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Shibboleths and Sun Salutations: Should Religious Jews Practice Yoga?

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

March 9, 2020 | Menachem Wecker
About the author: Menachem Wecker, a freelance journalist based in Washington DC, covers art, culture, religion, and education for a variety of publications.

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.

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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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