KOSHER SUTRA 'And Isaac went out and walked in the fields' (Genesis 24:63)
SOUL SOLUTION Ultimate spiritual and physical strength to sustain for the long-term.
BIBLIYOGA POSE Camel
BODY BENEFITS strengthing spine, shoulders, legs, and releasing tension from the back.
Isaac went out and walked in the field. Another translation is that he meditated in the field. Or he prayed in the field. Or that he spoke with God in the field*. Either way, he went out and stood there in the afternoon, ‘before evening’ as the verse continues. Our Kosher Sutra implies a sort of mountain posture to begin with, a way of just being. Of coming into the moment. Of stillness. Rav Hirsch suggests that this meditation was “the inner growth of spirit and feelings, gathering thoughts…”. It was real.
Isaac is an interesting figure. He doesn’t do much but life happens to him. When he is younger he nearly gets sacrificed by his father. When he is older he gets lied to by one of his sons who tricks him into giving away the wrong blessing. But everything turns out alright. In this week’s reading his mother dies but his father’s servant goes out and finds a wife for him, and ‘he is consoled after his mother’s death’ (Gen 25:67). For Isaac, life works out.
What a great way to live. To trust that it will all be good, without struggle. To roll with the punches and transcend the stresses. To be able to just stand there and enjoy it all. To trust in God, the universe, the great beyond and to know that everything will all work out well. This is the rabbinic concept of Bitachon – to stand straight like a mountain and be still. As a recent book title proclaims, Wherever You Go, There You Are. We may as well enjoy it.
When Isaac is standing in the fields, the next thing that happens is that he sees camels approaching. They happen to be carrying his bride-to-be, Future Mrs Isaac so to speak, the mother of his children. But he doesn’t see her first. This patriarch sees camels.
There's a play on words with camels, from an earlier phrase when Isaac grew up “and was weaned” from his mother's breast (Genesis 21:8). The word for weaning is 'vayigamal', which is exactly the same as 'gamal', meaning camel. Almost as if he'd supped the wisdom of life from his mother, stocked up on this spiritual strength as if he was a camel and headed out into the desert of the world with his full provision inside.
Rav Matis Weinberg brilliantly analyses of this passage and points out that this week’s sedra (reading) has 15 mentions of the word camel – more than the rest of the entire Torah. In moving away from the reliance on his mother’s milk, Isaac becomes a camel.
The camel is the ship of the desert. It has a little meal and can keep going for days. It’s mouth is strong enough to find sustenance in the most seemingly dry of places – thorny plants, wild flowers, cacti. It makes a dessert of the desert. It can carry people despite the heat or the terrain. A camel has the power to go the distance.
Consider the camel as a metaphor. Torah – spiritual wealth – is often compared to water. My friend Eric Rosen recently said that ‘a little spirituality goes a long way’. Let’s think about it – what’s the spiritual teaching that means the most to you? Most of us have one that we’ve often repeated over the years. Just imagine if we were stacked up with loads of them! What a way to live. Perhaps this is how Isaac lived, enriched by the teachings of his mother and father, infused by the words of the Divine, enlivened by the latent enlightenment all around him, and empowered with the ability to draw spiritual connection from the ‘cactuses’ of every day life.
This theme warrants an entire Bibliyoga retreat but I can’t wait until then to share this stuff with you. Let’s look at a midrash, a rabbinic tale that is infused with Bibliyoga philosophy and can help us achieve a peaceful body and soul through combining this wisdom with powerful yoga;
“A kind person (ish chesed) cares (gomel) for their own self (nafsho)…” (Proverbs 11:17). This applies to Hillel the Elder who, when he concluded his studies with his disciples, was once strolling with them. His disciples asked him: ‘Master, where are you going?’ He answered them: ‘To perform a mitzvah. [positive commandment]’ ‘What is this mitzvah?’ they asked. He said to them: ‘To wash in the bathhouse.’ Said they: ‘Is this a mitzvah?’, ‘Yes,’ he replied; ‘if the statues of kings, which are erected in theatres and circuses, are scoured and washed by a person who is appointed to care for them, and who thus obtains their livelihood through them… how much more so I, who have been created in God’s image and likeness; as it is written, “For in the image of God made humanity” (Genesis 9:6)’! [Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah 34:3]
There is so much to go on. The phrase from proverbs can also be read as ‘A kind person cares for their own breath’. We read of a major sage who is concerned with his body, with elevating his physical being, with finding the spiritual connections within his flesh and blood. To wash, to exercise, to pray – it is all part of the same package.
Try the camel posture today. Kneel with your shins in a parallel position, place your hands on your lower back or on the tops of your feet, lift your sternum and allow your head to drop back. Breathe deeply and hold the posture until you are shaking, until your muscles are screaming “ok already! We’re working! We’re alive!”.
Connect with your inner power and meditate on the spiritual teaching that means something to you. This is the ‘water’ to carry you through the desert. And then spend the rest of the day seeing the spiritual potential in your everyday life. In your today life. As my teacher Ed has said; ‘enlightenment is all around us the entire time. All we need to do is tap into it’.
Be a camel, and if someone annoys you today, try and carry them. Don’t get the hump.
*Rashi, based on the word L’Suach, to have a sicha, a conversation with God.
The Kosher Sutras©Marcus J Freed 2010/5770