January 5, 2022, Israel
The opening page of "Path of the Just", my personal copy with some notes in the margins.
In the year 1707 a child was born in the Jewish ghetto of Padua, Republic of Venice (today part of Italy). His name was Moshe. He became the famous rabbi, today a household name in Jewish circles, known as the RaMChaL, or Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto.
Rabbi Moshe was a mystic, a poet, a linguist, a scholar, an academic, a brilliant man, a bit of controversial renegade, a free thinker. He was a mover and a shaker, and he had an impact.
He was a prolific writer and though he passed away from this world at the age of only 39 he completed more than 40 books. His books include; The Way of God, The Story of Samson, A Tongue for Teaching, A Discourse on God, and commentaries on the Zohar, the Jewish mystical book. Perhaps the book that had the most impact is "The Path of the Just", in Hebrew Missilath Yesharim.
This is certainly a religious book, based on a belief in God and a desire to do Gods' work. It also contains elements of mysticism, however lays in the fact that it is an ethical work. One need not be Jewish, one need be a believer in anything, to gain from this book. One only needs an open, honest, and humble heart and a desire for self-improvement.
I have read the book, no, I have studied the book many times since I first encountered this as a young Yeshiva student. It is a book I return to for inspiration. Here I will relate some elements to Krav Maga. Yes, we will have insight from the great Italian Jewish rabbi on Krav Maga, written nearly 300 years ago.
But I will begin elsewhere, in Brooklyn, a stronghold of uncompromising Judaism. Rabbi Y. P. says that "Pain has taught me to care more for the pain of others."
As I have recently lost my dear mother my pain is constant as is my longing. I recall the death of Mrs. P (I am living out names to protect the privacy of others) her son said to me, I am an orphan. He lost a mother aged 102, but the loss is immense. Years later he explained to me, "The longer you know someone, the greater the pain."
I recently heard of another rabbi, crying out loud, Ich bin a yasom, (Yiddish, I am an orphan). Our tears are real as is our pain. The question then is, what do we do with this pain? The answer is we use it as force for good. We start by feeling the pain of others and being more sensitive to them.
We have a concept called Bitachon, Trust, but it means more than just trust. It is trusting God, it is trusting creation, it is not being afraid of life. Yes, life, we must learn not to be afraid of life, and only thus can we live it to the fullest. Do not fear life, do not fear failure or success.
We believe the soul to be eternal. It never dies. But the great aspect of living, the huge advantage we have, is that we the living can act. We can take action. Every new Act creates a new reality. Every act can undo negative dreams or thoughts. The rabbis teach, a mitzvah (performance of a Divine commandment) leads to another mitzvah. One of the meanings of this saying is that one new Act creates a new reality, one act creates new possibilities. An Act leads to an Act, while inaction leads to nothing but moping. As Rabbi P. said to me, "We the living are 'at bat', we can make the difference."
This is what we are trying to do with our lives, this is what our Krav Maga association is about; making a difference while we are at bat. A player on the bench cannot get a base-hit. We are at bat!
A soul has a reality but it cannot act. The ability to act is the great advantage that we the living have. Let us act and create new realities.
At the end of the Introduction to his masterpiece Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto writes words that found a home in my heart many years ago; "I have written my composition to teach myself and to remind others of the path to perfection." "And I shall read it is myself, and anyone else who finds this book of comfort and favor, that we shall learn...the proper path."
I have written this to remind myself!!
He is not lecturing others, he is not preaching to others, he is not looking down with a condescending look upon others, he is beginning with himself! He is not telling others to read his book, he is saying that he will read the book to remind himself of the proper path. He is his intended audience!
When I write a blog I too am usually writing it for myself, with the hope that perhaps others will benefit as well. I write because I need to. If my words find a place in another's heart, that is a blessing for all of us. I am not preaching to anyone but myself. I am the imperfect reader who needs to hear these words.
And so this is also the essence of our Krav Maga, Israeli Krav International; I am the imperfect human being who needs self-defense. I am the child chosen last for soccer games. I develop techniques that work for me, with my imperfections and limitations. And if these techniques and teachings benefit others, my cup overfloweth. (Psalm 23)
There is much in this book that resonates with our approach to Krav Maga, to self-defense.
"The author said: This little composition I have not written to teach the sons of man that which they do not know, rather to remind them of that which is well-known to them and with which they are famously acquainted. For you shall not find in most of my words anything other than that which most people know and have no doubt about whatsoever, but just as much as these matters are well-known, and with the same degree to which their truth is open and clear to all, so to is the absence of these found, and the forgetfulness."
Powerful words, simple and profound, humble and yet challenging!
Let's apply this truth to Krav Maga.
The teacher said: There is nothing I can tell you that you don't already know. You read the papers, you watch the news. You know that crime is everywhere. You know that when you go to the bank or withdraw money from the ATM, someone might be waiting for you. You know that rape is a daily, hourly, constant occurrence.
You love life, you love your family. You are famously acquainted with all that I am saying. Perhaps you are yawning now. Perhaps I am boring you. Nothing I am saying is new.
You also know that the police cannot be there for you at every moment and every place. Unless you are a "celebrity" and have a your own private security guards, you are on your own. You are the first line of defense. You have seen the advertisements, you have watched "The Human Weapon" and "Fight Quest", you know all about Krav Maga.
As much as the issue is known, equally so it is ignored.
How many times have I heard, "Yeah, I know, I should learn Krav Maga, but..."
And so Moshe from the ghetto of Padova and Moshe from Maaleh Adumim preach the same message. And I write these words to remind myself and hopefully others are listening. I develop techniques that are good for the average imperfect human mean, such as myself, and hopefully it will benefit others.
As much as the message is well-known, so too is it equally ignored.
But sadly, if you ignore this message, you ignore it at your own risk.
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