The Four Weeks of Elul – 5775. Week 4: Our Physical Selves.
For Father’s day, this past year, my children bought me a FitbitTM. For the uninitiated, this is basically a rubber band with a special computer chip imbedded inside that you wear on your wrist. It measures physical activity. It synchs with your smartphone and tells you how many steps you have taken, how many minutes of exercise you have achieved, how close you are to achieving pre-set goals and, if you are really obsessed, how your progress compares with others who also have FitbitsTM and have agreed to share their data with you. Recently, I went a step further and replaced my FitbitTM with an Apple WatchTM. Now, in addition to measuring my steps and physical activity, my watch politely nudges me every hour to stand up if I’ve been sitting too long, or gives me positive reinforcement for achieving my pre-set goals for physical activity.
As some of you know, I’m not a huge fan of exercising – but I do love gadgets. And, truth be told, these toys actually are helping me to increase my level of physical activity. I have found that the more I exercise, the better I feel and the more energy I have for accomplishing tasks and relating to those around me. It really works!
During this last week of Elul, let us take some time to focus on the fact that our bodies are sacred vessels. In the morning service, we begin our prayers with the words: “Blessed our You, Adonai our God, who has created our bodies with wisdom…..It is well known before Your throne of glory that if (our bodies do not work) …then we would not be able to stand before You.”
Powerful stuff. Our tradition teaches that we cannot and should not take our physical health for granted. Each breath we take is a manifestation of God’s presence. In fact, the Hebrew word for soul, Neshamah, also means “breath.” If our bodies are the vessels in which our souls are contained, the way we take care of our physical selves is a reflection of our spiritual health as well. With this in mind, I would ask you to consider the following questions:
1. Have I taken care of my body through diet and exercise?
2. How many times have I judged others because of their physical appearance instead of their entirety of their personality?
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. Have I given to charities that work to find cures for terrible diseases?
5. How much stress is in my life? Is it affecting the way I live my life?
6. 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?
7. What positive changes have I engaged in during the course of the past year that have affected my overall well being?
Again, I welcome your comments and suggestions for additional questions and formats that we can use. If answering them causes you to want to speak to one of the Temple clergy, Rabbi Immerman, Cantors Heit and Sacks 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, please let us know.
L’shanah Tovah U’metukah – May you have a good and sweet new year. We look forward to seeing you at Rosh HaShanah services next week.
Rabbi Joe Black