Showing posts from March, 2011

Judaism and Martial Arts: What's the Connection?

I’ve almost begun to dread the question,“So what brought you to Yiddishkeit?” In truth, many things, but in two words; martial arts. The next question is, “Huh?”, which is often accompanied by a puzzled look. So what is the connection?

On a superficial level, Judaism and Martial Arts have quite a bit of overlap. Traditional martial artists practice pre-arranged sets of movements, often referred to as taolu in Chinese. The emphasis of these forms is not the external technique, but rather to transcend the technique and train a principle. There is a saying, “Kung Fu is 10% body, and 90% mind,” meaning that the key is not solely in the motions, but in the principles behind the motions. The technique of traditional martial arts is merely a vessel of expression for the intent behind each motion.

Similarly, Jews pray three times a day from a siddur (which also happens to mean “arrangement”, or “order”). The purpose of praying isn’t to get caught up in the words, but rather to transcend them, t…

Alumnus of the Week: Ben Schwed aka BenYomen

Ben Schwed is rocking the world.  First he was a Mayanot student:  awesome enough.  Then he took his rap skills from back in the day and transformed them into Jewish and Chassidic art.  And now he's helping protect the Jewish people in the Israeli Army.  We are proud that Ben is part of our family.

Check out the video below for a taste of his music:

Ben Yomen - A Brand New Day from Magazino on Vimeo.

From Ben's bio:

"Ben Schwed was born in Azusa, CA and grew up between The Valley & The Antelope Valley, in California. He was one of the founding members of "Life For The Better", otherwise known as the group that created the hip hop scene in Palmdale/Lancaster.

BenYomen was member of LFTB, Ophotn Records, DVayshun and the Beat Bums crews. BenYomen is the name Ben Schwed chose for himself as it is his Hebrew name and represents his essence as a human being. BenYomen writes and performs his own lyrics and his main musical direction is Hip Hop in Conscious, Jewish &…

Bringing Shabbat to a Muslim Village

I grew up with my Jewish mother in the very Jewish suburb of Bondi and only started a relationship with my Indonesian father and siblings about 6 years ago. Although I grew up in a very Jewish area, I had left that path around my teenage years and only returned to my Judaism this year.

My father and half siblings are all Muslim. They live in a Muslim country, they go to the mosque, and yet they are very accepting and respectful of their Jewish sister. I had started keeping Shabbos shortly before my departure to Indonesia this year and so I had made sure to learn how to make my own challah and brought some candlesticks.

The town where my family lives in Indonesia is 100% Muslim. Throughout the day it is so common to hear the Muslim call to prayer I don’t even notice it anymore. My brother’s mother is French and lives in the ‘Kampung’ (the village). When I asked her if I could make Shabbos in her house, she was very intrigued and offered to help.

We went to the local market to buy the ingr…

Share Your Thoughts and Prayers

4 years.  4 years since an attack in Jerusalem.

Then bam.  Everything changed.

A bomb exploded by the central bus station today.  One person died.  I'm sure you already know.

It's easy to feel lost, confused and afraid in such an environment.  Easy, when all of Jerusalem was literally shaken by the blast, to feel as if there is no security, no safety to be found in our true home.

That is why it is important for the students, alumni and friends of Mayanot, for those who have been here and experienced its beauty to share their thoughts and prayers for Mayanot, Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

Comment on this post to share your thoughts, feelings, and prayers about the recent attack in Jerusalem.

The Never Ending Apartment Search As A Metaphor For Life

I need an apartment. I came home from Israel and have been staying with my folks but this girl is about to turn (cough cough) 30 and needs her space. I love my family and I am so thankful that despite close quarters they were willing to take me in… but I need my space.

So I have been on the hunt for an apartment. First I had to get a job. Some level of stability is important, you don’t want to get a lease and then not be able to afford it but also apartment complexes and owners frown on giving apartments to people without income. So I found a job. Once I had a contract signed and was sure it was going to pay me… I started looking for an apartment.

I found every resource online (have you met me? I am, as a dear friend puts it, an interwebs ninja) and tracked down every locale. I pinpointed the areas I wanted to live in, the price range I wanted to be in, the amenities that were key:

Must have: washer and dryer, parking space, be close-ish to work and friends.

Must not: be on the first floo…

A Brand New Day by BenYomen

Song of the Week: The Sun

Watch out Bob Dylan.  Yerachmiel Goldstein is coming.

Yerachmiel is a folk singer from New York.  His music evokes the folk music of the 60's but is heavily influenced by his chassidic learning and Jewish studies.

This music is powerful, folks.  Press play and enter his world.

[audio:|titles=The Sun by Yerachmiel Goldstein]

The sky is fixed

In moonlit eyes

Never asking why

Nor to know

And the sea tells the sun

Who asks the one

Where did I come from

And go

But who cares!

They cried

At the limited sky

Never asking why

Nor to know

Well I’ve done my share

To all those who care

And I guess

There’s not much  more

So shouting I sighed

To the men who cried

Always saying goodbye

To the sun

Well do I go

Where the sun begins to snow

And the fun begins to go


And the thrills I sought

Were null and void

Being one of the boys

And the men

So out on my own

Where I've been trampled to the bone

That led me home


And the moon still moans

At the sun’s reigning t…

The Funeral

Editor's Note: On Friday, March 11th, 5 people, including three 2 children and one infant, were brutally killed in their homes.  On Sunday, a few students went to their funeral.  This is the story from one student's perspective.

I hadn't even heard about the tragedy until 15 minutes before the funeral. Halfway through lunch, blissfully unaware of what had happened, a fellow Yeshiva Bocher approached me and asked if I wanted to go with him to the huge event scheduled to take place on that Sunday, 13th March 2011 (7th Adar 5771). After he had hastily described to me the details of that fateful Erev Shabbat, I agreed without hesitation to accompany him and show my support.

Joined by another friend, we took the first bus headed to Givat Shaul and, luckily living only a short distance away, were able to arrive within 20 minutes. Walking down the hill in the direction of the cemetery, we were met with large crowds of people; religious, secular, soldier and civilian alike, already …

Barach Haba

To balance on one foot

Or to balance on two

Feet like knotted roots

Digging into the ground

One step forward and then to the right

Heel then the toes

Step back from the balls, and pop

Here we go

Like trees that break up the concrete

Of sidewalks

It all comes from the hips

Hardwood center

And the body is a redwood

Don’t move the arms

Let them jive with the rest

Branches don’t move on their own

Hands become heavy

Like boulders or chiseled stones

Ivy vines up and down the arms

Mosses grow wherever exposed

Glide through and back

Up and never down

Water in reverse

On slick onyx

And smoothed quartz-stone

Upstream and not down

Around and around

Like the trunk of a tree

Spiraling up and up and up

But somehow always on the bough

Every part of the body has something to say

Some heavier, and some lighter

Hidden memories, stories from many different tomes

Dust covered, and aged

Water damaged or burned

If only it were louder

(The body has His wisdom

And He has His own)

It could speak through the noise

But silence is sought for a reaso…