Shibboleths and Sun Salutations: Should Religious Jews Practice Yoga?

Why some Orthodox Jews are nervous about yoga, and why they’re right to be.

Orthodox Israeli Jewish men watch as other Israelis gather in Tel Aviv for a mass outdoor yoga session to mark the longest day of the year on June 21, 2010. YEHUDA RAIZNER/AFP via Getty Images.

Orthodox Israeli Jewish men watch as other Israelis gather in Tel Aviv for a mass outdoor yoga session to mark the longest day of the year on June 21, 2010. YEHUDA RAIZNER/AFP via Getty Images.

Essay
March 9 2020
About the author

Menachem Wecker, a freelance journalist based in Washington DC, covers art, culture, religion, and education for a variety of publications.


As it barrels out of the Holy of Holies in the ancient Temple, on the run from the rabbis, humankind’s evil impulse to worship idols presents itself in the form of a fiery lion cub. But, as the Talmud records (in tractate Yoma), the rabbis manage to capture it. Alarmed by how loudly the cub wails upon a single hair’s being plucked—the sound can be heard for a thousand miles around—they’re loath to kill it outright. Instead, they encase it in a soundproof lead box.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Spirituality, Yoga