Podcast: Menachem Wecker Fleshes Out His Ideas on Yoga and Idolatry

The author of “Shibboleths and Sun Salutations: Should Religious Jews Practice Yoga?” joins us to defend his ideas.

People in Tel Aviv practicing yoga on June 2, 2005. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90.

People in Tel Aviv practicing yoga on June 2, 2005. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90.

April 8 2020
About the authors

A weekly podcast, produced in partnership with the Tikvah Fund, offering up the best thinking on Jewish thought and culture.

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

This Week’s Guest: Menachem Wecker


Yoga represents a $16-billion industry in the U.S., reaching an estimated 36.7 million people in 2016 alone. And the Jewish community enjoys it as much as any other. There are synagogue-sponsored yoga programs and yoga minyanim (quorums); even a right-wing Orthodox educational organization like Aish HaTorah has seen fit to re-post on its website an item titled “How Orthodox Jews Taught Me Yoga.” Last month, in his stimulating Mosaic essay on the subject, Menachem Wecker asked if the very thing that gets people excited about yoga—namely that it is not just physical exercise but spiritual nourishment as well—should force us to think about how it relates to Jewish faith. How much of contemporary yoga, mostly thought of as a product of today’s “wellness culture,” is still seriously connected to its Hindu origins? What about the statues and other visual representations of non-Jewish divinities that adorn so many yoga studios? All of this comes to a head in one more question: Is yoga a form of contemporary idolatry?

Now, in this podcast episode, Wecker joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to discuss his ideas and defend his argument.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.





For more on the Tikvah Podcast at Mosaic, which appears roughly every Thursday, check out its inaugural post here.

If you have thoughts about the podcast that you’d like to share, ideas for future guests and topics, or any other form of feedback, just send an email to [email protected].

More about: Arts & Culture, Idolatry, Yoga