It is heart month. It is Jewish Disabilities Month. It is a time in the year that many try to focus on issues of health. It deserves focus not for a month, but for every day. Our generation especially is keen to be aware of health and wellness. We are living longer and, in the main, better than any previous generation of elders. Despite Covid and isolation, or perhaps because of it, we are aware of the importance of movement of body and what we put into that body.
Maimonides wrote in the 12th century of the need for bodily movement and aerobics. The Talmud (Yoma) warned us of the need to wash our hands when handling food. Hillel. A Midrash from Leviticus Rabbah, connected the idea of taking a bath to care for the body given to us by God. We even have a Talmudic diagnosis for the shoteh, someone exhibiting signs of what could be labeled as mental illness. Our tradition has a rich history of looking at the health of the body and mind as representations of our relationship with God. We even include a daily prayer that celebrates this connection of the inner-working of veins and arteries. The pandemic has also seen the development of new prayers that speak to the value of saving life (p’kuach nefesh) so we have seen a blessing for wearing a mask, to what blessing to say when getting your vaccine, to prayers for health care workers.
We mention this, not only because this is one of the sessions we do for congregations, but that we have now posted on this site the Congregational Health Audit. Few congregations or organizations take the time to teach the linkage between Jewish tradition and health and wellness; either physical or mental. This is a time when these issues are becoming increasingly important. You can download our Health Audit, adapt it to you congregation or group and, we hope, begin a series of discussions around Judaism and Health.
To download the Health Audit go to the top menu bar of the home page, click on Resources, then click on Study Guide and Click on Health Audit.
Stay safe and healthy
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.