’] or being non-reactive and non-angry [‘Ahimsa’]. Yep…hanging out with the family provides all of these wonderful opportunities…and many, many more…
The hilarious film When Do We Eat shows a Passover seder meal where grown children return join their family and promptly resume old fights, old opinions and old behaviours. Every Passover my family says ‘we were slaves but now we are Freed’ (yes, and we’re still amused every time we say it), but how many of us are truly freed? Do we have the power to free ourselves of the old behaviours that hold us back? The old fears that we have carried through the decades? Are we still grown children or can we truly be adults, able to maintain adult behaviours in the face of the emotional triggers that always used to get us sparked off?
‘Don’t get too close to your relatives’ is this week’s Kosher Sutra. Alright, so it’s a slightly free translation. The end of the sentence is ‘don’t get too close to your relatives to have sexual relations with them: I am the Lord’ (Lev 18:6). Hopefully the latter commandment is obvious, although the text then elucidates an entire list of forbidden relations, possibly because it was relevant for ancient civilisations**. Let us do a more palatable, contemporary reading of this. We are being encouraged to respect our family relationships. To be close with our families but not too close. To live the fine balance of experiencing our Abrahamic freedom (‘Lech-lecha’, e.g. get your distance and grow up), whilst respecting parents and coming home on occasion. ‘Tis a fine, fine balance. Oy.
This week’s Kosher Sutra comes from the reading that begins with the death of Aaron’s two sons. There are few things worse than this ultimate tragedy of parents having to bury their children, as I’ve seen in recent years with three families who have lost their children, all between the ages of 28-35. The healing, if indeed it ever comes, is slow and painful.
Despite the tragedy, God continues speaking with Aaron and his other sons as one unit, via Aaron’s brother Moses (Lev 17:1). The family ties are strong, the Divine presence is channelled into the world through the work of a united family and despite problems and obstacles they still find a balance. When the family business is later challenged by their unruly cousin Korach, necessary actions are taken.
Have a peaceful one. The next time you see your family, experience what it means to be freed. And if all becomes so stressful that you’re unable to implement the lessons and practices of this article, just remember that you can always click onto www.expedia.com and speedily get the next flight to a land far, far away.
-A three-line whip is a term originating from the British Parliament where each political party tells its MPs to vote on a particular bill. A one-line whip is less imperative. British members of parliament don’t actually use whips. At least not on official business, but what they do in their spare time is entirely their business. Well, their business and that of the Sunday newpapers when the photographs inevitably get leaked. Anyway, the metaphor seemed appropriate for this pre-Passover piece. I’ll stop talking now.