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Can yoga ever really be ‘kosher’?

A few years’ back, on Emunaroma, I spent quite a while trying to bottom out whether yoga could really be ‘kosher’ for orthodox Jews. After a lot of digging around, the answer that crystallised was:

No, absolutely not!

Last week, a friend called me and asked me to re-post the yoga report on my new blog, as there is a 3 day ‘yoga retreat’ happening in Israel, and she was shocked that so many very orthodox women are spending a whole three days of their precious lives bowing to the modern baal that is yoga.

So, I’m reposting it below.

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Can Yoga Really be Kosher?

Some background

For years’ now, I’ve been hearing from different people in the frum community about how ‘great’ and ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderful’ yoga is. But because I’m a religious Jew, I’ve been very wary of getting into anything that seems so connected to idol worship and the Hindu religion (more on this in a moment).

‘But yoga can be kosher!’ I’ve been assured repeatedly, and I never pushed the issue very much because a) I still wanted to get Shabbat invitations, and b) I wasn’t really interested in doing it anyway.

When I started to develop an interest in alternative medicine, I made a point of seeking out a knowledgeable, well-respected orthodox Rabbi in Sanhedria, to ask him what was acceptable, halachically, and what wasn’t. He gave me guidelines that things like acupuncture and acupressure and even applied kinesiology – where everything is directly ‘hands-on’ and there’s no indirect, invisible ‘forces’ at play – are halachically OK.

But anything to do with chakras, or anything hands-off (like the type of healing that occurs with Reiki, for example,) was not.)

I did  more research, and was told that a rabbinic research group had been put together a few years’ back by one of the ultra-orthodox organisations in Israel, to explore what was ok, Jewishly, and what wasn’t. The basic conclusion is that most of the things coming out of China were OK, but the practises coming out of India were NOT OK.

I also discovered that Rav Elyashiv had given a ruling about kisufim (the use of magic) in alternative medicine, that basically said that anything where it couldn’t be shown scientifically how it actually worked to help a person heal, should be considered kisufim and avoided by Jews.

In recent years, there have been many studies done to show that the body is made up of electrical impulses, that each cell is polarized with an electrical charge, and that the traditional acupuncture points of Chinese Medicine actually correspond to areas where the electrical ‘charge’ of the skin is much greater than in surrounding areas.

Long story short: Chinese Medicine now has a proven scientific basis for how and why it works, and is thus acceptable for orthodox Jews.

But the same can definitely NOT be said for the Indian healing tradition, which includes multiple references to energy centres (the chakras and the nadis) and working with the ‘astral’ body, i.e., a person’s soul. Yoga is part of the Indian healing tradition.

So, can it be ‘kosher’?

——

Yoga’s bad vibe

Let me start by explaining how I came to be researching this topic. A few weeks’ ago, I finally attended my first apparently ‘kosher’ yoga class. The teacher was a very lovely woman, but the spiritual ‘vibe’ I got from attending the class was so disturbing to me – despite the fact that all we seemed to be doing was some nice stretching exercises – that I decided to check things out properly, to see what’s really going on with ‘kosher yoga’.

I decided to buy a book on the history of yoga by yoga expert Georg Feuerstein, which would set everything out, and explain where yoga had come from. Immediately, the first red flag went up as I started to read some of the comments about yoga being the ‘midwife’ of at least four idolatrous religions; and how it was ‘impossible to separate yoga from Hinduism, just as it’s impossible to unscramble an egg.’

There was also a lot of talk about how it helps people to tap into to the ‘mythical energy of the serpent’, and a whole bunch of other stuff that frankly made my hair stand on end.

Let’s be clear that the people discussing yoga in this fashion were adepts and experts who really knew what they were talking about, and who didn’t have a vested interest about pretending that yoga was nothing to do with religion.

They stated very clearly that it was a religious, spiritual practice, associated with many of the world’s most idolatrous religions.

Things did not look very promising, initially, but I decided to wait and see what the book said, before really making up my mind.

Then, someone contacted me complaining that I should look at the ‘secular’ branch of yoga as taught by BKS Iyengar, and practiced in the West, which was all about health benefits and exercise, and nothing to do with religion at all.

——

There is no such thing as ‘secular’ yoga

I went to check out BKS Iyengar – and got to an official site that was dripping with idol worship and full of prayers offered up to the dead founders of yoga, who had now been officially deified (including by BKS Iyengar, himself).

(As a side note, whenever you do that ‘OM’ chant, the underlying intention is that you are praying to an idol.)

The more I was scratching the surface of yoga, even apparently ‘secular’ yoga, the more I was finding references and connections to idol worship – so much so, that I literally started to feel a little nauseous about the whole affair.

The next thing I did was go back to our halachic sources, to check what it says about idol worship.

The Torah gives us two very clear commandments in connection with the severe prohibition against idol worship (I’m quoting the notes to the Artscroll Tractate of Avodah Zarah, 11a):

  • “And you shall not follow their rituals – Leviticus 18.3 – which proscribes rituals that are used in idol worship.”
  • “And you shall not act according to their practices – Exodus 23-24 – which forbids any practices specific to idolatrous peoples, even those that have nothing to do with idolatry.”

On the face of it, even if yoga was ‘secular’ and ‘just exercises’, as is claimed by the kosher yoga crowd, and even if you got rid of the salutations to the sun and the chanting,

Jews are still forbidden to do it because yoga is indisputably a practice that’s specific to idolatrous peoples.

——

Trying to track down the halachic approval for yoga

So now, we hit the next stage of the process: trying to track down the rabbis who had apparently approved yoga as kosher, to hear from them how their rulings squared with the above Torah laws.

And this is where things have become very interesting!

I was put in touch with a yoga teacher who had apparently received the halachic OK from two well-known orthodox figures. When I asked for more details, she told me she’d been told verbally by one of them that yoga was OK if she just avoided the ‘salutations to the sun’ and the chanting stuff.

I have been trying to get hold of that person to speak to them, but so far they haven’t returned my emails. (If he does, I will update you.)

It turned out the other figure had never spoken to her directly, and to my source’s credit she was unwilling to name them or pass on what they’d said as she’d only heard it second-hand (and as I’m learning with this stuff, even the ‘first-hand’ approvals have to be taken with a huge pinch of salt.)

But she put me in touch with the ‘orthodox’ yoga teacher who’d trained her – and hundreds of others in the orthodox world – who she was sure could give me more details about the halachic backers of ‘kosher’ yoga.

This is an excerpt of our email exchange, after I’d asked the teacher (very politely) if she could please give me details of the Rabbinic backers who had certified her yoga courses for the orthodox Jewish world:

I would love to be part of this discussion however this is the craziest month for me with school ending, camp coming, Shavuot around the corner, and my program starts in a month so everyone is calling.

I can only tell you Rivka that I have done extensive research on this and there is a false understanding that the modern postural practice of yoga, which we westerners practice, is rooted in Hinduism.  I am sending you this article to read which explains it all http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/not-as-old-as-you-think#page3.  There are major Rabbanim that poskin that yoga is fine so long as it is done for health purposes and that it practiced as an exercise or a path to wellness and health. 

Other than this I can’t get into a whole dialogue about it because of my time constraints but just know that the poses were influenced greatly by western fitness models and you don’t have to worry about it.

I responded:

I took a look at the article, thanks, and it’s not at all clear. It’s obviously a very hot topic of debate within the yoga world itself about whether yoga can truly be cut off from its hindu origins, and the person who wrote the article appears to be a lone voice in the wilderness, saying that it can. Do you have any other references?

Also, I just looked up your teacher’s site (as per your info on your site) and was a little surprised that it said the following – the part about her system of ‘flow yoga’ being ‘rooted in the ancient system of Tantra’ etc. So clearly, her yoga DOES have a spiritual basis rooted in hindu tradition, as she herself is publicising on her site.

I’m curious if that’s the same style of flow yoga that you’re teaching and certifying via [YOUR YOGA COLLEGE]?

And if yes, I really do need the names of your halachic poskim.

(The ‘orthodox’ yoga teacher had apparently learned her completely ‘secular’ yoga practices from someone who studied directly from a tantric master, and who happily teachers her yoga in temples dedicated to ‘Lord Shriva’.)

This is what I got back:

Hi Rivka

Why are you inquiring about this? I don’t know of your intentions for why you are asking all these questions. Are you thinking of learning yoga. ? Do you want to teach it? Are you upset observant Jews are teaching yoga?

I responded:

Let me ask you a question: Why are you being so reticent about giving me the names of your halachic poskim? What’s the big deal? If it’s ok, halachically, let me know who your rabbis are who have sanctioned it, and end of story.

My intention is this: I am trying to find out if yoga is halachically OK for Jews to do.

I am writing up my discoveries as I go along, and I’m sharing what I’m learning with others.

If you have halachic sanction from orthodox rabbis, please give me the names so I can contact them for further details. If you can’t do that, then it suggests that the issue is not as straightforward as you’re representing it to be.

I got this response back (peace ‘n love, man…)

It doesn’t suggest anything. I am straightforward. I have dealt with people like you in the past and frankly I don’t have the time of day to deal with it. We have 100% have called Poskin and got permission to practice yoga.  Now it’s your turn to do the same. Call your Rabbis and speak to them about your particular situation.  I am not interested in being scrutinized nor will I pass the name out of my Rabbis. Yoi have your own Rabbis, own community and own hashgafa so get ypur answera from your own community. It was rude of you to look up my teachers bio (who I learned with 20 years ago when I wasn’t frum) & question my authenticity based on her bio. Please don’t write me and go do your own research into the topic. Next time you have questions such as this try not to approach a person with such judgement and maybe you will learn something.

Well, learn something I certainly did….

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Wikipedia to the rescue

The proponents of ‘kosher yoga’ like to say that it’s completely secular and just exercise. But even a cursory look at Wikipedia shows that yoga and idolatry are so tightly woven together, THEY CANNOT BE SEPERATED.

  • Plug in ‘Hatha Yoga’ to Wikipedia and here’s what you’ll read, in the first two lines:

Hindu tradition believes that the deity Shiva himself is the founder of hatha yoga.[3][4][5]

In the 20th century, hatha yoga, particularly asanas (the physical postures), became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise, and is now colloquially termed as simply “yoga”.”

  • Plug in plain ‘Yoga’ to Wikipedia, and you’ll get this:

“In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core. One of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu Samkhya philosophy.”

And a little later on, you get this, in the section called ‘The Goals of Yoga’:

“According to David Gordon White, from the 5th century CE onward, the core principles of “yoga” were more or less in place, and variations of these principles developed in various forms over time:[29]

  • Yoga, as an analysis of perception and cognition; illustration of this principle is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gitaand Yogasutras, as well as a number of Buddhist Mahāyāna works;
  • Yoga, as the rising and expansion of consciousness; these are discussed in sources such as Hinduism Epic Mahābhārata, Jainism Praśamaratiprakarana;
  • Yoga, as a path to omniscience; examples are found in HinduismNyaya and Vaisesika school texts as well as Buddhism Mādhyamaka texts, but in different ways;
  • Yoga, as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments; these are described in Tantric literature of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the Buddhist Sāmaññaphalasutta.”

 As these excerpts clearly and unequivocably show, the focus of yoga is NOT on exercise and physical health at all. The spiritual underpinnings of yoga, and its direct connections to idol worshipping religions are so obvious, it’s hard to believe that I’m even having to write this.

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“If you do yoga just for your physical health, then it’s ok halachically”

So now, we come down to the crux of the ‘Kosher Yoga’ argument, which is that if you only do the exercises, and you have no connection whatsoever to the philosophical or religious associations, then it’s OK, halachically.

That appears to be the current argument of the people who are convinced that yoga can be koshered. But there are a number of serious problems with this approach.

  • PROBLEM ONE: It doesn’t satisfy the Torah prohibitions we brought above, namely:

“And you shall not follow their rituals – Leviticus 18.3 – which proscribes rituals that are used in idol worship.”

“And you shall not act according to their practices – Exodus 23-24 – which forbids any practices specific to idolatrous peoples, even those that have nothing to do with idolatry.”

Who can deny that yoga is a practice that is specific to idolatrous peoples?

Who can claim that the exact same poses used in the worship of ‘Lord Shriva’ or some other idol are NOT ‘rituals that are used in idol worship’, even if the person doing them doesn’t have that specific intention?

So that’s the first, massive problem with this halachic approach, and I would love for the Rabbinic poskim who have apparently sanctioned yoga for orthodox Jews to come out of hiding, and openly explain how they have specifically addressed this issue, in their rulings.

  • PROBLEM TWO: It doesn’t work, in practice.

Why not?

Because as we’ve been learning, it’s impossible to disentangle the physical exercises from their spiritual and philosophical roots.

As soon as you call your exercise program ‘yoga’, you’ve connected it to the philosophy and spirituality of idol worship. (This is a good time to remind you that a leading branch of Hinduism is actually called ‘yoga’. If you’d be uncomfortable attending a class called ‘Xtian stretching’, then the same issue applies here.)

If you’re still not convinced that even the name is steeped in Hindu philosopy and idol-worshipping spirituality, I found the following on one of the official websites promoting Swami Vivekananda, the man credited with ‘secularising’ modern yoga for Western consumption a century ago:

“The word Yoga is FIRST defined by sage Patanjali in his book Patanjali Yoga Sutra. He summarized YOGA as CHITTA VRITHI NIRODHA.

CHITTA means MIND
VRITTI means VIBRATIONS
NIRODHA means STOPPAGE”

(As a side note, you should know that ‘sage Patanjali’ has been officially deified by many branches of the Hindu religion.)

Also, in order to qualify as an ‘official’ yoga teacher in the West (even via the apparently ‘kosher’ yoga colleges)  you are still required to learn ‘yoga philosophy, lifestyle and ethics’, that are all clearly rooted in idolatrous beliefs and philosophy, as per the below which comes from the Yoga Alliance website for registered yoga schools:

  1. Yoga Philosophy, Lifestyle and Ethics for Yoga Teachers:

30 hours

Minimum Contact Hours: 20 hours

Minimum Contact Hours w/ Lead Trainer(s): 0 hours

Special Requirements: A minimum of 2 of the above Contact Hours must be spent on ethics for yoga teachers

Topics in this category could include, but would not be limited to:

  • The study of yoga philosophies and traditional texts (such as the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika or Bhagavad Gita)

  • Yoga lifestyle, such as the precept of non-violence (ahimsa), and the concepts of dharma and karma

  • Ethics for yoga teachers, such as those involving teacher – student relationships and community

  • Understanding the value of teaching yoga as a service and being of service to others (seva)

Now, I’ve never heard of people having to immerse themselves in idolatrous texts for thirty hours just to be able to teach tennis, or a good aerobics class. Is there really anyone out there who still believes that yoga is ‘purely’ a form of exercise?

——

Yoga is not just an exercise, it’s a lifestyle choice

The last thing to say is that yoga, even the apparently ‘secular-just-for-exercise’ version is a complete lifestyle package. As soon as people get into yoga, they start wanting to learn more about it, and expand their knowledge of this amazing new ‘exercise’ their doing.

As soon as they do that – as soon as they read the information on Wikipedia, or on any other yoga site, for example – they’re connecting to the philosophy and spirituality behind the exercises, which makes it instantly forbidden to them to continue practicing yoga, even according to the halachic opinion quoted above, that it’s: ‘OK’ to do yoga if it’s completely divorced from spirituality or philosophy.

(And this is a good time to note, again, that the exercises CANNOT be divorced from the spiritual side of things, for all the reasons and more stated above.)

Where do we go from here?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about yoga-practicing Jews, even the ‘frum’ ones, it’s that they will defend their ‘exercise’ program religiously.

Again, the idol-worshipping connections to yoga are so obvious, that anyone who even researches this topic a little will quickly find stacks of information making it clear that yoga is off-limits for believing Jews.

So it comes down to this: For the God-fearing people in our midst who really want to avoid idol worship, and who are really concerned about doing what God wants, even when it involves some sort of self-sacrifice on their part, there is really no question:

Yoga is an idolatrous practice, and is forbidden. Engaging in this practice, even so-called ‘secular’ yoga will damage your soul and your connection to God and Yiddishkeit.

For the other people, who decided a long time ago that yoga was ‘kosher’ – regardless of the issues raised above – nothing I wrote here will change their mind, and they will continue to try to convince everyone else that you can really kosher a pig, and that they aren’t doing anything wrong!!!

And for the people in the middle?

Get informed.

Ask your ‘kosher yoga’ provider the name of the rabbi who certified their program – and don’t let them wiggle out of giving it you. Ask them how their apparently ‘secular’ style differs from the poses used in idol-worship (and then watch them squirm, because the whole point of certain schools of yoga is that the poses, or ‘asanas’ have to be done precisely, as taught by the (idol-worshiping) yogi masters.)

Ask them how can be sure that the 30 hours of instruction in idolatrous beliefs they had to do in order to even qualify as a teacher hasn’t seeped into the classes and exercises they’re giving over to their own students.

Go onto the internet and see for yourself how yoga is basically its own idolatrous religion.

And then you can decide which group you want to really be in: God-fearing Jews who care about their souls and their relationship to the Creator; OR Jews-for-yoga.

—–

‘I believe I get health benefits from doing yoga. What can I do instead?’

This one is easy:

Do any stretching exercises you like that aren’t called ‘yoga’, or attached to idolatrous philosophies or religions!

That could be Pilates, the Alexander technique exercises, even just the ‘plain vanilla’ stretching exercises you can find in books like ‘Stretching for Dummies’. There are many different ways that you can stretch in a truly kosher way that have nothing to do with idolatrous faiths and practices.

——

A word to our Rabbis

Let’s end with a plea to the orthodox rabbis who are apparently certifying ‘kosher yoga’ (if they actually do exist…) Dear rabbis, I know you have a very hard job of trying to bring people closer to Yiddishkeit, and trying to accommodate the strange and superficial ideas about spirituality that so many modern people have.

I know it’s a very hard sell to get people to believe that body, mind and soul are really connected (which is why a Jew can’t just eat what they want, and why we go to mikva, and why we dress modestly, for example.)

But please don’t certify any more ‘kosher yoga’ programs until you’ve really done your homework about the idolatrous roots of this stuff, and the spiritual implications of ‘just doing the poses’.

Giving a hechsher to idol worshipping practices is hugely problematic, and should not be done lightly.

(Remember, in order to be a certified instructor, you have to have spent a minimum of 30 hours learning ‘philosophy, ethics and lifestyle’, as discussed above, which basically boils down to 30 hours of instruction in idolatrous ideas and philosophies).

If you decide it IS possible to make a form of ‘kosher’ yoga, then please publicize your rulings, and please give enough detailed explanation so the masses can also understand why doing even a ‘kosher’ form of yoga doesn’t infringe the serious Torah prohibitions against:

And you shall not follow their rituals – Leviticus 18.3 – which proscribes rituals that are used in idol worship.”

And you shall not act according to their practices – Exodus 23-24 – which forbids any practices specific to idolatrous peoples, even those that have nothing to do with idolatry.”

May Hashem help us all to have the clarity to differentiate between good and bad, spiritual light and spiritual darkness, and the courage to act on our holy convictions, even when it’s very difficult for us.

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You can download this whole post as a PDF here:

Can Yoga really be Kosher

UPDATE:

Orthodox holistic practitioner Efraim Geltman from Jerusalem Health sent along the following links from Rav Ginsburg, which makes the point even more sharply:

http://www.inner.org/chassidut/yoga-can-it-be-kosher-rav-ginsburgh-addresses-the-question

http://www.inner.org/questions-and-answers-about-harav-ginsburghs-position-on-yoga

Have you ever wondered where that phrase ‘under the weather’ – meaning, not feeling so good – comes from?

The last few days, I’ve been feeling ‘under the weather’ – lots of head pressure, headaches, exhaustion and snot.

And it seems there’s a lot of that stuff going around at the moment.

‘Under the weather.’

And the weather is continuing to be pretty strange in most parts of the world, at the moment. Record-breaking snow, record-breaking cold snaps, in Jerusalem it’s been raining for almost a month non-stop which is highly unusual for Israel.

Usually, you get a day, three days maximum, of very heavy rain, and then it goes all sunny again for two weeks.

But not this year. It’s raining on and off nearly all the time at the moment, which is great for the water situation, but not so great for my mood.

‘Under the weather’.

I had that a lot in the UK. The sun would totally disappear sometime in September, and only reappear again sometime in April, and in the meantime, I’d feel quite down and claustrophobically ‘stuck’ indoors and cut off from the world.

That’s happening again a little bit, what can I do. Grey rainy skies are good for the Kinneret, but not so useful for feeling full of energy and enthusiasm.

At least I figured out how the radiators work yesterday, which is an unheard of bonus.

Cold weather with working radiators is a completely different beast from cold weather with just that one, aging space heater that only works if you sit within two feet of it.

I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that at the moment, I’m feeling like I’ve run out of energy, a bit. I don’t have the headspace to respond to emails. I don’t have the energy to get on with my million and one writing projects. Even making supper is challenging.

I’m ‘under the weather’.

Some people will say it’s a virus, or bug, going around, and that’s probably part of it. But I tend to believe that we only come down with these things – that are around us 24/7 – when we’re feeling a bit weak anyway, or environmentally-stressed.

‘Under the weather’.

I think we’re due some more big earthquakes this week. We’ll see.

And in the meantime, my ability to think straight, and to communicate properly, and to reach out past my dalet amot seems to have disappeared, so please forgive me if I’m a little quiet at the moment, dear reader.

There is a lot going on under the surface.

I opened my inbox today, read a few emails, then shut it down again before responding to anyone.

Why?

Because I didn’t know what to say.

BH, I have the enormous privilege of being in touch with some of the most amazing, big souls in the whole wide world. And over recent months, so many of them have been sent such big tests, such never-ending tribulations, such feelings of confusion and doubt – that I’ve reached that point of not really knowing what to say, or how to share their pain with them.

I do have one piece advice left, but I know it’s often still so hard to hear, and so hard to act on, that I save it for when there is literally nothing more I can say or suggest. And this is it:

Get in touch with Rav Berland.

Connect with this tremendous tzaddik somehow, because when I was going through years and years of terrible, awful suffering, and when I felt like I didn’t really want to carry on, or be around anymore just to be so miserable all the time, Rav Berland was the single thing that turned that tanker around.

I’m in touch with people who are doing hitbodedut for hours a day; people who have more emuna in their little finger than I do in my whole body; people who are trying their best to be super-machmir in any way they can, religiously, to try to get all their problems to abate and turn around.

And I read what they’re going through, and I feel so sad about it all, because this is also what happened to me. I also got stuck trying to be more and more frum, and more and more strict, and more and more down on myself, and more and more harshly self-critical about all my faults and failures, because I thought that’s what God wants, and that is how I’ll get things to turnaround.

But I was so, so wrong!

God didn’t want that at all.

What God really did want, was for me to admit I couldn’t do it by myself, and that I couldn’t do it alone, and to once and for all accept that I needed to be connected to a true Tzaddik, in order to function as a human being.

And Baruch Hashem, around that same time, God clued me in who that person actually was, in our generation: Rav Eliezer Berland.

Again, from the moment I picked up the phone to the Rav’s attendant (because the Rav himself was in South Africa, at that point) – my life started to improve.

I started to feel happier and healthier than I had for years. My husband also started to feel so much happier again, when he moved over to the Shuvu Banim yeshiva to learn in the mornings. Finally, some of the mountains started to flatten out. Some of the internal maelstrom started to abate. Some of the issues and problems started to resolve and disappear.

It’s been a long, slow process, but Baruch Hashem, my family is a million times happier and calmer since we got connected to Rav Berland.

So, for all the people who are at the end of their endurance and who just can’t take it anymore, that is really the only piece of advice I can give. It’s the only thing that worked for me, that got me out of my thousand prisons, that got me past all the places I was so stuck and drowning in misery.

I needed all that suffering, because it softened me up so much, and made me so much more humble and ready to accept that I needed the Rav’s help.

If I hadn’t been through the ringer for so many years, my arrogance would probably have repelled me away from the Rav, God forbid, because the Tzaddik is just a mirror. I’ve seen time and time again that when people are criticizing the Rav, or telling me yucky stuff, they are really 100% just projecting their own inner ‘bad’ onto the mirror.

The Rav is operating at such a high level, us regular folk simply can’t grasp him, we simply can’t get hold of what’s really going on. So, if we’re full of arrogance and bad middot, all our doubts and confusions will rush into the vacuum, and we’ll find ourselves being repulsed faster than you can say ‘the tzaddik is just a mirror’.

(To give just one example: some woman I knew sent me an email accusing the Rav of being a rapist, God forbid a million times. After pondering on how the mirror principle was working in that case, I realized that this person goes around forcing her ideas down other people’s throats, and forcing her opinions on others. Whereas a rapist is bodily forcing himself on others, she was assaulting people with her unwanted opinions, but it’s actually rooted in the same bad middot, i.e. an inability to see other people as anything more than a tool for their own personal gratification.)

So, that’s my one piece of advice.

Take your troubles, and flee to the Rav.

Of course, keep praying, keep making teshuva, keep talking to God, keep going to Uman, of course, of course.

But also, get connected to the true tzaddik of our own generation.

So many of us seem to be hitting that wall at the moment where we realize that we just can’t do it by ourselves.

And really, we don’t have to.

  • The easiest way to contact the Rav direct is through the RavBerland.com website, HERE. If you have the evil Whatsapp, then put it to good use and join the English Shuvu Banim Whatsapp group HERE.

Two days before Pesach, my daughter slammed her finger in our front door.

She’s a very stoic sort usually, so when she started squealing and saying ‘ow’ loudly I paid attention. Her finger started spurting some blood, she started freaking out, and I knew there was a trip to Terem on the cards, even though I HATE going near any Western medical doctors for any reason.

Before we left, I doused her finger with some helichrysum essential oil, because I know that takes down swelling and promotes bone healing, and I also spent another five minutes poking her uninjured hand with my Su Jok probe, to start stimulating the healing process in her injured finger ‘electrically’.

The last and most important thing I did was ask my husband to immediately make a sizeable donation to Rav Berland as a pidyon Nefesh payment for my daughter. (You can read more about how a pidyon Nefesh works, and why it’s so important, HERE.)

Let’s be clear that my daughter is used to my weird ways with her health issues, but still got a little impatient that I insisted on stabbing her with my Su Jok stick before we got to the ER.

“I’m doing this to give you the best possible chance of healing without the doctors going off on one,” I told her.

But she wasn’t impressed.

We got to Terem, and as I wrote a little while back, after an X-ray, a tetanus shot, and a big speech about why my daughter needed a whole bunch of antibiotics and an urgent visit to an orthopaedic surgeon two days later, we got discharged with the prognosis that she’d sustained an open (or compound) fracture.

I got home, googled ‘compound fracture’ and grimaced. It sounded pretty bad. It’s when the bone breaks, and then breaks through the skin in an open wound, which can be very susceptible to infections, and much harder to heal than a regular fracture. All the American sites warned me sternly that I’d need surgery to deal with a compound fracture (gulp).

The British NHS website was much more down to earth, and explained that surgery was sometimes necessary in complicated breaks, but very often not. (Phew).

I tried making the appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon, but in the meantime no-one was answering the phone, even after I hung on the line for ages. Pesach was approaching, so I decided to take a wait-and-see approach and try to make another appointment after Seder night had passed.

In the meantime, I prayed on my daughter’s health and finger –

That it would heal, that she wouldn’t get an infection, God forbid, that the antibiotics shouldn’t stuff up her health in other ways, God forbid; I used helichrysum essential oil instead of the antibiotic ointment, and I continued to stab her other hand with my Su Jok probe, to stimulate her body’s own healing response.

A few days later, her finger looked really, really good (relatively….). Hmm. She told me it wasn’t even hurting now. Hmm. I took a deep breath and called up the orthopaedic surgeon to make the appointment.

As I mentioned previously, I generally hate Western medical doctors, and the ones in Israel are often particularly arrogant, fear-mongering and generally horrible to deal with.

So with some trepidation I showed up to the appointment, prepared to defend using germ-killing essential oils instead of antibacterial creams, and prepared to argue that my daughter didn’t need urgent surgery on her finger…

The doctor we saw was a really cool, older guy who was not at all from the ‘fear-mongering-surgery-at-all-costs’ school. He took one look at my daughter’s finger, poked it a bit, asked her if it hurt, pulled up her x-ray, then told us something amazing: There was no fracture.

Not even a regular one, let alone a compound one.

She didn’t need any more bandages, treatment or even special precautions with her finger. And she probably also wouldn’t even lose her fingernail. I was astounded!

The pidyon Nefesh with Rav Berland had clearly kicked in, and God had done a miracle for us. Back in Terem, I’d argued about the antibiotics, which is when they went to town on me (and my daughter…) and told us she’d probably need surgery blah blah blah… and it was an open fracture blah blah blah… and they’d checked it all on the x-ray blah blah blah….

Was the miracle that they’d made a mistake in Terem, and told us it was fractured when it wasn’t? Maybe. Or maybe, it really was fractured back then, but now it wasn’t. Either way, I was thrilled.

There’s an idea that when God does a miracle for you, you should publicise it. I decided to write this up to encourage you, dear reader, to put God and pidyon Nefesh in the picture as much as possible with your own health issues.

The more we make space in our lives for the miracles to happen, the more we’ll see them.

Recently, I’ve been pondering the mechanism that’s going on in a person’s brain and / or soul that prevents them from assimilating new information when it’s presented to them, and changing course as a result.

There’s been many prompts for my ponderings, vis:

  • Individuals who frequently treat others in a very selfish, manipulative and destructive way, and who continue their behavior even when repeatedly told what the problem is, and being asked to stop. (This is one of the classical behavioral issues of people with Cluster ‘B’ type personality disorders, particularly Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Anti-Social Behavior PD)
  • Individuals who continue to insist that chemical imbalances in the brain:
    1. Actually exist, despite there being no scientific evidence to support this conclusion; and
    2. That these chemical imbalances are the cause of mental and emotional issues such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia etc; and
    3. That psychotropic drugs ‘cure’ these pretend chemical imbalances and their associated emotional issues, again even though there is no scientific evidence to prove that, and plenty of scientific evidence proving that this is NOT the case.
  • Individuals who continue to defend their position, or actions, or belief system even when clearly shown evidence and facts that flat-out contradict them. The examples of this abound, but to name a few of the more notable ones:
    1. Adherents of Darwin’s ‘theory’ of evolution, who continue to trot it out as ‘fact’ and ‘science’ and the ‘height of objective rationality’ when in fact (and I urge you to research this yourself) NOT ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE HAS EVER BEEN FOUND, OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS, TO PROVE IT. To put this another way, believing in Darwinism is actually probably even more bonkers than believing in Scientology. And that’s saying something.
    2. People who continue to claim that yoga is ‘just exercise’ despite repeated references to the Hindu religion and idolatrous practices and texts, plus the requirement to spend 30 hours immersed in pagan texts simply to be able to teach it.
    3. People who claim the Palestinians ‘want peace’, and that Islam is a religion of peace.

 

Nuff said.

All of us have come up against these types of people or issues over time, and probably all of us have been left scratching our heads as to what exactly is going on, because on some level we can see that the failure to integrate and to respond to information is clearly a sign of mental ill-health.

Two options present themselves:

Either, there really is some sort of cognitive impairment going on (more on this in a moment); or, the people involved are morally corrupt and deliberately going out there to hurt and mislead other people by ‘playing dumb’.

The more I’ve researched this issue, the more I’m starting to believe that the issue really is one of cognitive impairment, aka brain damage.

Here’s why: I did this infographic a little while back to show how important our frontal lobes are, when it comes to things like exercising free choice, assimilating new information, and overcoming our primitive, knee-jerk reactions to act like a mensch.

When the frontal lobes are ‘off-line’, the ability to choose how to react, to weigh out our options, to see other people’s points of view, to empathise, and to respond to new information and stimulus and really internalize it is very impaired, or even non-existent.

This type of ‘brain damage’ is caused by trauma, especially the type of trauma that results from emotional neglect and abuse in childhood, plus other more obviously traumatic experiences like being bulled, being seriously ill, losing a parent via divorce or bereavement, or experiencing a bad car crash, physical assault or terrorist attack.

To put this another way: Most people today are traumatized, and the effects of being traumatized are to amplify the influence or emotional and primitive parts of the brain, and to shut down the part of the brain that enables people to process new information, consider their actions, behavior and beliefs in a rational way, and to choose to act, think or believe different, as a result.

Here’s the good news: the brain is ‘plastic’, and new research is building up by the day to prove that the function of the brain is shaped by our experiences, and that our brains continue to grow and evolve and change until we take our last breath.

Traumatised brains can be ‘un-traumatised’, and when that occurs people regain their humanity, their ability to change and to aspire, and their connection to their souls, their higher selves, and to God.

(God willing, I’m currently pulling together a whole bunch of information on the best, easiest and most effective ways of ‘un-traumatising’, and I’ll post it up when it’s ready.)

But until and unless that happens – you’re dealing with brain-damaged individuals who really can’t process the new information or facts that potentially change the whole picture.

They really AREN’T doing it just be stubborn, obnoxious, hurtful, destructive, although of course we often still experience their behavior like that, and we have to take any steps required to protect ourselves from the fall-out.

Jewishly, this appears to be very connected to the idea of karet, or being cut-off from God and the Jewish people.

Traumatised people are literally cut-off from their frontal lobes, and their ability to actualize the higher potential and spiritual light they most definitely still contain.

But I’m optimistic that as more of the research starts to build up, and as more of the daat, or intrinsic knowledge of how the world really works, starts to flow down to us in anticipation of Moshiach and redemption, the very challenged individuals in our midst (including ourselves!) will be given all the help we need to truly start to heal, and to be the enormous forces for true spiritual good in the world that God created us to be.

 

Ken yiyeh ratzon, Amen.

You know, I’ve been learning a lot from all this ‘yoja’ stuff, not least about how much hypocrisy is floating around the place.

When I first started researching yoja, from a perspective of being truly interested in its apparent health and healing benefits, I had no idea that I was going to uncover such an avalanche of obvious idol worship and very dodgy spiritual practices.

But then, as all the evidence started to stack up so spectacularly, it raised another very big question, namely: How could the ‘orthodox’ practitioners of yoga in our midst be so blind to all this stuff?

I’d always assumed, before I started really researching this subject, that yoja was a bunch of exercises that had tenuous connections to idolatrous religions. But it quickly became SO obvious that yoga is drenched in and permeated by idol worship to such an extreme degree, that you’d literally have to have some issues with your cognitive functioning to not recognize the problem, if you’re an orthodox Jew.

Which then raised the next awkward question:

Are the ‘orthodox’ practitioners of yoga cognitively impaired in some way, or are they actually deliberately trying to mislead people?

This is not a sarcastic question. We all make mistakes some times, and we all get it wrong some times. I’m certainly not infallible, and I’ve had more than one episode in my life when I followed after a person, or a shita, or a belief system that ultimately ended up being a very negative force, and spiritually-corrupt in some ways.

In this mixed-up world, that stuff unfortunately happens and it happens a lot. We all have blindspots, we all have flaws, we all have difficulties being able to ascertain what’s true, particularly when it comes to matters of the soul.

But here is what’s starting to disturb me so much with all this ‘kosher’ yoja stuff: Even when you repeatedly bring clear evidence of the problem, and repeatedly point out the huge halachic and spiritual issues involved with practicing yoja, not only are the ‘orthodox’ practitioners not even a little bit chastened or confused or concerned about whether they may be barking up the wrong tree (and misleading a whole bunch of other less-informed people in the process…) – they come back at you with sniping personal attacks that are dripping with misplaced self-righteousness, harsh judgment and anger. (peace n’ love, man).

Yes, it’s very upsetting when we find out the truth we believed in may be a lie; or that the path that we chose in good faith is actually leading us to perdition, but the mark of a healthy soul is that it can ultimately recognize its mistakes, and at least try to make Teshuva.

A few years’ back, me and my husband got caught up in a very spiritually-unhealthy ‘Breslev cult’ type organization, that came packaged with a big Rabbinic backer who we both really respected.

It took us three long years to figure out just how much damage our association with that ‘cult’ had done to us and other people. But once we realized our mistake, we did our best to rectify it. I apologized to a whole bunch of people who I may have inadvertently hurt, and I ate a lot of humble pie.

I made a mistake!

That happens sometimes, even when we have the best intentions.

So what I was expecting to hear from all these ‘orthodox’ yoja teachers was maybe some contrition, some concern that they’d been involved in such a negative spiritual practice, and some worry that they’d also been encouraging other orthodox Jews to do it, too.

In short, I was expecting a tiny bit of humility.

But that really hasn’t shown up in any way, shape or form, and in fact, I’ve been getting the opposite: sniping personal attacks, a complete avoidance of the real issues, misleading statements about people having rabbinic backers when they really don’t, and a bunch of such obviously bad middot that is frankly makes all the spiritual benefits being claimed for yoja a farce.

So I’m back to the question:

Are the ‘orthodox’ yoja people out there cognitively impaired in some way (which clearly would explain a lot…) OR, are they deliberately trying to mislead people?

If it’s the former, I have some theories about how that might have happened (which is definitely a post for another time.) If it’s the latter, then the whole thing suddenly takes on a much more sinister spiritual hue.

It’s like this: Jews for J may also be very nice, well-meaning people, but I still wouldn’t invite them for Shabbat or have anything much to do with them.

Why not?

The answer is obvious (or at least, I hope it’s obvious).

Yoshkianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are all alien religions, and complete poison to a Jewish soul. If someone wants to cling on to their asanas for dear life, it’s a free country and they’re allowed. But just as I wouldn’t want anything to do with an evangelical Jew for Yoshki, I also don’t want anything to do with an evangelical Jew for Yoja, either.

And for exactly the same reason.

One day, a shiny new van drove up to the small hamlet of Yidville, and a very fit, muscular, tanned man in tennis whites stepped out, with a large statue under his arm.

He strolled over to one of the local parks, set his shiny, black statue up in the middle of one of the grassy areas, and began to casually toss a stone or two in its direction.

One of the friendlier residents of Yidville came over to say hello, and to ask him what he was doing.

“This?” replied the man, tossing another stone at the statue. “Man, this changed my life! Before I started doing this, I had all sorts of aches and pains, and I just couldn’t breathe good. But once I started doing this – well, all my problems cleared up, I grew five inches taller and I developed 28 inch biceps overnight!”

The Yid couldn’t help but be a little impressed, but was also a little puzzled:

How could throwing stones at a statue have so many health benefits?

As the man continued to toss his stones, he explained:

“It’s all about posture, man. And self-control. And balance. See this stone? It looks to you like I’m just tossing it around, casual-like. But really, I learned how to throw stones like this up a mountain in Tibet for five years. Once you learn how to throw the stone right, you’ll see how you just start to feel so darned great!”

Convinced, the yid started learning with the successful stranger how to properly throw stones to Marculis – purely for exercise reasons – and very soon, the stranger had opened his own ‘Throw a stone to Marculis’ studio in Yidville, and was selling branded clothing and a throw-a-stone-to-Marculis line of soft furnishings.

All was well, until a little while later another shiny new van drove up to Yidville and stopped in the centre of town.

A supermodel-type lady got out, tucked a lithe white statue under her arm, and strolled over the local park.

She’d heard about the success of the ‘Throw a stone to Marculis’ studio, and she wanted a piece of the action, too. Her exercise routine was called ‘Ba’al Peor’, and it involved regular rounds of colonic irrigation and other things too complicated for mere plebs to understand.

The people of Yidville crowded round, keen to learn what this latest innovation in holistic health would do for them.

“Laydees,” she drawled, “I used to be FAT!” A gasp erupted from the crowd. “And POOR!” another gasp. “And SOCIALLY INEPT!!!” Now, people were really shocked.

“But then, laydees, I discovered this ‘Ba’al Peor’ exercise routine, and it completely changed my life! I lost 40 lbs in a day and a half, I won the lottery, and then I started to make tons of friends, when I put out my ‘Ba’al Peor Holistic Healing’ home-play DVD. And now, for just $1000 a month, I’m willing to teach you how to access these AMAZING health benefits too!”

Well, that sounded like a deal that was just too good to turn up, so the laydees of Yidville eagerly signed up for ‘Ba’al Peor Flow’ classes, and happily subscribed to the ‘Ba’al Peor Living’ magazine, when the first edition came out just in time for Rosh Hashana.

Things settled back down in Yidville – everyone was happily congratulating each other on discovering their AMAZING exercise routines, which contained so much INCREDIBLE wisdom for living the good life, and kept them so busy they didn’t have time for their more traditional pursuits like praying or learning Torah.

But this stuff was so much more FUN!

The men happily compared the bulging biceps they’d earned from spending 10 hours a day throwing stones to Marculis, while the women couldn’t wait to try out the latest purge-and-cleanse recipe they’d just seen in Ba’al Peor Living. Man, this was the life!

A little while later, another shiny van drew up to Yidville, and yet another successful, spiritually-inclined wise person got out, this time with a bright red statue and a big packet of matches. He knew he had a tough sell on his hands, but he was the best in the business for a reason, and he’d promised the boss he wouldn’t come home until he had at least 50 people signed up for his new exercise class, called:

‘Burn your children for Moloch’.

As the locals crowded around, he made his pitch:

“Guys, this stuff is the most hard-core exercise class out there. It’s only for the best-of-the-best. A lot of people out there don’t get how burning your child for Moloch can help you develop abs of steel, get you inner peace, and triple your income in just eight minutes…”

Here, his voice dropped to a whisper, and he motioned his audience to lean in a little.

“You know why they don’t get it? Because they didn’t do their research, that’s why! They didn’t check this stuff out properly! They’re still stuck in their narrow-minded ways of doing things, and they’re scared to try new things in life! You know, throwing a stone to Marculis is for beginners. If you really want to transform your life, this is the exercise class for you!”

And to close the deal, the rep from ‘Burn your children for Moloch’ passed out some cute devotionary candles that had a really interesting smell, and a bumper sticker that bore the legend: “There is nothing wrong with playing with fire!”

Dear reader, you get to pick what happens next. Do the residents of Yidville:

  1. Vote to relocate their town to an ashram in India (purely for ‘health’ reasons)
  2. Come up with their own new exercise routine called ‘Kosher-Burn-Your-Children-For-Moloch’ – and get a rabbinic psak for it
  3. Make Teshuva and bring Moshiach and the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash

Vote for your choice in the comments section!

God is actually very simple.

He runs His world with the utmost simplicity and clarity, just we human beings like to get in the middle of things, and make them a whole lot more complicated and messy than they need to be.

For example, humanity came up with the idea that things can be ‘neutral’, i.e., neither good, nor bad, just kind of something in the middle.

Really?

That’s hogwash. There is nothing ‘neutral’ in the whole world, because if you really take things back to the most basic level, something is either ‘good’ or it’s ‘bad’, and there is nothing in between.

So now, we hit the next level of confusion and muddled-thinking: How can we know what’s truly ‘good’ and what’s truly ‘bad’, anyway? In today’s world, where moral relativism rules and the politically-correct Powers That Be keep changing the goal posts, how are we meant to be able to define ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in any meaningful way?

But God, in His infinite wisdom, even has a very simple, never-fail answer for that, too:

When something brings you closer to God, then it’s GOOD.

When something takes you further away from God, then it’s BAD.

And nowhere does this hold most true than in the realm of human health.

If walking five miles a day brings you closer to God, and is really helping you to get in touch with that spark of the Divine inside of you, aka your soul, then it’s a great thing. But if it’s doing the opposite – then it’s not.

If eating the sprouted bread is bringing you closer to God, and giving you the energy you need to fulfill your Divinely-ordained mission in the world, and to be nicer to people (including yourself) then it’s wonderful. But if your strict diet is isolating you, or stopping you from doing things that would fill you up with joy and gratitude, or causing you to adopt a judgmental, superior, or critical attitude towards your fellow human beings (or yourself) – then it’s really NOT good for you.

And so on, and so forth.

This measure of true goodness is so flexible that you can apply it to absolutely everything, from relationships, to beliefs, to habits, or even, to bars of chocolate.

Because sometimes, even eating a bar of chocolate for lunch can be a ‘good’, holy thing.

The famous Jewish mystic Rebbe Nachman of Breslev taught that if we don’t consciously make the effort to attach our breath, and our thoughts to ‘good’ and to God, then we automatically become attached to the opposite.

The opposite of God is NOT neutral, although so many of us believe that such a thing exists, especially in the spiritual world.

The opposite of God is ‘bad’.

It’s evil; it’s hatred; it’s jealousy, and arrogance, and intolerance, and greed, and selfishness, and superficiality – and all those other horrible things that are making our world a difficult place to live in.

I know, that’s not at all ‘PC’, is it? Most of us don’t like to hear that the world is full of these things, even though we see human misery and suffering all around us.

So to sum up, every time we connect ourselves to God in some way, we are connecting to good, and hopefully bringing more of that good, and love and kindness into the world.

And every time we don’t, and we pretend that we don’t need to connect to the Creator, then we automatically connect ourselves to the opposite of God.

And that explains a lot about why the world currently looks the way it does, doesn’t it?

Now that all the hooha about yoja has dimmed down a little, I think it’s time to look at another disturbing ‘pseudo-spiritual’ practice.

In the alternative health world, there are three main sacred cows, as follows:

  • Yoga
  • Healthy food
  • Meditation

The basic idea is that if you do all three of these things, your life will be perfect, your will float through all your troubles like a serene fairy, and you will only enjoy complete health and happiness.

Of the three, healthy food is by far the least troubling, although it’s true that everything can be taken to an extreme when God somehow gets forgotten about.

And we’ve already gone a long way to exposing the flawed thinking (and bona fide idol worship) behind yoga – and God willing, I hope to put together a special report on why yoga is NOT for believing Jews very soon, that you can download and share around.

So that leaves us with meditation.

Now, what could possibly be wrong with meditation, you ask? Isn’t meditation just the same sort of idea as the Breslev practice of hitbodedut, or personal prayer? The short answer is: no, no, and absolutely not.

Here’s why: the goal of meditation, even so-called ‘Jewish’ meditation, is to empty your mind of all thoughts, and concentrate on your breathing, and on experiencing your ‘nothingness’. God is completely out of the picture. (More on this shortly.)

At the holistic health event, I actually went to a couple of what was billed as ‘Jewish’ meditation classes, to get a feel for what really goes on with it all, and how it compares to hitbodedut.

In one class, that had bells, and Tibetan glass bowls, and few other props (plus very strict instructions to turn all mobile phones completely off) – I spent a whole hour being told I was a drop merged in the huge Kinneret, separate but part of something much bigger. There was also a lot of talk of being merged in the ‘velvet blackness’ that exists somewhere beyond the world. Just as I started to get really uncomfortable, Hashem finally made an appearance – we were to imagine the four letters of God’s ineffable name, etc.

At the end of that class, I went over to the teacher and asked him straight out:

How does this sort of meditation help you to fix your bad middot, or negative character traits? I mean, really cool that I got to relax a little and be a raindrop in the Kinneret, but if that’s all I spent a whole hour doing every day, then what on earth was the point?

I asked the teacher (who in fairness, did seem a whole lot more sincere than a lot of the other people there) to tell me how this type of meditation had helped him to become a nicer person, or get closer to God – because when people can only tell you those types of things if they’ve actually experienced them.

He replied by telling me that I should picture Hashem’s ineffable four letter name, and picture it washing away all my bad middot. It sounds good in theory, but in practice it’s baloney. In order for us to change our negative character traits and really improve ourselves, we have to change how we treat people in the real world. We have to apologise. We have to acknowledge our bad behavior. Sometimes, we have to make some difficult choices that are going to completely shake up our lives, make us look bad, or cause us some serious discomfort.

All of that was missing in the whole ‘raindrop’ meditation thing.

I will come on to other problems with it in the next post, but I just wanted to mention the other ‘Jewish meditation’ I went to. This one was taught by a very nice, sincere rabbi who’d spent years studying the teachings of Rav Aryeh Kaplan.

Again, we had to focus on our breathing, or on the birds, and not think about anything else. Then, we had to walk around the room super-slowly, and concentrate on how our feet were lifting up and being set back down again, super-slowly.

While this was miles better than the other version, not least because the Rabbi actually talked directly about God, and about connecting to God, and even had a ‘Shema meditation’ to share with us, I still had a problem with it:

How does focusing on my breathing, or the birds, or my walking, help me to fix my bad middot? How does it help me to get the advice I need to move forward in life, or to figure out all the knotty issues and problems in my life, or to be nicer to my husband and kids?

I asked the Rabbi, and he responded along the lines that when you realize that God is behind everything, then you can’t get angry at people any more.

Again, it’s a miles-better approach than the first guy, but practically speaking? I still don’t think it’s a very practical idea. I’ve spent years working on my bad middot, and things are really not that straight-forward, easy or simple.

By contrast, Rav Arush teaches that you have to spend a full half an hour every single day, asking God to nullify a single bad character trait, or negative habit – and even then, it can still take years before it’s fully gone, particularly if it’s one of your ‘big’ issues. There’s layers and layers and layers to this stuff, which is why our Rabbis taught that it’s easier to learn the whole Shas then to change even one character trait.

And here, I was being told that listening to birds and watching myself walk slowly was going to do the trick….

Who was right?

Was I just being judgmental, or was there some other, deeper, reason for how uneasy and uncomfortable I was feeling about the whole subject? I came home, cracked open Rebbe Nachman’s Likutey Moharan – and the answer was staring me straight in the face. I’ll share it with you in the next post, God willing.

Someone said to me the other day:

‘The real battle today, in terms of idol worship, is in healthcare. We’ve got a real fight on our hands to show people that they don’t have to rely on doctors and medicines.’

My friend is a frum Jew, very involved in trying to promote more awareness about the potential harm associated with vaccines, and is part of the more alternative health scene, with a focus on healthy eating.

But here’s the rub: the big ‘healthcare’ idol worship problem we’re up against isn’t only on the conventional side of things; it’s also very much alive and kicking in the alternative healthcare world, too – and in some ways, even more problematic.

Before I continue, here’s the definition of ‘idol worship’ that I’m working with, so we’re all nice and clear what the problem actually is:

Idol worship is any time a person thinks they can cut God out of the picture, and achieve some aim or get some benefit ‘under their own steam’.

So, if you’re sitting with a doctor or psychiatrist who’s telling you how the latest little designer pill is going to cure all your woes without any further input, effort, or prayer from you – and you believe them – that’s idol worship.

Or, if you’re sitting with some meditation guru, who’s telling you how saying ‘om’ and emptying your mind completely of all thought is going to cure all your woes (again, without any further input, effort or prayer from you) – and you believe them – that’s idol worship.

As you’re probably working out for yourselves, idol worship is currently happening all over the place, from your dentist, to your reflexologist, to your macrobiotic diet expert, to your OBGYN, to your acupuncturist and your pediatrician.

The world is full of health ‘experts’, alternative and mainstream, physical and mental, Jewish and otherwise, who are trying to tell you that they can cure you, heal you, make you better, while God is completely out of the picture.

But while conventional medicine is only messing things up at the level of the body, or the Nefesh, which is the lowest and most coarse of the five levels of our soul, many alternative practices work on the principles of energy medicine, which tap right into the higher levels of the soul, namely the Ruach and Neshama.

To put this a little more clearly, Western medicine can (and often does…) kill your body. Alternative medicine can (and often does…) kill your soul.

There are three ‘cardinal sins’ that a Jew is meant to die, instead of transgressing: murder, idol worship, and sexual immorality.

If ‘murder’ is what Western Medicine specializes this (and please read THIS if you think I’m being overly dramatic, here) – then the other two are definitely the professional reserve of the alternative health world.

When God is out of the picture, for example, then you start getting all sorts of just plain evil messages about health and happiness being directly connected to your reproductive organs. Louise Hay, founder of the alternative health empire Hay House, regularly advises people to pleasure themselves as a ‘release’.

Spiritually, wasting seed is probably the worst thing you can do, in terms of destroying the world and fuelling the forces of evil (if you don’t know why, THESE ARTICLES set the problem out, very clearly).

But when God is out of the picture – hey, what do you care?

Even yoga, that kosher pig of a discipline, is very focused on reproductive energy. There’s all this talk about harnessing something called ‘kundalini’ energy, which is described as being a very powerful, ‘snake-like’ energy, that’s coiled at the bottom of the spine.

Hmm. SNAKE-ENERGY, anyone? Am I the only one picking up this clue?

Yoga journals are replete with stories of regular yoga fans who got zapped by a massive dose of ‘snake-energy’ and never recovered their mental or physical health, as a result. This stuff is dangerous, because it’s working at a much higher level of the soul, but still disconnected from God.

Maybe, the rest of the world can handle it better because their souls don’t have the huge spiritual potential of a Jewish soul. But for Jews, when their healthcare gets disconnected from God, that’s a disaster.

Because (and here I’m going to shout, sorry) NOTHING IS NEUTRAL IN THE WORLD.

Either something and someone is attached to God, and coming from a good place, or they’re disconnected from God, and coming from a bad place.

I will write more on this separately, as I experienced something recently (well, quite a few things actually) that really brought this point home to me in a very clear way.

If you asked me what’s better: go Western, and risk killing the body, or go Eastern, and risk killing the soul – at this stage, I really don’t know what I’d suggest.

But one thing I can tell you for sure, even at this stage of trying to figure it all out: If you don’t put God in your own personal picture, your chances of staying happy, healthy and holy are pretty much zilch.

And if that doesn’t scare you into doing at least a little bit of hitbodedut, at least a little bit of the time, then I don’t know what will.

  • If you’d like to find out how to approach holistic healthcare in a spiritually-safe, authentically-Jewish way, pick up a copy of my book: Talk to God and Fix Your Health: The Real Reasons Why We Get Sick, and How to Stay Healthy, on Amazon, or the Book Depository.