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Inspiration to Exercise and Be Healthy

My holy brothers and sisters, I hope the following Torah sources motivate and inspire you, as they do me, to exercise and take care of your beautiful bodies:

“Every man who fears god should fear every eventuality. These things that are included in protecting the body are included in the warnings of (Devarim 4:9) ‘take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously’ and this is also the way of the world to take care of one’s body since it is the container that the soul is wrapped up in so it will be a throne for the soul.” Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horovitz (c.1555-1630), Shney Luchot HaBrit (Shelah); Shaar haOtiyot, Derech Eretz.

“The story is told of Hillel that when he had finished a lesson with his students, he accompanied them part of the way. They said to him, “Master, where are you going?” He answered, “To perform a religious duty.” They asked, “Which religious duty?” He answered, “To bathe in the bathhouse.” They questioned, “Is that a religious duty?” He answered them, “If somebody is appointed to scrape and clean the statues of the king that are set up in the theaters and circuses, and is paid to do the work, and furthermore associates with the nobility, how much more so should I, who am created in the divine image and likeness, take care of my body?” Vayikra Rabbah 34:3.

“Since a healthy and whole body is necessary for the ways of G-D (for it is impossible to imply or know anything of Godly wisdom when one is sick), therefore one must distance himself from things that are damaging to the body and to accustom oneself to things that strengthen and make one healthy…” Rambam, Hilchos Deos 4:1.

“[One] should engage his body and exert himself in a sweat-producing task each morning.” Rambam, Hilchos Deos 4:2.

“They have given another principle with regard to physical well-being: As long as one exercises, exerts himself greatly, does not eat to the point of satiation and has loose bowels, he will not suffer sickness and he will grow in strength. [This applies] even if he eats harmful foods. Rambam, Hilchos Deos 4:14.

“[O]ne of the commandments requires that we keep our bodies fit so that we can serve God, and that we derive our needs from the environment to achieve this goal. In this manner, we elevate ourselves even through such activities. The world itself is also elevated, since it is then also helping man to serve God.” Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Derech Hashem 1:4:7

“And every person must show great compassion for the flesh of the body, illuminating it with every insight and perception that the soul perceives. The body should also be informed of this perception, as in (Isaiah 58:7), “Hide not from your own flesh.’ Specifically from “your own flesh.” Do not hide your eyes from showing compassion for your flesh—the flesh of your body. For it is necessary to show great compassion for the body, to see to purify it, so as to be able to inform it of all the insights and perceptions which the soul perceives. This is because the soul of every human being is continuously seeing and comprehending very exalted things. But the body knows nothing of them. Therefore, every person must show great compassion for the flesh of the body. He should see to purify the body so that the soul will be able to inform it of all that she is always seeing and comprehending. Now, when the body is in this category, it benefits the soul. For there are times when she [the soul] falls from her level. However, if the body is clear and illuminated, the soul is capable of picking herself up and returning to her level because of the body. That is, through the pleasures of the body, she will be able to recall and ascend to her own pleasures. For now that the body is also good and right, it doesn’t get trapped in the pleasures. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (Ukraine, 19th century), Likutey Moharan I, 22:5, translated by Moshe Mykoff, Breslov Research Institute: Jerusalem, 1990.

Physical health consists of opposite forces in the body being in perfect balance with one another….[hence the word שלום, “being at peace, being in perfect harmony,” is an acceptable word for describing physical health. Ed.] Sforno on Gen. 47:27.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live.” Deuteronomy 30:19.

Shabbat Shalom!

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