Mitzvah–מִצְוָה A commandment, a commandment from G-d, there were originally 613 of them. There are 248 positive and 365 negative mitzvot מצות that would be the plural of mitzvah. The Jerusalem Talmud commonly refers to any charitable act as “the mitzvah.” They are actually eternal to be carried down through every generation. Interestingly, one of them on Page 20: Building a Sanctuary for G-d from Sefer H’Mitzvot. Okay, I’ll quit. But the point of this is that some of the commands are acts of kindness, acts of goodness and charity. From Psalms תהילים, Tehillim 10:
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
One rather gets the idea that abuse of the poor, helpless and vulnerable is frowned on wouldn’t they? By G-d, and he commands us to have the same standards, as we are to be a reflection of him. We are to have compassion on them, not abuse them.
More than one out of every 5 students report being bullied, 64% of children who were bullied did not report it; only 36% reported the bullying and, more than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.
While only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. The National Autistic Society reports that 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying. When reporting bullying youth in special education were told not to tattle almost twice as often as youth not in special education. Students with disabilities or special education needs are twice as likely to be identified as bullied targets and as bullies when compared to peers without disabilities.1
The results of being bullied are diverse. The victims may be:
depressed, lonely, and anxious, have low self-esteem,experience headaches, stomachaches, tiredness, and poor eating. Be absent from school, dislike school, and have poorer school performance, and think about suicide or plan for suicide.
Some children with disabilities have low self-esteem or feel depressed, lonely or anxious because of their disability, and bullying may make this even worse. Bullying can cause serious, lasting problems not only for children who are bullied but also for children who bully and those who witness bullying.2
While doing research for this column I found several government web sites dealing with bullying. They contained facts, figures and government programs. The government has been trying to deal with it.3 They have sent no less that four “Dear Colleague” letters, in 2000, 2010, 2013 and 2014. Just in case you want to read it yourself. There are lots of acronyms, and lots talk about individual plans, and that sort of thing. But what it amounts to, to me, is they don’t really have any real world answers beyond saying if the parents yank their kid out of your public school, you lose tax dollars.
I find it interesting that 57% of bullying stops when a peer intervenes on behalf of the victim. But what if the victim were empowered? No, I’m not talking about shearing more of the poor pink sheep to knit a bunch of hats to plop down on kids heads. I’m talking about an amazing program. I told you to hang on to the horn for this final part of my interview with Joe Mayberry, author of The Systema Warrior Guidebook.
Joe had been training in the martial arts since 1974, but he hadn’t really been teaching. But he started hearing from people he knew who had children that wanted to take lessons, of some rather despicable business practices in some of the area martial arts schools. And it was happening far more often than he would have thought. Joe decided that he would open a school and quit saying “NO” to those who had wanted him to teach. After the school had been going for a while, he got a email one night that became a turning point. He said it was on a Thursday night, and he had to wait about four days before he could respond to it, because he wanted to think it through, he was both mad and sad. The email was from the mother of a little six year old boy who wanted to learn martial arts. The little six year old boy was blind, he wanted to learn to defend himself. The mother had contacted other martial arts schools, some had flat out refused to teach him, others told her they would have to pay for private lessons as he would be unable to learn in a group. I believe Joe said they also told her his guide dog wouldn’t be allowed on the mat at the dojo. I opined that the dog was possibly better behaved than some kids, he would be the least of my worries. Joe kindly overlooked that remark.
The little boy came to Systema St. Louis and started classes, in a group. In his group classes Joe has trained not only blind students, but students with autism, deafness and one who has an eye missing. Students that other schools were unwilling or unable to train have learned and flourished. From this the Systema Warrior Foundation was born.
Because Systema looks at each child’s strength, they are able to help them develop actions and defenses that they are realistically able to use. Shamelessly swiped from the web site:
In Systema, the synergy of three components creates a TRUE WARRIOR – Combat Skill, Strong Spirit and Healthy Body.
Our goal is to strengthen those abilities that are already present in each child, no matter what disability they may have. We show them that everyone can be strong, confident and empowered.
When Systema Founder Mikhail Ryabko created the foundations of Systema, he noted that everything that happens to us in life; good or bad, has one ultimate purpose, that is to create the best possible conditions for a person to understand him or herself. Our goal is to grow on that philosophy and to share it with others.
Since the Systema Warrior Foundation started at Systema St. Louis, Joe has trained around 2,000 children with disabilities. TWO THOUSAND, in the United States and Canada. Did I mention, he does this free of charge to them? Yes, he does. The cost of teaching them is covered by donations (just in case you wanted to) to the Systema Warrior foundation, and some of the things that Joe does, he donates the proceeds to the Systema Warrior foundation.
As Joe said, no matter your age, shape or abilities, you have a G-d given right to life and defend yourself. And his actions back up his words.
It seems so perfectly fitting that a Systema school would have a Systema Warrior Foundation when you consider that the original Systema warrior was Ilya Muromets. And Ilya has quite an amazing story. I really prefer the version in the Systema book as it gives you more of a spiritual side. That’s Ilya in the first picture with the little girl.
I just can’t help but love the school motto: “Doing bad things to bad people since 2010”. Just kind of fits with my world view.
So, if I were a kid, and I had a choice of having a knitted pink hat plopped down on my head, or a government program that says it’s illegal to bully children or learning skills that have been taught to me, for my level of ability? I know which one I would go for. I think the Systema Warrior Foundation is a great example of a mitzvah, don’t you?
1Bullying Statistics http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp
3Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Guidance to America’s Schools https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/bullying-students-disabilities-addressed-guidance-america%E2%80%99s-schools