Humility is a challenging mountain to climb. That is, speaking as someone who is staring up from the foothills, barely out of base camp. We all know when we spot false humility and it reeks like a week-old fish, because it can seem inauthentic when someone is going out of their way to appear humble and we know that they don’t really mean it. Equally, somebody who is actively pushing themselves into a pit to achieve humility can effectively make themselves ineffective.
Our Kosher Sutra appears when Moses is asked to count the heads of all the tribes and Rashi (Num. 1:1) explains that the reason for the regular census-takings are because ‘G-d loves counting’ the people. He is reminding us that we all count and that we all matter, regardless of what we are doing or achieving on any one day. Even though someone may feel alone or uncared-for, they are still dear to their parents, and their presence on the earth makes a difference.
Ramban comments the phrase “Su’u et Rosh”, ‘count the heads’ can be translated as ‘lift up the heads’ or 'raise up the heads' (Num. 1:2). The Hebrew word appears ‘su’ when Joseph utters his dream-reading prophecies to the Baker and Butler; the latter has his head lifted up in a noose whilst the former receives a job promotion. This week’s Bibliyoga posture is to hold your head high, to ‘walk tall’, but the challenge is how we can claim our rightful status whilst maintaining humility. How can we walk tall and not become hoisted on our own petard, so to speak?
We can use our anatomical yogic knowledge to become taller through elongating our spine, but an improved stature will only be sustainable if it is connected with the breath - this is the focus of today's posture, Warrior 2 (see diagram below). Rabbinic wisdom teaches that true humility is an ideal quality (Ethics of the Fathers: 4:1) but the Hebrew phrase is ‘Shfal Ruach’ which we can translate as a ‘humbled breath’ or perhaps a 'lowered breath'. If we continue to connect our breath with the base of our spine and fully exhale using the abdomen, we can use this focus to support our head that is being held high. This humbled breath actually helps us lift up with dignity and humility. By keeping our head raised and our breath grounded, we can achieve humility and nobility, pursuing and achieving our true potential.
_Thank you to Rabbi Dovid Ebner for teaching this Ramban._
To receive your weekly Kosher Sutra, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the title 'I want my sutra!'. Marcus is the Artist-in-residence for JConnectLA & Jewlicious Festivals, founder of Bibliyoga and Creative Director of Freedthinking.
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THE KOSHER SUTRAS © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
i. Begin in Downwards-facing dog. Place your left foot so that it is parallel to the back of the mat. Complete steps ii and iii on one inhale.
ii. Step your right foot towards the front of your mat, ensuring that your right knee is directly above your right ankle.
iii. Raise both hands above your head, pushing your palms together.
Iv. Come into Warrior 1 and open your arms so that they are parallel to your legs.
v. Turn your palms so that they are both facing downwards.
vi. Close the fingers on each hand so that the energy is focused and reach your hands in opposite directions to elongate your arms.
vii. Lower your pelvis slightly and check that your bent knee is directly above your ankle.
viii. Raise your hands slightly to ensure that there is a clear line of energy emanating from your body.
ix. Rotate your left hip so that it is facing forwards.