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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Maintaining personal wellness

Daf Yomi Yevamos 122

For the very first time in the history of Beth Israel Synagogue, we are excited to announce that we will be starting a Daf Yomi shiur (class) taught by Rabbi Moshe White of the Edmonton Kollel.   This is big news for Edmonton, where you have to look hard to find Torah. 

In a place like New York, it’s hard not to find Torah.  You can catch a Daf Yomi shiur on the way to work as you ride the Long Island Rail Road.   In Brooklyn, there’s the Kosher Gym.  Instead of running news and breakfast talk-shows on their TVs, they show Daf Yomi.  So you can really kill two birds with one stone.  Either you’re travelling to work and learning the Daf or you’re working out and learning the Daf.  How convenient!

The Mishnah teaches: Some Levites were once on a journey to Tzoar, the City of the Dates.  On the way, one took ill and so they checked him into an inn. 

Upon their return, they asked the innkeeper, ‘Where is our friend?’

She replied, ‘He died and I buried him.’  And the innkeeper then showed them his staff, wallet and personal Torah scroll. 

The Beraisa teaches: A fellow once appeared before Rabbi Tarfon to testify that a certain husband had died and therefore his wife could remarry.

‘He and I were on a journey, when we were attacked by soldiers.  He grabbed an olive branch and broke it to stave off the troops.’

Rashi comments: He broke it to make a staff to defend himself.

The Gemara concludes: Rabbi Elazar quoted Rabbi Hanina, ‘Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as the verse states: And all your children will be students of G-d and great will be the peace of your children.’

Why did the innkeeper produce his staff, wallet and Torah scroll?  Each of these represents security and personal wellbeing.  As the second story demonstrates, in olden times people didn’t carry sticks for ambulatory assistance.  Sticks were carried for personal protection.  The innkeeper showed the Levites that their friend had relinquished the three keys to his personal protection: the staff was key to his physical wellbeing, the wallet was key to his financial wellbeing, and the Torah scroll was key to his spiritual wellbeing.  The only reason he would have had to relinquish these important items was his tragic untimely demise.

These three keys are vital to your personal wellbeing.  Nowadays, thank G-d, in most societies, we feel safe to wander about without carrying a weapon.  And so the modern equivalent of caring for one’s personal physical wellbeing is the mandate to maintain a healthy body.  That means eating properly and exercising regularly.

Looking after your financial wellbeing is similarly of paramount importance.  While we place our trust in the Almighty, you need to be responsible in the way you handle your finances.   That means budgeting carefully, and it means saving for retirement and a rainy day.  And it means spending your money in ways G-d would want you to.

Of course, personal and financial wellbeing are meaningless if you have no higher purpose in life.  You need to make sure that your spiritual house is in order.  Most people aren’t fortunate enough to have a personal Torah scroll to carry with them constantly.  But you can take a Siddur or a Chumash with you wherever you go.  Figuratively speaking, having a personal Sefer Torah means directing your steps in life always towards your Divine mission.

In a place like New York, it’s a little easier to be Jewish.  You can look after your spiritual wellbeing while you are on the way to maintaining your financial wellbeing – such as learning Daf Yomi on the train to work.  Or you can look after your physical wellbeing while seeing to your spiritual wellbeing – such as learning the Daf while working out at the gym.  Elsewhere, you probably need to devote time to each of these important pursuits separately.  But none of them can be neglected; you must make time for all of them – they are all key to your personal wellbeing!

Nevertheless, as the tractate concludes, life shouldn’t be about you.  If it were all about you, you wouldn’t have needed to come into the world.  G-d placed you here to have a positive impact on those around you, on your community and society.  Your job is to increase the peace – peace between man and his fellow man, and peace between man and G-d.  You achieve it by doing acts of kindness for others and teaching others how to walk in the ways of the L-rd. 

Now you have the keys to your personal wellbeing.  Look after yourself!  But remember that personal care is only step one.  May you merit personal wellbeing and the ability to dedicate your life to bringing peace into the world!

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