Kosher Sutra: “And [Moses] struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Ex 2:12)
Soul Solution: Freedom from emotional disturbances
Posture: Warrior One
Body Benefit: Strengthen legs and arms
As human beings who are full of passion, we can easily become overwhelmed with joy, filled with lust or provoked to anger. Today we begin the second movement of this year’s Kosher Sutras, centred around the theme of freedom. How do we experience ultimate freedom? Within our body and within our mind.
Our Kosher Sutra: Moses kills an Egyptian man and buries him in the sand. Very mafia. The commentaries describe how the Egyptian man was a slavemaster who was beating up a Jew, and he’d previously raped his victim’s wife earlier that day (Rashi). What’s interesting is that the text describes Moses’ actions very plainly and free from emotion – there is absolutely no indication that this was performed out of anger or as a spontaneous reaction*.
The practice of yoga is the pursuit of psychological freedom, which we achieve through physical application (asana). Patanjali named five afflictions (kleshas) that affect us; ignorance (avidya), egoism (asmita), attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and fear of death (abhinivesha)**. We practice the postures so that we can find internal stillness and inner calm, building our physical strength and psychological self-control so that we are not thrown into chaos by the chaotic world around us. Baron Baptiste stated it well in a recent Twitter feed: ‘do not wait for somebody else to set you free’.
So what should we do when somebody else deeply upsets us? When they catch us off-guard and do something which has the power to throw our world into utter disarray, messes up our plans and/or provokes a strong internal reaction?
We have to work harder. These are mental disturbances. Emotions over which we can become the master. The 2nd Century sage Ben Zoma asked ‘Who is strong? The one who is in control of their passions’ (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1). He was taking inspiration from the inspirational proverb that stated ‘the person who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and the one who controls their passion is more powerful than the conqueror of a city’ (Prov 16:32). Powerful words.
Moses eventually lost his temper at the end of his life, but he had self-control when faced with this current situation of watching an innocent victim under attack. Enlightenment doesn’t mean that we sit on a mountain and separate ourselves from the world, and in Moses’ case it was the right time for carrying out retributive justice.
Our opportunity is this; to use these transformational tools so that we can strengthen our body and mind through a conscious Bibliyoga practice. In doing so we can set ourselves free from the emotional disturbances that are part of life on earth.
Wishing you inner strength.
Marcus J Freed (c) 5771/2010
*Moses is giving a thought-through response. The Hebrew verb is in the present tense, ie ‘hitting’ which implies that Egyptian taskmaster’s assault had been going on for some time, so presumably Moses was watching from the sidelines (Maskil LeDavid).
** These afflictions, or ‘kleshas’, are explored in the Yoga Sutras.
Marcus J Freed is teaches yoga with a Jewish twist with classes every wednesday - Click here for more information. Marcus is the President of the Jewish Yoga Network and Yoga Mosaic USA, for Jewish yoga teachers and practitioners. He’s also the artist-in-residence for Jewlicious Festivals and he tours internationally to communities, JCCs and Hillels teaching and performing his one-man Biblical comedies.
WARRIOR TWO - HOW TO DO IT
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.