"A sound and healthy body is dependent on a sound and
-- The Rebbe
The Rebbe often spoke of how optimism, reinforced by a trust in G-d, is just
as important to the healing process as medicine and doctors.
In 1977, the Rebbe suffered a serious heart attack. One day
later, he insisted on giving a talk, as he had done on that
particular day for the previous 38 years.
You must take care of your health,
the doctor insisted. If not, there is a twenty-five
percent chance of a relapse. The doctor asked if the
Rebbe understood what he had said.
Oh, yes, said the Rebbe with a smile.
You said that even if I dont take care of my health
-- which, I assure you, I will -- there is a seventy-five
percent chance that there wont be a relapse.
What is the importance of a healthy body?
Your body belongs to G-d, who gave it to you to care for,
as a vehicle to carry your soul through life. Just as you
would not harm another person, just as you would not harm
anything that G-d has created, you should not harm your own
body. It is your duty to eat well, to rest, to stay in shape,
and to treat your body with respect in every way. Physical
fitness is not arbitrary or optional; it is part of your responsibility
to G-d. On the other hand, worshipping the body is
destructive. The body is a vehicle for the soul; its value
lies there, not as an end unto itself.
Many people today are health-conscious. We understand that
being healthy makes us feel better, makes us more productive,
and ultimately lengthens our lives. We realize that when we
are healthy, we can concentrate on family and work, and the
other things that are important to us. But most significantly,
a healthy body allows you to concentrate on your soul,
enabling you to fulfill your divine mission in this world
and live a meaningful life.
What is good health?
Good health is far more than a physical body that functions
properly, much more than a temperature of 98.6 degrees. Good
health is a sound soul in a sound body. Modern medicine has
begun to discover the dramatic effect that a persons
spirit can have on the healing process. People with healthy,
optimistic spirits, for example, have been shown to have stronger
immune systems; psychologically, too, we are increasingly
learning that a persons physical health is directly
affected by his or her faith in G-d. Conversely, even a small
defect in the spirit creates a profound defect in the body.
Just as the body is nourished by certain foods, the soul
needs spiritual nourishment. This nourishment includes an
awareness of ones mission in life and an awareness of
G-d, who has empowered us with the abilities to fulfill that
mission. A healthy soul connects to G-d through study, prayer
and virtuous acts. As you fulfill your moral and spiritual
obligations, your soul is fed with divine energy, just as
your body is fed with material energy through the process
The interrelationship between body and soul
Although we have doctors, the responsibility to care for
our body and soul lies primarily within ourselves. Initially,
of course, preventive medicine is the best option; this includes
acknowledging the root of a problem and not just its symptoms.
The medical community is just now discovering what the Torah
has always taught: that identifying the root of a problem
and explaining it to a person can help avoid the problem,
or to heal it at its source.
The next time you exercise and feel re-energized, realize
that you have just re-energized a precious piece of G-ds
property. As you breathe in deeply, or eat a healthy meal,
realize that you are investing in a valuable commodity. But
also remember that the health of your body is dependent on
the health of your soul. And it is your responsibility to
nourish them both. When your body or soul cries out, recognize
the symptoms for what they are: an urgent request for you
to address their needs, be they spiritual or physical.
Every aspect of your physical fitness has a spiritual component.
When you eat, you must acknowledge that the food is not meant
for simple indulgence, but to generate the vitality necessary
to lead a meaningful life.
When you go to bed with a humble recognition of G-d and a
serious appraisal of your days activities, the soul
is allowed to drink from the regenerative spiritual waters
We play a critical role in facilitating the healing process
in others. This is why we must visit the sick. Besides
the fact that it is an obvious moral obligation, visiting
a sick person shows them that they are cared for, which bolsters
their confidence and hope. This, in turn, helps strengthen
their determination to heal.
This is an excerpt from Toward
a Meaningful Life The Wisdom of the Rebbe by
Rabbi Simon Jacobson.