Goodwill to all men
KOSHER SUTRA His soul is bound up with [his father's] soul (Gen 44:30)
SOUL SOLUTION Support, love and friendship
BIBLIYOGA POSE Communal yoga
BODY BENEFITS Stronger body, soul and mind
When was the last time that a friend or a family member was there to help you out in a time of need? When were you there to help out someone else? It’s often these times of adversity and challenge that show us who our true friends are, and we often emerge stronger as a result.
The physical process of yoga is about going to the edge of our physical stamina and flexibility, almost flirting with the edge of endurance to see how far we can safely go. This leads to an increase in our personal power as we build in strength. We fortify our body but we also empower our mind and spirit by testing its limits.
The story of Joseph and his brothers is dark and challenging, especially the Judah/Benjamin issue, even if the Joseph musical does feature the upbeat ‘Benjamin Calypso’ song. One of the various themes brought up by the story is that of personal transformation, and Judah is put in the spotlight. Maimonides’ famous definition of true change, ultimate teshuva, is to be in the same place where we failed before but to behave differently. To face a situation where we previously fell short of our potential, but to act differently.
We do this every time we step on a yoga mat and try to do a posture which we previously found difficult. We can either give up when we get tired or go back to the edges of our limits and hold the pose longer and more deeply, or keep going with a longer practice session. As Iyengar says, the asana (yoga pose) truly begins at the point when we want to give up.
When Benjamin is imprisoned on a false charge, Judah immediately jumps in and offers to put himself in slavery rather than let his youngest brother take the hit – “We are ready to be slaves to our Lord” (Gen 44:16). This is utterly different to the moment when Joseph was sold into slavery and Judah did nothing. He has now moved into an age of responsibility, an era of growth and proven that his personal transformation has taken place. This is just one of the reasons why Judah’s descendents include King David.
One of the most powerful arguments that Judah uses to persuade Joseph that Benjamin should be free is that ‘his soul is bound up with [Jacob’s] soul’. This statement of oneness is absolute. This builds on Judah’s previous statement of oneness, when he said that all of the brothers will stand or fall together, as slaves or free men. The sense of unity, of being Echad, of yoga (ie oneness) is what enables the family to rebuild, the family to grow and the family to heal.
The Talmud says that “all Israel are responsible for one another”* which is the ultimate statement of holistic living. Just as our right hand is aware of the fact that our left hand might be injured – because our body is clearly connected – so too we are encouraged to feel concern if another member of our community is in pain. The repeated Biblical injunction to care for all humans around us, regardless of race or religion, is the battle-cry for communal care and holistic living**. Judah’s call for responsibility is a call for us all.
One aspect of the recent Copenhagen conference and the shaky Kyoto protocols is that if one country wrecks the ozone layer, we are all in shtuck. Our souls are indeed bound together.
One of the most powerful things about practicing yoga in a large group is that it seems easier because we all seem to move as one large organism. Even if you are feeling tired and uninspired, it’s still possible to feel uplifted and to be motivated by the person next to. Again, it’s as if our souls are bound together.
We can re-read the Kosher Sutra to reveal an extra leve. The word for soul, nefesh, is related to the word nashaf meaning ‘exhale’ or ‘breath’. In other words, our breaths are bound together.
Today’s Bibliyoga practice is to do some yoga – any yoga – with other people. Be together, share together, care together, bond together and grow together.
The writer of proverbs noted that a brother is there for times of adversity. Through having a strong bond and refined sensitivity we can truly be there for others in times of need, and safe in the knowledge that people will be there for us when we need them.
Be strong, happy and inspired
*BT Shavuot 39a
** “divide your food with the hungry, bring the moaning poor to your home, when you see the naked, cover him…” (Isiaiah 58:7)
** ”A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” (Proverbs 17:17)
The Kosher Sutras©Marcus J Freed 2010/5770