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The Importance of Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Health
By ISJL Education Fellow Rachel Katz
Our physical health has an impact on our mental and spiritual health. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Maimonides, a medieval Torah scholar and Jewish philosopher.
Maimonides, also commonly referred to as the “Rambam,” created The Guide of the Perplexed - a compilation of Maimonides’ philosophies on humanity, divine law, morality, and politics. Maimonides claims that the purpose of the entire Torah is the well-being of our souls and bodies. He states, “Man is unable to conceive clearly an idea...when he is affected by pain, violent hunger, thirst, heat, or violent cold.”
So the question becomes: how can we take care of ourselves physically in order to take care of ourselves mentally and spiritually?
We live in an incredibly hectic and fast-paced world. We are always on the go, always needing to check our emails and get the kids to soccer practice. We use so much energy to make sure we get everything done in the 24 hours we have every day. While it is a satisfying feeling to go to sleep at night knowing that everything got done, we can easily forget the toll it takes on our bodies physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
Gym-goers vs. Gym-no’ers
Some people are gym-goers, some people are not. If you are one of the latter, don’t beat yourself up. Being physically healthy can mean more than getting in a good workout. It means making sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, not overworking yourself, and taking time to relax. Think about waking up from a good night’s sleep. You can feel like a new person, energized and ready for the day ahead. Waking up feeling refreshed can easily set your day off on a positive note. A good and refreshing night’s sleep can make an incredible difference to your day. Hopefully, it will motivate you to continue to take care of your physical health – whatever that may look like to you.
It’s a Little Warm in Here
In a study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School,  researchers found that students’ ability to learn can be impacted by the temperature in their learning spaces. The same can be true for our synagogues and our ability to connect spiritually. Sometimes, it can be hard to pray with kavanah (intention) or even to pray at all if we are uncomfortable in the space we are in. It’s hard to connect to God or to prayer when all you can think about is lowering the thermostat.
Just Me, Myself, and I
Spirituality and prayer can be a very personal and intimate experience, even if you are amongst a huge congregation. Regardless, it takes some soul searching, which can be difficult if you cannot relax enough to just sit and think. Here’s a challenge: Turn your phone off. Not on airplane mode, off. Sit by a window and be alone with your thoughts for ten minutes. Would that make you uncomfortable or would that be relaxing? If it makes you uncomfortable, it could mean there is something going on in your life that you need to address. Take this time to think about what exactly that could be. What is your plan of action? How are you going to settle whatever is unsettled?