Sunday, December 18, 2016

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Halacha (Jewish Law) on Yoga




by Reb Gutman Locks
    Halacha (Jewish Law) on Yoga

     A website dedicated to Jewish Law is publishing their legal opinion on yoga. The rabbi wrote asking for my opinion on their decision.


From Rabbi Y. Goldstein

B"H

Shalom Ubracha,

     I wrote and am publicizing the following article vis a vis yoga and meditation on my Halacha website.

     I already saw what you wrote on your site, and wanted to know if you have any further input as to the article. I add that almost every sentence written below is taken from the Rebbe's Sichos, asides for the yoga positions which I took from your article and other independent research.

Yoga/Meditations/Therapies:[1]

Rabbinical supervision: Yoga[2] and many eastern meditations, contain aspects of idolatry that are forbidden for a Jew, of which one is required to give up his life rather than perform. Nonetheless, the aspect of seclusion and meditation in it of itself does not contain idolatry and is not Halachically forbidden, and on the contrary can be found rooted in Torah. Likewise, much of the physical exercise of Yoga is not idolatry related. One who desires to perform any of the above types of therapies is to beware to do so in a Kosher manner, making sure that it is removed from any idolatry tainted practices. The same way a food requires Rabbinical supervision so it does not contain any non-Kosher ingredients, so too eastern meditations and Yoga style practices require Rabbinical approbation to verify that they have been ridden of their prohibited aspects of idolatry. The Rebbe encouraged Rabbanim to seek G-d fearing psychologists and mental health experts to study the field of meditation and make Kosher forms of meditations available for the public in need of these therapies. In addition, the Rebbe proposed that the meditations include a Jewish spiritual content, such as the concept of Shema Yisrael, G-d's oneness. 

Who should use this therapy? The Rebbe's position even regarding Kosher meditations was that it is not meant for the healthy minded and should only be used as proscribed by a medical or mental professional. The same way a healthy person does not take medicines for ailments he does not have, and if he does so it will damage his body, so too taking part in these therapies when not needed can prove detrimental to one's mental health. Furthermore, even one who needs these therapies, it should be used like a medicine, only on occasion and according to need. Just as one can overdose on medicine, and become addicted, similarly one can become indoctrinated and infatuated with the therapy given to the point that what was once a healer of mental health becomes its destroyer. Kosher meditations must be regulated. Once one becomes stable and healthy, he is to leave this therapy all together and continue to lead a normal and healthy life without external dependencies.  

 

Rabbi Y. Goldstein

Director of Shulchanaruchharav.com

Dean of Hilchasa Kerav, Home Study Semicha Program

Join our Daily Halacha email/whatsapp here

 

Gutman's response:

 

Shalom, Shalom R' Goldstein

     What a relief. I am very thankful for your sensible opinion on this subject. So many rabbis are misusing the Rebbe's words and saying that yoga is kosher and it is not.

     If I may add two points; even the name yoga should not be used. The word "yoga" has a definition and it has a ton of history that invariable comes with it. If an innocent Jew hears that there is yoga that the rabbis approve he is going to go online and find all of the yoga that is "genuine" yoga which comes along with the actual avodah zara. Let those who want such exercises take what they want without any association with yoga.

     As for meditation: the meditation that the Rebbe was told about from the Sixties was almost entirely from TM which is a mantra (repetition over and over again) system that has no real place in a healthy Jew's life. But there can be constructive Jewish meditation that can help a Jew gain a spiritual sensitivity so he or she can advance in the ruchnius (spiritual awareness) of Torah.

     I have a few short videos on the subject that will show you what I am referring to.

Direct Your Heart to Heaven - Jewish Meditation 

(Link)

     Hashem bless you with much success in having the Jewish world accept your sensible opinion on this very important subject.

With warm regards

Gutman Locks

Jerusalem

 

The Rabbi's response:

B"H

     Thank you for your comments and response. Can I add your response to the comment section of the article [1st comment]?

    Regarding the name Yoga, I am of no authority to dispute its origin, and I certainly understand the rightful concerns of publicizing yoga even if made "Kosher", the same way you can't publicize Kosher christianity, its either christianity or isn't.  It is obviously used by Chabad houses etc. as a catch phrase to get people in, irrelevant of what they will actually do. But philosophically I agree, why not simply call it Jewish trance meditation, why need to borrow a system from gentiles that is so deeply rooted in idolatry. One thing is for sure. The Rebbe never spoke of purifying Yoga to the point of publicizing that it as Kosher Yoga. However since my articles are not my own opinion, but rather a compilation of the opinion of the Rebbe and other Gedolei Yisrael and I have not found explicit negation of using the term yoga, I therefore did not write about it one way or the other. But I think your comment is important to make known.

     Regarding the second point of the Rebbe regarding regulating even Kosher meditations: I think it is meant to regarding different therapy systems, such as what was used in "Call of the Shofar", or "Megirot/drawers", where in addition to the need to remove aspects of idolatry, it can become cult like, and unhealthy for people because if it is not regulated and becomes a whole way of life. I think this is the danger of many of these therapy systems, and unfortunately I have witnessed many people get sucked in to these different systems with their various names. Instead of getting the person back onto his own two feet it now gives him a third leg, a crutch, which he does not know how to get off of.

 

Rabbi Y. Goldstein

Director of Shulchanaruchharav.com

Dean of Hilchasa Kerav, Home Study Semicha Program

Join our Daily Halacha email/whatsapp here

 

Gutman's response:

 

     I understand that the Chabad Houses that teach yoga use it as a name to draw people, but simply test what I am saying about the word yoga by googling "yoga" and see what comes up. You would not want any Jew to follow any of those sites. Let the Jews who want such exercise use a Jewish term and keep all their sources free from foreign spiritual influence: such as Chilutz Atzamot (Loosen your bones).

     Although you may be correct on those forms of mediation this does not mean that meditation itself has those qualities. Meditation is no more than focusing on a proper subject and as your mind drifts off return your attention to that subject over and over again.

     The real problem with "The Call of the Shofar" and such systems is not with those systems themselves, although they may very well be faulty. The problem lies with the rabbis who are not teaching Chassidus in a way that satisfies the Jews' desire for spiritual awareness. It is a disgrace that Chabad yeshiva boys have to look elsewhere to find spiritual satisfaction when this is the very purpose of Chassidus.

     You may post my comments if you like.

Be well

Gutman

 

 



[1] See Sichos Kodesh 5739 3/314; Likkutei Sichos 36/335-336; Heichal Menachem 1/48, two letters of Rebbe to Rav Yaakov Landa, Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak; Healthy in Body Mind and Spirit chapter 9

[2] Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. There is a broad variety of Yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Many of the positions and mantras in Yoga contain pure idolatry, summoning deities and spiritual forces and showing one's subservience towards them.

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