(From left to right: our instructor, Sensei Shaun Hansen, Sensei Saul, Sensei Max! and Sensei Rick)
We’ve added another black belt to our family and it’s gotten me to thinking about another of the parallels between the time we spend in the dojo and the time we spend in the synagogue.
There are many parallels but one significant similarity regards what happens the next day… or, at least, what ought to happen…
…We keep goin’. We keep learning, training, practicing our art… and we keep growing.
Both black belts and B’nai Mitzvah are milestones along a path. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to sit down and stop midway through your journey. In fact, both of these significant milestones lie much closer to the beginning of the journey. I see them more as embarking points from which we now may journey solo when we choose. Previously, we needed qualified guides or co-pilots to safely venture forth, but these milestones represent reaching the beginning of the advanced levels at which we take more responsibility for ourselves. We can journey solo, but it’s still gratifying to spend much of the time in community and learning from and with others.
I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah a few decades ago, and not only do I still enjoy studying Torah, but I’ve definitely gotten better at it and I deeply appreciate the community we’ve created on Saturday mornings at Beth Emek as we come together to study purely for the sake of learning and enjoying each other’s company.
I earned my black belt in Okinawan Karate four years ago, but I still train every week. There, too, I enjoy learning and coming together with a warm and welcoming community of traditional, martial arts practitioners.
As I train students, one of the most important lessons I hope to convey is that there are more great things to come. These milestones are great achievements, but they are not ends in themselves. Enjoy the moment, celebrate, and then get back in there for more learning and growing.
Tie your belt, wrap your tallit, and on we go for many journeys ahead.