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healthy eating


A healthy lifestyle is a mitzvah of the highest order.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s article will discuss the importance of guarding one’s health. No less an authority than the Torah tells us that “You shall be very careful to take care of yourselves” making the preservation of life a mitzva of the highest order.

The Talmud also explains a verse from Genesis as a requirement to preserve our lives. As the verse says, “And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul…and man became a living soul means that the soul that I gave you – keep it alive!”

Let’s see what our sages say about healthy living.

Our sages elaborate on healthy living and tell us that one must love one’s body more than one loves one’s money. One who does not guard oneself from harmful things is one’s own enemy. We are commanded to conduct ourselves in a manner that preserves our health so that we will be healthy and strong to serve the Creator.

There is the Talmudic passage of Rabbi Huna “Rav Huna asked his son Rabba why he did not attend the lectures of Rav Chisda. Rabba replied, “Why should I go to his lectures? He only speaks about secular matters!” “He teaches you how to be healthy and you call that “secular?” You should certainly be going to his lectures!”

As such, we see that taking care of our lives is a holy act! A danger to one’s health is even treated more serious than a Torah prohibition.

A person is not allowed to injure himself and someone who is careless with his health is no more than a complete fool. One who endangers oneself displays contempt for the Creator and shows that he has no interest in serving Him. There is no greater heresy than this.

A person must protect his body from illness and weakness. Therefore, it is necessary to rest, take a break and breathe fresh air. It is a mitzva to remove anything from one’s home that could pose a danger to life and one must be very careful about this, as it says: “Beware and guard yourselves very well.”

Our Sages forbade many matters because they involve a threat to life. According to Maimonides, a person who transgresses these guidelines, saying: “I will risk my life and it is nobody’s business” or “I am not careful about these things,” or “it won’t happen to me” should be beaten as a punishment.

Other measures suggested by the Sages include:

• Try to live in a place where the air is pure and clean and there should be nothing foul-smelling nearby.

• It is very good to frequently clean the air of one’s home with good scents and fumigants.

• It is forbidden to go to a dangerous place or to go out alone at night.

• It is forbidden to rely on miracles or to endanger oneself in any such manner.

Even though one’s length of life is determined by God, one must nevertheless pursue the means to survive such as with proper food and drink, clothing, and shelter – one may not leave this to God. Many illnesses, such as colds, come upon people simply due to their foolish actions and they will be held accountable just like a person who commits suicide.

The way we eat and what we eat is also governed by the Torah and our sages.

We are told that “a meal that you enjoy – keep it brief.” One does not speak to others while they are eating. We should limit our pursuits after sweets and delicacies and not behave like gluttons who are forever seeking anything sweet.

Rather, a person should only desire foods that are nourishing to his body and necessary for its maintenance and good health. This is what every intelligent person should have in mind when eating and drinking—not the pleasures of his palate.

Don’t just eat whatever you crave like a dog or a donkey does. Eat foods that are beneficial to the body, whether bitter or sweet. Do not eat foods that are harmful for the body even if they are tasty. As King Solomon stated: “The eating of much honey is not good.”

We are told that eating breakfast makes one wise and it keeps one from getting angry. Eating properly brings one closer to God. The foolish person and those who lack sense like to grab whatever is tasty, forgetting that the food could promote illness. Maimonides even said that one should hate harmful foods as one hates someone who wants to murder him.

Never eat while walking. One should not eat when distracted by any means, such as by watching TV and the like while eating. One’s level of refinement is revealed when eating at public events.

One should not eat unless one is hungry nor drink unless one is thirsty. Overeating causes harm to people and the experts have said that most illnesses come from eating more than necessary. It is not necessary to eat anything more than what is needed to eliminate one’s hunger.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.

How Turning Dreams Into Action Brings True Success

All Beginnings Are Hard

It’s the Effort That Matters