It is the New Year and by the time you read this, many people will have already broken their resolutions. Studies from Forbes (2013) say that nearly half of Americans make resolutions and only 8% actually keep them. A reason given is that people tend to set overly ambitious goals. At the J, we see a big push of people coming to exercise but it does drop off. Keeping up with exercising is a real commitment. Many people believe they have “more important” things to do than to keep up with healthy ways of living however, even in ancient times, our sages had something to say about taking care of our bodies — it is indeed a Jewish value of great importance. Here are some thoughts and background from our ancient rabbis (from
“Because our bodies are receptacles of our souls, and vessels of God’s light, we must keep them healthy and consider carefully what we put into them. Traditional Jewish thought suggests that we must keep our bodies well for the sake of spiritual pursuits and in order to fulfill mitzvot, commandments. Today however, a focus on fitness is often seen as vain or improperly secular.
“It is interesting to see how far back in our tradition concerns with our physical selves and the balancing of Torah and physical activity can be found. Already in the Talmud (Shabbat 82a), Rav Huna urges his son Rabbah to study with Rav Hisda. Rabbah resists, saying that Rav Hisda focuses only on secular matters: anatomy and hygiene. Rav Huna admonishes his son, saying, ‘He speaks of health matters, and you call that secular!’
“Indeed, one finds a reluctance to focus on exercise, in part because time is so limited and time spent on sport is time not spent on Torah study or chessed (good deeds). Although many of us are familiar with Maimonides’ long discussions in the Mishneh Torah about the importance of exercise and healthy, measured eating, we rarely take the details of his many recommendations to heart.”
I am not convinced that today’s Jews are not exercising due to their worry about it being too secular of a pursuit. We have heard the message before every time we fly: “Put your oxygen mask on first and then help children and others.” If we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot take care of others and if we don’t take care of our physical self, how can we possibly work to grow in other areas? Many of the J regulars know that I spend my time at the J Fitness Floor walking the track and during that time I am always reading on my phone — not social media but books! I feel that I am doing two things for my body and my mind at the same time! Try it — join me on the track but please don’t talk to me as I might lose my place in my book! Good luck with your resolutions and don’t be part of the 8% who drop off no matter what you are trying to achieve. Happy New Year!