Monthly Archives: November 2009

Torah Reading is like Target Competition?

Tradition holds that when one makes a mistake, no matter how small, when reading the Torah aloud, the reader should start over at the beginning of the passage. Some say this tradition holds for any prayer as well.

I used to think the reason for this was the obvious, i.e. respect for the Torah or prayer. But through target shooting, I’ve come to think that perhaps the reason is a bit more involved. The reason may not be so much that failing to correct the error might be a sign of disrespect to the passage. Rather, the error suggests that the reader was not fully engrossed and concentrated on the passage. After all, if he had really been engrossed in the meaning and significance of the words, and not just reciting them (a.k.a. “going through the motions”), he would not have made a mistake. And so, the significance of the mistake is not so much an issue for those who hear it, but rather for the one who made it. Its not that he wasn’t reading properly, so much as the mistake suggests he was not praying properly. Praying and reading are not synonyms.

And this related to shooting how exactly? One way to think about shooting is that prior to releasing a shot, the shooter has consciously or subconsciously reviewed a checklist of requirements. Are the sights aligned? Does my grip feel right? Does my trigger finger seem correctly placed? Am I balanced? Is the gun relatively steady? Are my eyes focused? Am I thinking positively? These are just some of the questions, and the better the shooter, the longer the list.

Even though the shooter might be deciding all these thing subconsciously, the subconscious will signal the conscious when something is off, and we’ll get that feeling that “something just ain’t right.” In that instant, the conscious mind shifts from its positive expectation of shooting an X, to trying to figure out why the gun feels like its being gripped too loosely, the eyes are not focused, or whatever else doesn’t feel right. Sometimes, we can still let go the shot and get away with it, but more often, taking the shot while we have this feeling leads to disappointment and even disaster. The champion shooters often say, the most important shots are the ones you didn’t take. Something didn’t feel right, so you put the gun down, cleared your head, and began your shot routine from square one.

Jewish Boxer Yure Foreman takes WBA Junior Middleweight Title

And he’s a rabbinical student! Check out the article on Yuri Foreman here. I like this quote:

“It’s a fact we had 12 tough rounds, but thank God every time I got back into the ring for more I said prayers in my heart, and it worked,” he said after the fight. “If you ask me what my strength is, I’ll tell you it’s in my brain. I run around the ring and keep thinking. I think I need to prove to everyone, not just myself, to the whole world that Jews know how to fight, that Jews know how to give a good fight and not surrender. I said it right after the fight, when they pushed the microphones at me and the cameras clicked. I said I wanted to prove that Jews are not a weak people that can be made to bend down and surrender, that Jews know how to fight and win. Actually, there are a lot of Jewish champions in the history of sports.”

More information here. Official website here.

The Subconscoius of Prayer, Torah Study and Target Practice

Every competitive target shooter experiences “perfect” shots. The physical elements of the shot were perfectly executed, and the paper reveals a dead centered X. To the shooter, the shot felt as if it fired itself.

As you may know, Simchat Torah recently passed, and we’ve begun reading the Torah anew. I sometimes (well, ok, often) miss reading the week’s portion but I am good about listening to the Chabad .mp3 lectures. I particularly like the lectures by Elimelech Silberberg and Moshe New. I often listen while I’m talking a walk, or even during a shooting training session.

I’m amazed at how a year later, something in the lecture will trigger my ability to remember where and when I listened to the lecture last time. Often I can remember what was going on in my life at the time.

That makes me think that much of Torah learning has to seep into the subconscious. Its simply impossible