By Shmarya Richler
Pesach has come and gone, and spring has sprung even in Montreal, where I live.
With the start of the new Rambam cycle, those learning 3 chapters a day will be learning Hilchos Deot this week. Those learning 1 chapter a day will get there in the middle of Iyar. As you know, the first 2 Halachos of Perek 4 discuss healthy living.
Before discussing the Rambam, I want to mention that the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) will be introducing a new course called Healthy and Holy. It’s a two-part course; the first discusses the Torah sources for leading a healthy lifestyle. The second part deals with nutrition and healthy eating. I’m very excited about it and look forward to its formal introduction in the next few weeks.
The course is designed to be presented to high school-level students and can be used in Chabad Houses as well. A nutritionist wrote the nutrition section and outlined a moderate approach to healthy eating. No fad diets and no drastic unsustainable programs.
And now I’m going to get on my soapbox.
It’s time to start exercising and eating better. You don’t have to do anything drastic, you don’t have to try the latest fad diet, and you don’t have to become a marathon runner. As the Rambam says, take the middle road. And don’t worry; you’ll be able to eat those blintzes and cheesecake on Shavuos.
Those who are already exercising and eating healthy do some “Mivtzoim.” Tell people what you have done. Inspire them. Don’t be modest about your accomplishments. You never know who you will help.
In Perek, 4 Halachah 1, the Rambam says: “Since maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of G-d – for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator if he is ill – therefore, he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger.”
And in Halachah 2, he says: “One should not eat until his stomach is full. Rather, [he should stop when] he has eaten close to three-quarters of full satisfaction … The rule is that he should engage his body and exert himself in a sweat-producing task each morning. Afterward, he should rest slightly until he regains composure, and [then, he should] eat.”
We know that the Rambam wrote the Yad as a book of Halachos. That means that his directives are directed to and attainable by everyone. More than that, as the Rebbe mentioned on many occasions when Torah mandates a Mitzvah, not only is it attainable, but we are given the strength to accomplish it.
Here is a quote from an article written about Rebbetzin Korf (wife of Reb Pinchas Korf) published a few months ago:
“On top of that, I wrote to the Rebbe that I had been so busy with my school’s extracurricular projects and programs that I had been neglecting my health. In his response, the Rebbe calmed me down. He explained that watching your health is a mitzvah, so there is no way that it could be at odds with other mitzvot of the Torah. He advised me to go back to my teachers in Bais Yaakov and ask them to help me manage my schedule.”
To those who say they have no time, I say this: The half-hour you spend exercising will give you one extra hour during the day. You will be less tired, and your mind will be clearer. That half hour is not an expense; it’s an investment that yields great dividends. Try it; you’ll see results quickly. So, get out there! Run, walk, bike, do something that gets your blood moving.
Commit to eating better by cutting down on junk foods and sugar drinks (including sports drinks) and your vitamin K (Kugel, Knishes, Kreplach, Karnatzel, Kishkeh, Kiddush Club…).
According to the Rambam, you only need to eat 75% of what you are currently eating; this is because your brain only registers fullness about 15-20 minutes after you finish eating. You think you are hungry, but you really aren’t. I mentioned this to a friend, and he told me that one time he was halfway through his meal when he got a real phone call (not a robocall). The call lasted 15 minutes. Upon returning to the table, he was not hungry anymore.
Remember that as we approach Pesach Sheni, there is no “Farfallen.” Whether it is exercise or healthy eating, age doesn’t matter. Start slowly and be persistent and patient. You will see results.
Have a healthy summer!
If you have any questions about starting a healthy living program, e-mail me: [email protected]