The New Year is filled with such optimism — the promise of fresh starts, new beginnings. It’s also a time when many people take the opportunity to reflect inward and recommit to improving their own health and well-being.
In Judaism, health and wellness are held in high regard, and the Torah commands us to respect our bodies and prioritize our wellness, viewing these acts as holy. The connection between physical health and spirituality is embedded within Judaism, ranging from the kashrut (dietary rules) to viewing the body as a sacred vessel of the soul. There is a story in which Rabbi Hillel noted how important it was to care for one’s body since we are “created in the divine image and likeness.” Judaism teaches us that we are responsible for caring for the gift of our bodies, so maintaining our health becomes a positive act.
Health and wellness extend far beyond individual decisions and efforts. Judaism emphasizes a holistic perspective on wellness, viewing the mind, body and soul as intertwined with one another. I would add that the health and well-being of the community also contribute to the wellness of the mind, body and soul of the individual.
What is a healthy community? Healthy communities are built on the relationships that we nurture and the efforts that we make to work through the problems we encounter along the way. They rise to challenges and celebrate successes. A community must provide for the spiritual and physical needs of its members.
One area that is significantly tied to health and well-being is the social support that we derive from our communities. Social support, or close relationships with family and friends, has been linked to improving the health of the mind, body and soul in many ways. Social support is not something that one person can do alone, and it is not something that can be developed with New Year’s resolutions to go to the gym more or to begin a new diet. It is something that can be achieved only when multiple people work to bring a community together. As you take a moment to consider the idea of a community check-up, this is also a great time to check in and be part of the social support of one another and of our community.
Community engagement and individual health have a reciprocal relationship: playing squash or pickleball, attending yoga or workout classes at the JCC, or swimming in the pool every morning are ways to focus on mind and body health, whereas involvement in Jewish organizations like our Federation, Jewish Day School, Jewish Family Service, and JCC, attending community events, and participating in Jewish life focus on spiritual health. Likewise, investing oneself in the community, by donating financially or giving your time and energy, addresses the health of the community, building and creating a vibrant Jewish community that, in turn, contributes to the health and well-being of our family, friends and neighbors.
This month and in the months to come, there will be multiple events and opportunities to focus on the health and well-being of our Jewish community and to enjoy the benefits of the social support that comes from a strengthened community. Our Maimonides Society Phone-a-Thon on January 29 is one such opportunity to donate financially. At the same time that’s happening, there will be a Women’s Philanthropy cooking event to benefit older adults in our
In 2023, as you consider your own personal resolutions, I encourage you to check in and engage as you contribute to the health and well-being of our community in ways that matter to you!