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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


August 10, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Save your life, save the world

By RABBI HOWARD SIEGEL Congregation Kol Ami, Tampa

Eight years ago I suffered a heart attack. I was taken to a nearby hospital where a stent was put in, opening the clogged artery. Within 48 hours I was home. Within four days I was engaging in light exercise and returning to a scaled-back schedule.

Several factors figured into my survival. I am sharing them with the hope that maybe even one life is changed as a result. The Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin contains the following teaching: “He who saves one life, it is as if he saved an entire world.”

My clogged artery was popularly referred to as the widow maker (proximal left anterior descending coronary artery of the heart). I survived the attack because:

1. I responded to the chest pain quickly,

2. I maintain vigorous daily exercise,

3. I pay close attention to my diet, and

4. I follow a daily aspirin regimen.

I have always known I had a genetic proclivity for heart disease (it runs in the family), so I have followed items 2, 3, and 4, religiously in the hope of avoiding a heart attack. Now, I realize they also contributed to surviving one.

The human body is a Divine gift protecting the holiness of our soul and being. The only spiritual stipulation placed on us is the requirement to care for the health and welfare of the body we possess. The body is not who we are but allows who we are to be.

Inactivity, obesity, and neglect of our body are denying our own Divine nature. I do not believe in a God who preordains human sufferings, such as a heart attack. Nor do I believe in a God who can prevent them. I do believe in a partnership between God and humankind. God has made possible the gift of life; we are responsible for its wellbeing.

I also believe God is present in our moments of trauma and despair providing hope and support; holding our hand in the darkness of life.

If you want to continue experiencing the joys of a beautiful sunrise, an awe-inspiring mountain range, the cries and laughter of children and grandchildren, the gentle touch of a soul-mate companion, then commit to some practical steps:

1. Quit smoking. Not tomorrow, today!

2. Join a health club and begin regular daily exercise. Excuses don’t make pounds fall away, physical exercise does. The money saved from snacking and restaurants (especially the fast food variety) will pay for the health club.

3. Meet with your physician or nutritionist and begin a healthy diet. Start by avoiding processed meat (salami, corned beef, etc.). Next, consider giving up meat entirely. In fact, the ideal of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) is vegetarianism.

It hurts me to see so many young mothers and fathers overweight and under-exercised. Don’t they want to enjoy the fruits of long life accompanied with good health or are they blinded by a myopic view that they will have more time to deal with this in the future. They won’t, and the one thing we can be certain with regard to the future is it’s fatal!

Being a spiritual person means recognizing God’s presence in us. Being a religious person means acting upon this realization. The first step is the hardest: Admitting you need help – I am overweight, I have terrible eating habits, I really want to quit smoking, I know I am out of shape. The next step is doing something about it.

I am so thankful for my life and the continued opportunity I have to learn and teach Torah, to celebrate with my wife, children, grandchildren, and friends, and to cherish my partnership with God. On the eve of a new year, I pray we all share in the blessings of life for many, many years to come.

Rabbinically Speaking is published as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Tampa Rabbinical Association, which assigns the column on a rotating basis.

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