Body Image

פרשת מסעי, In this portion the Torah discusses matters that help perfect one's body. The body viewed as the sheath of the soul, has also been created in the image of G'd (Genesis 1,27). This is why if someone kills another creature created in G'd's image he himself will be killed as an appropriate act of retribution. By his deed he has separated a soul from its body, (sheath), hence his own soul will be separated from its body

(א) הואיל והיות הגוף בריא ושלם מדרכי השם הוא שהרי אי אפשר שיבין או ידע דבר מידיעת הבורא והוא חולה לפיכך צריך להרחיק אדם עצמו מדברים המאבדין את הגוף ולהנהיג עצמו בדברים המברין והמחלימים ואלו הן:לעולם לא יאכל אדם אלא כשהוא רעב ולא ישתה אלא כשהוא צמא ואל ישהא נקביו אפילו רגע אחד...

Since a healthy and whole body is necessary for the ways of G-D (for it is impossible to imply or know anything of Godly wisdom when one is sick), therefore one must distance himself from things that are damaging to the body and to accustom oneself to things that strengthen and make one healthy. They are as follows: a person should only eat when he is hungry, and drink when he is thirsty, and not delay his orifices even for one second...

“He who does good to his own person is a pious man” (Proverbs, 11:17). "Such a one was Hillel the Elder. After taking leave of his disciples, he proceeded to walk along with them. His disciples asked him, ‘Master, where are you going?’ He answered, ‘To perform a Mitzvah.’ ‘What Mitzvah?’ They asked. ‘To bathe in the bathhouse.’ He replied. ‘But is this a Mitzvah??’ His students asked, confused. ‘It is indeed. Kings’ statues are scoured and washed down by the official specially appointed to look after them, who receives a salary for the work. More-he is esteemed as one of the notables of the empire. How much more and more am I required to scour and wash myself, who have been created in God’s image and likeness, as it is written, ‘In the image of God made He man’ (Genesis 9:6).” (Vayikrah Rabbah, 34:3)

"Guard yourself and guard your soul very carefully" (Deuteronomy 4:9-10).

The classic commentator Kli Yakar explains: "'Guard yourself' means taking care of the body."

Bodily health is the foundation for keeping all the commandments of the Torah since in most cases they are bound up with physical action of some kind. When the body is unfit and unhealthy, this detracts from proper fulfillment of the commandments.

In the words of Rambam (Maimonides): "Bodily health and wellbeing are part of the path to God, for it is impossible to understand or have any knowledge of the Creator when one is sick. Therefore one must avoid anything that may harm the body and one must cultivate healthful habits" (Hilchos De'os 4:1).

Our Sages understood human nature, and they knew that people do tend to take daily occurrences for granted, no matter how wonderful they may be. For this reason the rabbis instituted that we should start our day by devoting some time to reflection upon G-d's kindnesses to us while reciting Modeh Ani followed by Asher Yatzar, "Who formed man.", the blessing over our bodily functioning, Pokeach Ivrim, "Who gives sight to the blind", Matir Asurim, "Who releases the bound", Zokef Kefufim, "Who straightens those who are bent over" and the other morning blessings. Each day we should strive to say these words with renewed gratitude. Awareness of the wonder of bodily functioning strengthens our motivation to take proper care of our bodies in accordance with God's commandment. The more we recognize and understand the body's amazing powers, the more carefully we will guard and maintain the precious gift of health. The better care we take of our bodies, the better our bodies will serve us in our service of God.

Several times every day we have an opportunity to express our gratitude to God for the wonderful working of our body when we say the blessing Asher Yatzar after relieving ourselves. Asher Yatzar is the blessing that our Sages instituted over the wisdom in the design of man's body and the wonders of its functioning. After relieving ourselves, cleaning our bodies and washing our hands, we must pause for a moment from all our activities and focus exclusively on saying the blessing, reflecting on G-d's wonders and expressing our gratitude for them.

A number of sources mention that recital of the blessing of Asher Yatzar with attention to its meaning is itself conducive to good health. When a person is aware of and appreciates the kindness someone does him, the benefactor is happy to shower him with even more kindness. How much more so will God, whose goodness is unending, increase His goodness and kindness to us if we truly appreciate them.

The purpose is to keep ourselves and our surroundings clean. Only then can G-d's spirit dwell among us: "Your camp must be holy" (Deuteronomy 23:15).

The cleanliness of our bodies and surroundings is one of the principal foundations of purity. We are not allowed to say words of prayer or Torah when our bodies are not clean or in a place that is not clean. Not only does physical cleanliness contribute to our general sense of well-being. Physical cleanliness is essential for good health. The body can only function properly when it cleanses itself of its various waste products. We must play our part in the cleansing process by with proper habits of toilet, washing and general cleanliness.

"Excessive intake of food is like poison to the human body and is the root cause of many illnesses. Most of the illnesses that strike people are caused either by bad foods or because people fill their stomachs with too much food, even when the foods are good. As King Solomon said in his wisdom: "One who guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles" (Proverbs 21:23) - in other words, when he guards his mouth from eating bad foods or from overeating, and his tongue from speaking unnecessarily." (Rambam, Hilchos De'os 4:15)

RABBI ELYSE GOLDSTEIN [Author, director of Kollel- The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning, Toronto, ON]... Shmirat HaGuf - taking care of your body - is viewed as a spiritual as well as a physical act. The wellbeing of the body has to be maintained as the vessel of the soul, the repository of that which most closely connects us with God. Our body is a gift from God, a divine creation which is to be respected, cherished and cared for as long as we are in this world. With awareness of Shmirat HaGuf, even the simplest activities, such as eating, walking, or washing one’s hands, become acts of holiness

How can we promote physical health without narrowly focusing on weight loss and athleticism? Most importantly, where is God in this conversation? I believe that Judaism, at its core, is about bringing intentionality to our lives. By bringing purpose into an act that may initially be perceived as mundane, we transform the ordinary into holy. We do this each time we say Hamotzi or Birkat HaMazon. Should we also create a prayer before we begin to exercise, pausing to acknowledge that.

(ו) שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם הָֽאָדָ֔ם בָּֽאָדָ֖ם דָּמ֣וֹ יִשָּׁפֵ֑ךְ כִּ֚י בְּצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹהִ֔ים עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הָאָדָֽם׃

(6) Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made He man

  • We are all valued and beloved by God
  • God has given us a special gift, one we must protect and take care of..
  • Shmirat HaGuf - Jewish Values - To Take care of your body
(כז) וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃
(27) And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם אֲשֶׁר יָצַר אֶת הָאָדָם בְּחָכְמָה וּבָרָא בו נְקָבִים נְקָבִים חֲלוּלִים חֲלוּלִים. גָּלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִסֵּא כְבודֶךָ שֶׁאִם יִפָּתֵחַ אֶחָד מֵהֶם או יִסָּתֵם אֶחָד מֵהֶם אִי אֶפְשַׁר לְהִתְקַיֵּם וְלַעֲמוד לְפָנֶיךָ אֲפִילוּ שָׁעָה אֶחָת: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' רופֵא כָל בָּשר וּמַפְלִיא לַעֲשות:

Praised are You, Lord out God King of the universe, who with wisdom fashioned the human body, creating openings, arteries, glands and organs, marvelous in structure, intricate in design. Should but one of them, by being blocked or opened, fail to function, it would be impossible to exist. Praised are you, Lord, healer of all flesh who sustains our bodies in wondrous ways.

רַ֡ק הִשָּׁ֣מֶר לְךָ֩ וּשְׁמֹ֨ר נַפְשְׁךָ֜ מְאֹ֗ד פֶּן־תִּשְׁכַּ֨ח...

But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously...

The body is a vessel of the soul, through which the soul functions. -- Rabbi Aaron Ha Levi, Sefer HaChinuch