Sunday, September 9, 2012

4 weeks of Elul 5772 - #4 Our Physical Selves

4 Weeks of Elul 5772 - Week Four: Our Physical Selves

My Dear Friends,

Without a doubt, my favorite prayer in the morning service is about openings and closings. It states (and I paraphrase): 

“We praise you, Adonai our God, who has created human beings with wisdom – providing openings that open, and closings that close.  It is well known before Your glorious throne if that one of these openings cannot open, or one of these closings cannot close – we would not be able to stand before You.” 

In case you are wondering, yes – you are correct.  This is a prayer about going to the bathroom.  (I love teaching this to 5th graders….They always giggle when I talk about God on the "throne".).  This prayer, called Asher Yatzar, is the one of the 1st blessing we recite when we enter into worship.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  Judaism acknowledges the fact that we are physical beings – and that our bodies are the vessels in and through which we encounter both the physical and the spiritual realms.  If we are not physically healthy, then we cannot perform Tikkun Olam - the repairing of our world. Our bodies are holy.  The torah teaches that we are created B’tzelem Elohim - in the image of God. In this light, taking care of our bodies is a sacred task.  We also are taught that helping others find health and wellness is a vitally important mitzvah.  The simple act of visiting someone who is ill can make a huge difference in their physical and mental well-being.

During this last week of Elul, I want us to focus on our physical selves.  Again, this is by no means a complete list.  Some questions are repeated from previous years.  Hopefully the questions will provide you with a starting point for examining and improving the relationships in your lives:  As such – I offer the following questions:

  1. Have I taken care of my body through diet and exercise?
  2. Have I prepared medical directives that are clear and unambiguous stating my desires for illness and end-of-life issues?
  3. Have I done all that I could to comfort those around me who are affected by illness – have I performed the mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim – visiting the sick?
  4. Am I aware of the fact that, despite all of the politics that surround health care, the consequences of a failure to find compromise can be life threatening to many?
  5. How much stress is in my life?  Is it affecting the way I live my life?
  6. What bad habits have I cultivated that I need to change?
  7. Have I been avoiding going to the doctor, dentist or other health care professionals due to financial concerns or fear of what I might discover?

As we enter into this last week of Elul, 5772, I hope and pray that the coming High Holydays will be filled with meaning and beauty for you.  Sue, Elana, Ethan and I truly feel blessed to be part of this sacred community.  Again, I welcome your comments and suggestions for additional questions and formats that we can use. If answering any of these questions causes you to want to speak to one of the Temple clergy, Rabbi Immerman, Cantor Heit and I would welcome the opportunity. Note that all of these materials will also be available in hard copy at the Temple Office. If you know of anyone else who might want to receive these mailings – whether or not they are members of the congregation, contact Susie Sigman at .

L’shanah Tovah U’metukah – May you have a good and sweet new year. 


Rabbi Joseph R. Black


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