When the Maccabees arrived at the holy Temple in Jerusalem to liberate and reconsecrate it, they found a single small cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest. They thought this would be enough oil to last only one night, but a miracle occurred and the oil burned for eight days.
If the Maccabees had said, “We don’t have enough oil to do this ceremony properly, let’s just give up,” we wouldn’t be collectively celebrating Hanukkah right now.
Many of us today are facing seemingly hopeless situations and the temptation to give up is strong.
Continue reading Don’t Quit Before the (Hanukkah) Miracle!
I believe the Hanukkah story, which transpired thousands of years ago, has shaped classical Jewish attitudes towards fitness, diet and exercise.
The ancient Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered Jerusalem. Greek society idealized the human body and its citizens spent much time developing their physical attributes and thinking about their looks, and even held sporting events where competitors preened without clothing. The human body was so venerated in ancient Greece that its Olympians practiced and competed nude!
Continue reading Hanukkah and Exercising for the Right Reasons
Part of the happiness of Hanukkah (beyond the delicious latkes and sufganiyot, of course) is knowing our purpose, which is a crucial ingredient for experiencing simcha (Jewish joy).
In his amazing book Man’s Search for Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl (z’l) details his life philosophy. A man who suffered through the worst life has to offer realized:
Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning (page 121 in the paperback edition).
How does this relate to Hanukkah?
Continue reading The Happiness of Hanukkah
As part of my efforts to feel greater happiness (simcha) and joy, I have begun working out and watching what I eat. I already feel a little better, but is my new focus at odds with traditional Judaism?
Unfortunately, there are some in the community who have taken a negative view of proper nutrition and physical fitness for a variety of reasons:
1. Exercise is a waste of time: wasting time is a serious offense in traditional Judaism and the Rabbis taught us to preoccupy ourselves mostly with Torah study, good deeds and prayer. It is sometimes difficult to find time to exercise when one also prays three times a day (in addition to all of life’s other responsibilities).
Continue reading 5 Reasons Jews Don’t Exercise