Posts

Before Rav Berland left on his self-imposed exile more than three year’s ago, while he was still living for a while in Beitar Illit, someone asked him in one of his classes to explain the saying of Chazal that:

Moshiach is only going to come when the whole generation is either worthy, or unworthy.

The obvious question is how can this be?! After all, we all know people who are not so worthy, so clearly the ‘100% worthy’ option isn’t happening right now. At the same time, if the whole generation was unworthy there’s a good chance that Hashem would decide just to pull the plug on the whole of humanity again, like He did with Noah’s flood.

So clearly, something else is going on here.

Rav Berland explained that in the time before Moshiach, the main test would be for people to choose the path of kedusha, and to follow after God – or the opposite, God forbid.

But they weren’t going to be able to continue to sit on the fence and to play both sides of the game anymore.

Rav Berland explained that it’s the same test that occurred when Elijah the Prophet famously challenged the prophets of Ba-al to a show-down, on Mount Carmel. At that time in history, it’s not that the Jewish people didn’t believe in God, exactly, because they did, at least in theory. The problem was that they didn’t believe in God enough to stop trying to hedge their bets for health and wealth by also worshipping the Ba’al.

There was just one problem with this approach: God Himself hates idol-worship, defined as ‘having other gods’ that you believe can give you good health, a new house, a fat bank account, or even, more children.

As we learned from all the hoo-ha with yoga, it’s all too easy to fall into a mindset of believing that God is out there ‘somewhere’, but that you have to follow other methods and practices and belief systems to really achieve the outcomes you want in life, whilst cutting God completely out of the picture.

Judaism says: you’re sick because God made you sick, and you’ll feel better again once you make Teshuva and repair that spiritual breach. Idol-worship says: Forget all about God and repairing your soul, just take this pill / pull this pose / eat this green stuff, and all your health problems will vanish by themselves!

And often, they do.

That’s why it’s often so hard to follow whole-heartedly after God, because, well Ba’al worship really pays off, man!

So, that’s why Elijah the Prophet came along to challenge his generation to finally pick a side. He let the prophets of Ba’al arrange their sacrifice first, and gave them the best part of the day to encourage their ‘god’ to send down the fire that was going to burn it up.

“Yell louder!” He told them. “Maybe he’s sleeping, or he stepped outside for a wee!”

Of course, the prophets of Ba’al weren’t going to give up that easily. They’d hidden a man inside their sacrifice who was willing to immolate himself to ‘prove’ that the Ba’al existed, by lighting a secret fire. Unfortunately for them, God killed the man off somehow (I think he got bitten by something poisonous) before he could strike his flint and tinder.

So then, it was Elijah the Prophet’s turn. He arranges his sacrifice on the pyre, he asks for it to be completely drenched in water three times, and then he prays. Man, did his prayer get answered! Whoosh, the whole thing went up in such an impressive display of Heavenly firepower that the whole congregation fell on their face, and exclaimed: ‘Hashem, He IS God!!’

Like, duh.

Elijah turned to the Children of Israel, and asked them:

How long are you going to continue to dance between two camps? If the Ba’al is god, then worship it wholeheartedly. But if Hashem is God – then worship Him wholeheartedly, and stop sitting on the fence!

And according to Rav Berland, that’s the same test that we face today, the test of knowing that God is all there is.

It’s not the doctors or the yoga poses that keep us healthy or cure us – it’s God.

It’s not the politicians or the army that keeps us safe and protected from our enemies – it’s God.

It’s not the long hours we put into our jobs, or the huge amount of sucking up to the boss that pays our mortgage – it’s God.

When people really believe in God wholeheartedly, they act SO differently from what passes for ‘normal’ these days, even in the religious world. For a start, they really talk to Him. And they believe in miracles. And they stop obsessing over every little detail, and stop trying to control every tiny aspect of their lives.

They definitely ditch their yoga, and their bad middot, and their unsavory habits. They give 10% of their income to charity, even when it’s hard. They treat their kids nicely.

I could go on and on, but the point is this: there is no more sitting on the fence. There is no more staying in the middle. Ambiguous is OVER, as the recent Brexit fiasco just underlined every so dramatically.

Either we’re with God, or we’re not.

That’s the final test before Moshiach, and it’s one that each of us really needs to pray that we’re going to pass.

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!