By Ellen Weiss
I am a connector…I like when all the links connect to form a circle…I like to connect people to people and people to ideas or organizations that can help them. I also like when different aspects of my life come together to “complete” a story.
Over the past 6 years – I have become a Certified Health Coach, Master Workplace Wellness Consultant, and Stress Master Associate. But more recently I have been collaborating with experts in psychology and Jewish theology to design an interactive guidebook that can be used with Jewish Clergy, Professionals and Community leadership. Through this research I have learned many examples how ancient and contemporary Jewish teachings can guide us through daily well-being practices. Here are some examples.
- Maimonides wrote “As long as a person exercises and exerts himself…sickness does not befall him and strength increases…But one who is idle and does not exercise…even if he eats healthy and maintains healthy habits, all his days will be of ailment and his strength will diminish” Mishneh Torah “De’ot” 4:14-15.
This clearly promotes the importance of exercise – even more than obsessing over calories, carbs, and points. Spring is a perfect opportunity to try a new form of exercise. Buffalo offers hundreds of miles of trails to walk, jog, hike, or bike. Our beautiful waterfront allows us to explore the City by kayak, water “bike”, or stand-up paddle board. So, use Maimonides reminder to get outside, get some fresh air, and get moving!
- The Jerusalem Talmud teaches: “It is forbidden to live in a city that does not have a vegetable garden.” (J.T.Kiddushin 4:12, 66d)
In Western New York, we are lucky to have many local farms that supply fresh vegetables to our local supermarkets or offer them directly in family-owned farm stands. I encourage you to visit a farmer’s market where you can interact with those the grow the food you serve on your table. Or spend a few hours at a local “you pick” farm where in mid-summer you can pull strawberries fresh from the vines. Another option is joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) membership in which a selection of weekly in season vegetables are packaged for members to pick up.
- Now a personal story
This past Friday, my husband Steven received his weekly “Good Shabbos” call from our friend Rabbi Levi Greenberg. Steven told Levi that I was recuperating from a foot injury. Not only did Rabbi Levi Greenberg ask for my Hebrew name for the MiSheberach (healing) prayer– but he used this opportunity to teach us some Torah. Rabbi Levi explained that the Hebrew letters that spell the month of Iyar (אייר) are an acronym for the phrase “Ani Hashem Rofecha”— “I am G‑d, your healer.” Exodus 15:26)
“Of course, G‑d is always a compassionate healer- the entire year. But the month of Iyar reveals the aspect of health that is G‑dly and above logic. Modern medicine can help us heal. G‑d, however, heals the root of the illness, a healing so complete it is as if the illness was never there,” explained Rabbi Levi.
Hashem- Double Yud
Together those letters (Alef, Yud, Yud, Reish) spell Iyar – I am G-d, your healer. This lesson gave me peace of mind that I was on my way to a speedy recovery!
Finally, it is important to remember that our well-being includes several factors – our physical, emotional, environmental, mental, social, and spiritual health – – each segment is a link of the chain which will grant us refuah shlema, ”complete healing.” A complete circle…
Please remember May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are experiencing above normal stress and anxiety or do not feel like yourself – reach out to your personal physician, an agency like Jewish Family Services, a Clergy member, or a friend. Stress is not a stigma but it is something that we should be talking about and working on every day.
Ellen Weiss is a Certified Health Coach, Master Workplace Wellness Consultant, and Stress Master Associate. She also serves as Secretary of Buffalo Jewish Federation Board of Governors, and is the Immediate Past Chair of LiNK Jewish Buffalo. Ellen has been collaborating with the Jewish Community Center offering virtual group health coaching programs to members at a discounted rate. For more information check out this JCC webpage.