by Akiva at Mystical Paths
(An ongoing story of the hand of heaven directing us and giving us a chance. A multi-part series and a true story.)
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.
Dear Double Special Extra Kosher Yoga:
My letter to the editor was not specifically targeting your program, I neither claim to be an expert in your program nor on the topic of yoga. But I do know that large advertisements for YOGA in Religious Jewish Community magazines is presenting YOGA as a completely kosher thing to get involved in by the women and teens of the community.
Here's some additional words on the topic from the expert source to whom I refer on this topic...
Calling your program kosher yoga is like teaching Jews to love their brother and calling it kosher xian brotherly love. You cannot purify idolatry no matter how much good you put with it. You teach your language you do not adapt theirs. How do you get them to eat kosher foods? By making the kosher foods better than the treif. You should not use their system but develop your own.
Regarding the rabbi's who have reviewed your program and approved it...G-d bless these wonderful rabbis but they have never learned the practices and effects of idolatry. Not one of them or they would never have said that hindu names and associations and such are kosher.
Regarding your comment that (major Jewish authority) referred to yoga...If he did it was to communicate to those men what to look at. Had he said go to India and try to take a kosher way of Jewish Stretch they would not have known what he was talking about. He's also known to have said "When you want to bring a Jew out of an ashram (Hindu religious place) you should stand outside and call him out and not to go in."
It is more important than you know both for you and the thousands of Jews you address. You can make it kosher only without the references to idolatry. Go for it! You could end up being a hero.
I am told that women in the Jewish religious community have become involved in yoga. I am further told that there are now synagogues offering yoga classes! Are they all exclusively involved in your kosher program? Has the use of the term yoga never brought a single one of them to pick up another yoga book or check out another yoga web site?
Do you understand my concern?
From: Double Special Extra Kosher Yoga:
I will try to answer you briefly.
It appears that you are questioning the program since you have a problem with a kosher form to yoga, which I will respond to below. You claim to not be an expert, yet you talk as if you have a thorough understanding of yoga.
With all do respect you have misunderstood the purpose of the ads. Specifically, they're intended for all outreach people and rabbis who can introduce it to people involved in the Hindu tradition of yoga. They are not intended to encourage yoga in and of itself to the religious Jewish community. You are the first person to have ever said that. On the contrary if their are people in the community who do yoga, this can be a good replacement.
I am not at all attempting to purify idolatry. Our program is about how to posture in kosher Jewish oriented forms, how to meditate upon their power and how to live by their meaning. It is called yoga because that is how people will know what we are teaching. If it was a form of kung fu or karate, then it would be called by that.
The system and technique is not the problem. Rather it is the rituals, chants and mantras that present a problem with Judaism. The technique is good since it relieves one from physical and emotional imbalance and helps improve focus.
Yoga is a physical and mental exercise just as karate or kung fu are, and which come from the Orient, or football and baseball are American sports. Is it contrary to Judaism to practice martial arts, or play football and baseball? Every nation and people has brought gifts to the family of mankind and yoga is one of India’s gifts to the world. Besides there are many levels to yoga and the ones being practiced mostly in the West are for the physical and mental benefits and not to worship some deities.
Uou are questioning the intelligence and experiences of the rabbi's who have reviewed our program. I did not just show this project to any Rabbi. I showed it to individuals who have had to deal with people involved in yoga and meditation.
"Go for it! You could end up being a hero." - I will take this as a blessing and hope that this project can attract the three and a half million Jews who practice yoga according to American statistics. Imagine that these people start talking and thinking about a Jewish focus, which leads to learning and davening. Some people I helped mekarev came to Yiddishkeit by first seeing Jewish focus in their body and then in their souls.
Regarding women it the religious community being involved in yoga, this is certainly not because of our program. As mentioned already, there are many advantages in practicing yoga and these frum women have seen that. I cannot comment on what they are doing since I am not aware of such. Certainly if we can turn them on to Double Special Extra Kosher Yoga, their would be no worries whatsoever about avoda zara.
I don't know if all are involved in kosher yoga programs, but I will repeat. If the teaching is done so in a way of physical exercise and meditation on Jewish ideas, their should be nothing to worry about.
Dear Double Special Extra Kosher Yoga:
I understand you feel very strongly about this matter. As I've understood from our correspondance, you've invested years to decades of your life in pursuit of the goal of finding a neutral path for yoga, so that those involved in such things should find a kosher way out.
For reference, I've also heard similar instructions from members of the (name redacted) family, who were sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in search of a neutral path for eastern meditation. Their story is quite interesting but not ultimately successful.
Reb (former Hindu Guru) also feels very strongly about this matter. I know of no other chossid with personal intimate experience with eastern avodah zarah such as he has.
The (name redacted) family can speak of encountering the malach of an eastern nation and speaking with it directly, via a human intermediary, giving a message from the Rebbe and getting a reply for the Rebbe. Reb (former Hindu Guru) can speak of BEING such an intermediary and dealing with eastern spiritual 'powers' personally.
Everyone involved with this conversation is clearly trying to do what they believe is for the best. Not for themselves, but for the klal. But we disagree on what that is.
I disagree that involvement in such a program is appropriate for any frum person not involved in yoga previously. I also believe the way you advertise your program and the current medium of such advertisements, religious Jewish community magazine, unintentionally gives yoga in general a hechsher. There's no chashash of avodah zarah that's ok, nor is it bitul b'shishim. (I'm not accusing you or your program of having any avodah zarah by writing this, more below.)
I understand that you disagree. You believe that your program is being exclusively used for it's designed purpose of showing yoga followers a neutral way, leading them away from the avodah zarah oriented methods and, with your program's Jewish religious orientation, actually bringing them closer to Torah. You hold that your program is exclusively neutral and that your rabbinic reviews prove this. You do not believe your program's title of 'yoga' could misdirect people, rather consider it necessary to draw the attention of yoga practicers. And at least one well known mekubal is advertising 'yoga' something. You consider your advertisements to have done what they were meant to, drawn the interest of rabbis who need such a program for their areas.
All of that is pretty fair even disagreement from different points of view.
Perhaps an area of greater disagreement is over the meaning of the (Jewish authority) directions in this area. This one is harder because you have some private letters giving some direction. These letters and your efforts lead you to say that a neutral yoga can indeed be kosher and appropriate for the religious Jewish community. I don't believe this is the case. I don't believe that the chashash can be eliminated, and even if it can, I believe the fact these letters were designated private shows that it's meant to be a special program for special circumstances, not something that should ever be offered to the general public and draw in those not previously involved in yoga. By doing so I think it opens the door to their future involvement in the non-kosher aspects. You disagree with my last statement, noting that if someone wanted to find such things they would anyway in today's world where information is so readily available. Here I disagree, because I feel it's not the information but the involvement that will lead them to look for it.
Posted at Mystical Paths. Read it elsewhere? Stop by the source.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא