Monthly Archives: September 2012

Iyar 5775 – Weighty Matters – Part I

Dear Chana,

I am a twenty years old and I was thinking of starting to date. I was appalled when numerous people informed me that I shouldn’t bother because I am somewhat overweight. I was told that guys have so many options in dating that they automatically discard anyone who is heavy. I find this quite disturbing. Is it true that all guys are so totally into a girls looks and weight? Should I really put off dating until I fit into the standards of society? [pun intended!]

Thanks in advance for the clarity that I know your answer will bring!

Name and seminary withheld upon request

Dear JemSem Reader,

Thank you for bringing this question to the forefront! This is a topic that is not usually discussed openly, and I am happy that you have asked it. The issue of weight is a delicate and sensitive one whether it has to do with dating or not.

I would like to first discuss weight as a health issue from a practical and hashkafa perspective. G-d willing I will discuss the ramification of shidduchim in next months [Tishrei} JemSem issue.

Our challenge is to find a healthy balance when it comes to taking care of our weight. On the one hand, a fixation with thinness can be not only unhealthy but
dangerous. Worshipping the gods of thinness can lead to anorexia and bulimia. These are serious diseases that if gone unchecked can be fatal.  On the other hand, eating obsessively leads to obesity and a host of health issues. The solution is obvious –  a person must find a healthy balance for herself. In practice this is not easy. The first steps we must take is to learn how to be healthy with balanced nutrition and excercise. This involves reading the right material [there is
so much information today on these topics!] and perhaps going to a nutritionist. The second step is to have the willpower to follow through with what we have learned. This means to follow the diet that fits our lifestyle and get to aerobic, kickboxing, step, taebo, strength training, body sculping, zumba, circuit training classes. Do what you enjoy, and learn to have fun with it, but the key idea is to get out there and move!

I would like to stress that this is a halachik issue and not just an issue of health and aesthetics. The Torah commands “V’nishmartem me’od l’nafshoseichem” [Devarim 4-15]. We are obligated to guard the amazing life and the wonderous body that Hashem has so graciously given us.

The Rambam in Hilchos Dei’os devotes a whole  perek to food, what to eat and what not to eat. He says that most types of illness are caused by eating either the wrong foods or eating too much in general. Furthermore, the Rambam also informs us in Hilchos Dei’os that we are obligated ” laida es Hashem” – to know Hashem in every way possible – even outside the realm of mitzvos. In other words, there is a way to connect to Hashem all of the time, no matter what we are doing. This is hashkafically intuitive. We  only live a limited amount of time on this earth and there must be a way to continuously be building a relationship with Hashem.

Hence the obligation to be healthy. Through getting the right amount of sleep, eating right and excercising – we will be able to serve Hashem all the time
to the best of our abilities. We will feel good, feel more fit, and be able to take care of the wonderful gift of our body that Hashem has loaned us. It will also add to our self esteem and happiness. It is really a terrifically special feeling to know that you are helping yourself to be as healthy as possible.

So being a couch potato and eating badly doesn’t help anyone physically or emotionally and is in a sense antithetical to Torah. Food for thought!

To be continued next month with this topic connected to shidduchim…………

With Warmest Wishes,
Chana

Helpful Tips in the Process of Teshuva – New and Revised

Dear Chana

I know you are very good with real hands- on ideas / tips and tools in facilitating life/ Torah truths.

I have a question about teshuva. If a person is trying to do teshuva and gets caught and stuck on one of the stages of it [ ie: has stopped the sin – but can’t bring oneself to regret it enough or doesn’t feel that they can declare for the future that they won’t do it again, etc.] what are some practical ways to motivate oneself to continue in the teshuva. Also if one in fact accomplished teshuva, how can one really stay in it and stick to it?

Thanking you in advance for this important info that I have been grappling with. Name and Seminary withheld by request

Dear JemSem Reader

Thank you for asking such vital questions! Teshuva is something that is one of the most special gifts that Hashem has given us in this world. To have messed up and be given the opportunity to erase the wrong or even to turn it into a zechus for ourselves – is almost beyond our imagination, it is such a gorgeous example of Hashems’ chesed and rachamim!

I want to quote from the Me’eri:

“From the time that one commits to repent, even if the actual realization of that commitment is a long and difficult process, his status immediately changes upon the commitment and he is already called a Chassid”

Doing teshuva is a privilege and one should be b’simcha when going through the process because one can get closer to Hashem!

It is also clear from the sefarim, that if a person did teshuva [honest and real teshuva] – but eventually ended up sinning again, their 1st teshuva is not ‘taken away’ – it still stands for them and is a zechus for them in some way, but, of course, they must start over and do teshuva again. They must go the the process fully and completely and work hard to really make it stick this time. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva tells us that teshuva helps for absolutely everything, anytime, not only during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippor, but at any point of the year. So a person should never feel disheartened that they have sunk so low as to never be able to accomplish it. They can do teshuva at any point in their life, and it will always help on a myriad of levels, no matter what they have done, to bring them back closer and connected to Hashem.

Here are some pointers for both trying to actualize and continue on with the process of teshuva and also how to stick with it and not repeat the sin:

• Learn about it. See the sin in black on white – of what the Torah says about the aveira. Not only Torah sources – but get English Judaica books on the subject, as well as download shiurim on the subject. The more you see and hear about it, the more of an impression it will make on you.

• Think!! Doing teshuva takes an intellectual honesty and an emotional maturity. Try to bring home to yourself the importance of life in this world, what we are doing here, the concept of sechar v’onesh, and following Hashem’s Will.

• Daven: Hashem wants us to turn to Him, right? We can’t ‘pull the wool over His eyes’ – He knows exactly where we are at. So ask Him for help in whatever stage you are up to. [to stop the sin, regret, or to not repeat the sin, etc] We actually can’t accomplish teshuva or anything for that matter without Hashem’s help. Formal – in shemona esria or Tehillim [ specifically 32, 39, 51, 90, 146] and informal tefillah – talk to Him.

• Make boundaries: You had a weakness in this area, so don’t tempt yourself. Build fences around it. This takes thought. You may want to reconsider who you hang out with, where you go, things that you are doing. Like with dieting, teshuva is not a quick fix, but it is a change in lifestyle. Things that help teshuva to be accepted:

1. Seek out ways to increase your acts of chesed and help others.

2. Become an even bigger seeker of truth, and to live your life in a straight and directional way.

3. Really go for mitzvos asai, accomplish them them with great simcha and kavana, work hard to stay away from mitzvos lo sa’asei.

4. Give Tzekaka. It saves a person on many levels.

5. Help motivate others to the ways of teshuva.

6. Say omein in kaddish and answering Yehai shmei Rabba – in a voice with kavanah, is a really big deal and creates many zechuyos for a person. Always.

7. Learn the specifics of hilchos Shabbos. Keep is meticulously. Become a person who is knowledgeable and careful in this.

8. Kol ha’ma’aveir al midosov, mochlin lo al kol p’sha’aav. Whoever was wronged and chooses to overlook it – and not be bothered by it, Hashem forgives them for all of their sins. [a biggy!]

This is a worthy topic indeed! Teshuva can be achieved at any point during the year it does not have to be only connected to the Yamim Noraim.

Hatzlacha Rabba!!

Warmly,

Chana