Are you one of those people who loves lists? To-do lists that live on temporary post-it notes, or bucket lists that endure in your mind?
Many parts of the Torah involve lists: lists of names in the generations of the Israelite family, lists of materials and measurements in the instructions for the design of the tabernacle, and in this week’s Torah portion, more lists. Parashat Mishpatim lists many laws that the Israelites need to keep in order to establish an ethical, healthy civilization.
As I age, I find my trips to the doctor and the articles that catch my eye involve more and more lists about keeping healthy. Lists of what to do: more steps, more sleep, more arch-support, more weight-bearing exercise, more meditation, more iron, more vegetables. Lists of what to avoid: smoking, sugar, saturated fat. Then there are the lists that change with the research of the day: soy? fish? complex carbs? I’m lucky–I am one of those people who appreciates lists.
But even for us list-lovers, healthy living can be an overwhelming task. I find there are two helpful motivators in my own healthy living, both of which are rooted in Jewish wisdom.
1) Life is sacred. God gave this body and this life to me and it is my sacred obligation — my mitzvah — to care for it. This does not mean I need to avoid the pleasure and celebration that comes with chocolate and other delights. But the sanctity of life does help to drive my sense of moderation. The highest mitzvah in Judaism is Pekuach nefesh, translated as, to save a life. But have you ever noticed, that translation is not precise? The Hebrew for life is chai, as in, l’chaim. But nefesh means soul. To save our life is to save our soul. While other faith traditions may focus on saving the soul in the afterlife, in Judaism, we focus on saving the soul–the life– in the here and now.
2) We are not alone. The connection of community offers support in many challenges, including the challenge of healthy living. When I learn about a new approach in yoga or a new healthy recipe, it’s a fun way to remember I am not alone in my efforts. This is not to say we judge each other. If I have been looking forward to celebrating with a doughnut, I do not want to have to do so in private. And if you smoke, the community is not here to judge you. We are just here to say, when you try to quit, we are behind you. No shame, just support.
Next week, Sun., Feb 7 at 10:30am (and yoga at 9:30am) RS Women will offer an important way for our community to deepen our understanding of women’s heart health. Thank you to Betsy Fiebach for leading this event, to Ellen Simons and the RS Women for sponsoring and to channel 3 medical reporter Stephanie Stahl for moderating! If you are a woman or if you know a woman, please join us in our effort to bear witness to the fact that life is sacred and that we are not alone.