Dear Friends ,
It is the new year — the secular new year. We have already had the new Jewish year when we reflected and repented and made a “return” (teshuvah) to being the person we should be. The secular new year has a tradition called “making resolutions” which is followed by the tradition called “breaking those resolutions made.” What is one of the biggest resolutions made each year? Taking care of your body — diet, exercise, meditation, yoga and more — is usually at the top of the list, especially after holidays filled with eating and drinking.
Is there a Jewish value on taking care of your body? Of course — shmirat haguf, which means guarding the body, is a key responsibility for all of us. The 12th-century sage Maimonides (who was a physician) wrote a whole section of his Mishneh Torah about caring for your body. In the opening of this section, the Rambam (acronym for Maimonides) wrote: “Since it is God’s will that a (person’s) body be kept healthy and strong, because it is impossible for a (person) to have any knowledge of his Creator when ill, it is, therefore, his duty to shun anything which may waste his body, and to strive to acquire habits that will help him preserve his health.”
There are additional rules found in the Talmud and medieval Jewish law which talk about washing hands and keeping a clean body. Washing hands before eating for ritual purposes actually kept the Jews from diseases such as the plague in past times. The interesting historical twist was that because the Jews weren’t getting sick and dying, they were blamed for the plague rather than people realizing that simply washing your hands keeps disease away.
As we move into the new year, make a resolution to help both your body and your soul — take care of your body, which will open you to spirit.
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.