Today’s Kosher Sutra is about overcoming sexual temptation. The nights are
getting long, we’re about to start burning some Chanukah candles, and
today’s conversation is about using the Bibliyoga to overcome red-hot
flaming passion…when it’s misdirected. Our Kosher Sutra centres on the story
of Joseph who has become the servant of the overlord Potiphar and is being
regularly propositioned by his wife. The woman proves to be dangerous,
especially when she doesn’t get her desires fulfilled.
One theory of yoga is that it is all about the movement of energy inside the
body, what the sutras referred to as ‘prana’. This is often mistranslated as
breath, but the idea is that we can harness this pranic energy through
breath and movement, through channelling this lifeforce. The closest Hebrew
translation is Ruach or Neshama. One theory of Tantric yoga is that rather
than releasing one’s energy it can be held within. *The more well-known
Tantric practices are about people refraining from an orgasm by keeping the
energy within, sending it shooting up their spine and increasing their
power,* but the more day-to-day applications are by focusing the energy to
increase your strength.
We are told that Joseph is ‘handsome of form and handsome of appearance’
(Genesis 39:6) and even though the mistress asks him to lie in bed beside
her (even without touching according to Rashi), he still refuses. Just A
leads to B leads to C, it’s as if he knew what could happen, so he stopped
himself before D led to E led to F.
The rabbis provided more tales of the Joseph’s erotic temptations. One
midrash says that she changed her clothes three times every day so that
she’d grab Joseph’s eye* while another one goes even further. Apparently she
invited around all of her Egyptian girlfriends, gave them all a citrus fruit
to cut up and enjoy and then asked Joseph to parade in front of them. He was
so attractive that they all cut their hands, which formed small sensual
bleeding scars.** Oy. Literature students, now’s your chance to start
reading into the imagery…
According to the plain text, Potiphar’s wife tried it on with Joseph every
single day. She grabbed his clothes. She teased him. The commentator Rashi
suggests that Joseph was at fault for curling his hair and preening himself
when he should have been empathising for his father who thought Joseph was
dead, hence being tested with this raunchy wench. I say, if your hair isn’t
naturally curly then enjoy au naturelle, but that’s beside the point.
Another midrash says that Joseph saw his father’s face outside the window
which is how he resisted her. It’s entirely possible he summoned this image
to keep himself cool. Either way, he found the strength to say no. That’s
impressive for any man when put in such a compromising and tempting position
as part of his working life.
The sages ask what true strength is, and the famous reply is that it is the
person “who can control his desire”*. This is true whether your desire is
for unhealthy food, unhealthy sex or unhealthy hair treatments. True
strength comes from inside, and this produces the ability to keep going
through difficult situations through sheer force of will.
When we truly apply this Kosher Sutra – being able to summon our strength to
say ‘no’ when faced with a situation, we experience true strength and can
achieve almost anything. Let’s put the Kosher Sutra into action with Warrior
1. Stand with your left heel at the back of your mat, your toes at a
45-degree angle to pointing outwards.
2. Step your right foot to the front of the mat, position your right knee
above your right ankle.
3. Engage both legs, drawing up on your left quadriceps and spread your
hands perpendicular to the floor.
4. Hold for 15 breaths on each side….or until your muscles are shaking –
that’s when your real power kicks in.