Friday, October 12, 2012

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Yoga, Natural Healing and the Rebbe

by Reb Akiva and Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

All of our regular readers know our position on yoga, that being it’s inappropriate, for religious reasons, for Jews.  (We’ve got about 50 articles, research and, in Reb Gutman’s case, extensive Eastern experience to back up that position.  You can see them here.)

Within the Orthodox Jewish community, we encounter two social and cultural positions that conflict with our position.

1. We are maaminim bnei maaminim, believers the sons of believers.  While Judaism is a religion of doing, performing the religious practices of the mitzvot, belief is part of the picture.  Many Jewish practices are spiritually based or oriented.  And many of our religious works, and having thousands of them going back over 2,000 years, discuss healing and health practices – and being from ancient times there are many practices that today we’d called belief based yet having no real validity.  However, because they’re part and parcel of religious works, they continue to get studied and discussed and affect communal thinking.

So we are bit open to healing and health practices that may be described as spiritual, natural, or energy based.  Members of the religious Jewish community do not avoid regular doctors or normal health care treatments, but they’re open to alternatives – in some ways too open.

2. There have been some Jewish religious authorities that have stated opinions on some spiritual or natural practices, usually discussing one and having their opinion extended to others.  One of the most well known is the Rebbe (of Chabad Lubavitch), who was looking for an alternative to Transcendental Meditation in the 60’s and 70’s, a “neutral meditation”, as a way for those heavily involved in such practices to ease their way out.  (Heavy meditators can’t just go cold turkey.)

A number of people wrote the Rebbe about wanting to create health programs based on meditative practices.  Example, (Rebbe responding) “Thank you for your letter of 13 Adar II. I appreciate your comprehensive response to my letter and memorandum on the need to organize widespread use of Transcendental Meditation and similar techniques in psychotherapy compatible with the Torah with the double objective of making such therapy available to Jewish patients in a kosher way and at the same time saving numerous Jews from getting involved with avoda zora [idolatry] as now commonly practiced in the USA.”

The problem was: no such “kosher way and non-idolatry way” was found (this has been certified by certain shluchim of the Rebbe who were sent to find the neutral meditation), and the Rebbe’s discussions were EXCLUSIVELY about Transcendental Meditation – a particular problem in the United States in the 60’s and early 70’s. 

It NEVER included Yoga, chakra practices or any other new agey or energy practices invading the Jewish community.

It’s become unfortunately common to take such statements by the Rebbe or other rabbis and “extend” them to new foreign practices which we’ve never known.

We want to believe in spiritual practices.  But when it comes to foreign ones which we’ve never known… the Torah warns us against such.

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