Wednesday, November 28, 2012


A Huge Mistake!


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.

Gutman’s comments:

    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.


  1. Are those red cows??

  2. LOL at rabbi F. He does not have a big following, don't be too concerned over it.

  3. well personally, i do not see how any of this. has helped anyone be true to G-D here in TheStory of Creation again.

    as i do not see, how this unexpected visit, with adam and your grandmother. should have ever of been an unexpected supprize. since there is only TheOneStory of Physical Creation HaShem G-D is ever going to give. even with us all, here in IT thrice again.

    i mean their is no point, in any tradition. if it does not help you maintain, you mental awareness of actually being here in TheTorah forever now. otherwise you are no different, than any other talking critter, pretending to not be here in TheTorah now.

  4. excellent and valuable piece here, thank you. this is not to be laughed at, at all. it is a widespread phenomenon. jews doing yoga..even some religious places offering "kosher yoga"..the name itself is an oxymoron.

    both reb gutmans and rabbi ginzruggh provide valuable information here.
    it must be more widely distributed as so many jews don't find anything wrong with these practices at this time.

    may Hashem strengthen all of israel to know the difference and return to torah b'simcha b'teshuva shalema im shalom.

  5. Rav Ginsburg says they draw down impure energies, but how does he know? Tai chi tai today is mainly very secular -- aren't the most popular forms ones that were invented in the last few decades by Chinese people in communist China (where the vast majority of people are athiests)? Does Rav Ginsburg claim to know what he knows about tai chi based on his own mystical experiences, or what he's read in holy books, or what? What is the nature of the impure energies? Inquiring minds want to know. I'd like to see dueling briefs from the Dallas rav and Rav Ginsburg using Torah sources to argue back and forth about whether tai chi is OK halachically and spiritually.

  6. This question is directed toward R' Gutman: Are you at all familiar with the well-known mekubal R' Ariel Bar Tzadok? If not, I highly recomend you check out his website:, especially the "About Ariel Bar Tzadok" section, and even moreso, the article "Oriental Martial Arts Are Totally Kosher" (which links at the bottom to a further, more detailed essay on the subject). I'd very much like to see your response to his words. Please, if it's not too much trouble, respond to this comment with more of your tremendous, thought-stimulating insights.

  7. "These exercises draw down energy from impure sources."

    What the heck does this mean? Do you have to do netilat yadayim after practicing Tai Chi? Is there a nafka minha in halacha based on such a "diagnosis"?

  8. One thing to add: I believe Rabbi Locks' own book on meditation says that doing the forms of tai chi/qi gong, etc. is OK if it is totally separated from any religious context (I believe upper case letters are used to emphasize the point.) So if someone with a Torah hashkafa and no exposure to Taoist philosophy is doing the tai chi moves and directing the movement of life energy around the body (presumably the same life energy discussed extensively in chassidic words like the Tanya), then is there really a problem?

  9. You are misquoting me. I wrote, "The physical postures and movements of yoga and Tai Chi IF COMPLETELY STRIPPED OF THEIR RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE, can be very beneficial. The eastern religions do not own touching your toes or swinging your arms. But they do own the words yoga, asanas, Tai Chi and such. Exercise is healthy. Eastern religous movements are not.

  10. Thanks for the full quote (from your book Taming the Raging Mind), but I don't understand. If you just do the Tai Chi or Chi Gong forms, but just by yourself, not with any teacher, and not after reading books with Taoist philosophy in them, then isn't that completely stripped of their religious significance? Is it inherently bad to try to do these forms while feeling some energy move through and build up in your body?

    Life energy is constantly mentioned in classical chassidic literature and other kosher sources, and there are some meditation exercises from medieval kabbalists involving imagining a light pouring on you. So it doesn't seem inherently problematic to try to feel these energies and build them up if it seems to be beneficial. From your autobiography (Coming Down to Earth) I know negative experiences from energy practices are possible, but aren't they avoidable if people are just doing a moderate amount of exercises?

    Anyway, thanks for your work and all your thoughts and writing on this issue!

    For those of you reading this who haven't read R' Locks' books, I highly recommend them!

  11. Chi is the chinese equivalent of the Greek Forms, which is known as Tzurah in the Rishonim and Acharonim. As long as you strip off the cultural overlay, I really can't see a problem with it, it is simply the nature of reality, one that the Chinese were in touch with amongst others. We are unfamiliar with this because Western society declared this energy non-existent many years ago. It is worth pointing out that avoda zara is the 49 gates of impurity; the 50th gate, the point of no return, is atheism, which is modern science....
    With all due respect to R. Ginzburg, I don't think he really understands the picture.


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