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werk's words of wisdom

Susan Werk

February 2017


Take Care of Yourself

It’s here — that nasty cold and flu season. (Don’t forget to get your flu shot!) I find this time of year hard to navigate. Attendance at classes and programs is sporadic, and from the students and congregants who do show up, you hear lots of sneezing and coughing, with tissues deployed everywhere. Oy! What I recommend to those suffering with these wintertime ailments is hot tea with honey and, in keeping with our time-honored tradition, of course, lots of “Jewish penicillin” — hot, rich chicken soup. (I cherish my mother’s wonderful soup and its healing properties.)

But what else can I convey from our teachings to promote health and wellness? Judaism has a lot to say about taking care of our bodies. One of our Jewish virtues is Shmirat HaGuf, Taking Care of Your Body, and numerous sources support this concept. For example, in Deuteronomy (2:4) we read that it is important to “take good care of yourselves.” In the Palestinian Talmud (Kiddushim 4:12,66d), it says that “it is forbidden to live in a city that does not have a vegetable garden,” obviously an effort to promote the eating of fresh produce. Philo Judaeus, in The Worse Attacks the Better, section 10, writes: “The body is the soul’s house. Therefore, shouldn’t we take care of our house so that it does not fall into ruin?”

When we promote the wellness of ourselves and others through practicing good hygiene, eating nutritiously, recogniz-ing the benefits of exercise and sufficient rest, and being dili-gent about consulting professionals when there is a problem, we are acknowledging that our bodies are sacred tools that we trust to take us through life — especially during the cold and flu season. By exercising care of our bodies, we show apprecia-tion for the awesomeness of God’s gifts, as reflected in Psalms 139:14: “I praise You, for I am awesomely, wondrously made. Your work is wonderful; I know it very well.” Even if we are suffering from an illness, we are still in awe of the gift of life and the body that sustains that life.

But if illness strikes, let’s also remember the mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim, visiting the sick. To all those delivering chicken soup to sick friends or family members, making phone calls or sending messages to express wishes for a speedy recovery, and running errands to help out someone who is housebound: You are all doing the mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim. According to the Talmud (Nedarim 39b), visiting the sick is a mitzvah that has no limit. (Just remember not to stay too long if the ill person is feeling really bad — and don’t for-get to wash your hands!)

Here’s to successful efforts to elude the ailments and remain healthy while paying heed to our appre-ciation of our bodies and gratitude for our souls and showing our concern for those who are suffering, even with a seasonal cold.

April 19,2024 /  11 Nisan 5784