by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
This question was sent to a rabbi in Dallas, Texas. It was published on the internet. His answer is totally wrong! When you make a mistake in private, it is easily corrected. But when you publicize incorrect information, and you have a rabbinical position, you are poisoning the well that the public drinks from.
Here is the question and part of his answer:
“I recently took a class in Tai Chi, which focused a lot on an unseen force flowing in the universe and through the body they call “Chi,” which can be focused for health and self-defense. Is this concept consistent with Judaism? Is there any analogous concept in Judaism?”
The Dallas Rabbi replies:
“This concept is not inconsistent with mainstream Jewish ideology, as long as one believes that this force, like all forces in the universe, is created and controlled by G-d. I personally have been practicing Tai Chi for a couple years, and have experienced the sensation of the energy you describe.
My personal theory is that the word “Chi” is derived from the Hebrew word “Chai” which means life, or life force. … The Torah says that Abraham, at the end of his life, had many children to whom he gave gifts, then sent them away from his home, as only Isaac would be the father of the Jewish people. The Torah says he sent them eastward, to the land of the East (Genesis 25:6). The “gifts” Abraham endowed them, were certain spiritual secrets of the universe (see Rashi, ad loc).
This is the early source of many of the concepts which later formed the Eastern philosophies and religions. It is therefore not surprising to me that much of Eastern meditation, medicine and thought, revolves around the concept of Chi, based upon Chai.
I don't mean to say that one fulfills practicing Judaism by practicing Tai Chi, but I see no contradiction. This is, provided that no bowing or worshipping to, or worshipping any forces, images, or the room, etc. takes place, which would come under the prohibition of idol worship, completely prohibited by Judaism.
Searching on the internet, various Tai Chi sites state; “The foundation concepts of tai chi, come from, and are based on Taoism and Confucianism. Taoist beliefs include teachings based on revelations from various sources. Nevertheless, there are certain core beliefs that nearly all the sects share.”
“Popular Taoism typically presents the Jade Emperor as the official head deity. Intellectual ("elite") Taoists, such as the Celestial Masters sect, usually present Laozi (Laojun, "Lord Lao") and the Three Pure Ones at the top of the pantheon of deities.”
Obviously, none of this is for Jews, even if you do not bow down to them.
As for the rabbi saying that the source of much of these Eastern philosophies and religions is from Abraham; the rabbi did not quote Rashi completely. Rashi tells us that those gifts that Abraham gave to those sons were “shem tumot” (unclean names) [powers]. A Jew is not only not allowed to deal with such things, but should run from them as if he were running away from infectious diseases.
There are plenty of non spiritual sources for healthy dance type movement exercise. Why be involved with something attributed to “deities” and unclean powers?
The very day after I wrote the above article, I read an article by the well known Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh on the same subject. Here are the most pertinent parts of his article.
Q: Are Tai Chi or Rai Kei permissible practices? What about yoga?
A: The Chinese symbols in rei kai are definitely tools of avodah zarah (idol worship), and should not be used. It is permissible to use the aleph bet (in the intentions of one’s prayer to heal). However under no circumstances should this form of healing be given a foreign name, such as (Jewish) rei kei, G-d forbid. Regarding tai chi, it is forbidden. These exercises draw down energy from impure sources.
Yoga has negative energy which is connected to avodah zarah, and is thus unacceptable, even if the person practicing does not have these negative thoughts.
The “claim” that these methods of healing are part of the ancient teachings that Abraham sent east with his sons is not serious. Were it serious, it would be even worse, for the ‘gifts’ that Abraham sent east with his non-Jewish, idolatrous sons (of his maid-servant Ketura) were in fact “impure names [mantras]” i.e., names and practices for the spiritually impure. They are certainly not for Jews, the descendants of Isaac and Jacob. Abraham sent his foreign sons away to prevent them from mixing with Isaac.
The very usage of the name “yoga, tai chi, etc.” whether prefaced with the word “Jewish or not, does not allow for true clarification. In fact, the juxtaposition of the two terms “Jewish yoga” is shatneiz, (an improper mixture).
The Gai Einai Institute in Israel is developing Jewish healing exercises based on Kabbalah.