Much More than Joy

2More than Joy 14.6

I wrote today's post as an encouragement for myself...

In case you don’t yet know any Hebrew, I want to teach you a vital Hebrew word – Simcha. It's much more than joy, more than happiness, more than gladness. It's the deep inner feeling of contentment and gratification, no matter what's going on in your life at the moment or how difficult things are. Simcha - once again, the deep inner feeling of contentment and gratification - is the most dependable indication of spiritual and emotional health. After emuna, simcha is the next word to add to your vocabulary. What's more, emuna and simcha are the dream couple. Just saying both words already makes us feel happier.

The Rambam teaches us that a person can influence him or herself by his or her own actions. If we force ourselves to smile, the first time or two will be mechanical, but the third smile will be for real. So wherever you are right now – in the office, on the subway, in the kitchen, in your living room or even in a hospital bed, let's continue the day with a smile; yes – right now, cherished friend, put a smile on your face. When you're happy, your brain functions much better, and you'll more readily internalize what we’re talking about. So look in the mirror, show us your teeth, and pretend you're doing a toothpaste commercial.

Happiness is a statement that we like the way Hashem runs the world. Happiness is therefore the  key to success, for when a person is happy, Hashem is with him in measure-for-measure fashion.

Sadness causes worry and anxiety. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that all sickness and disease stem from lack of happiness. Ask any doctor: when a person is happy, not only the heart but the whole body functions at its optimum. In fact, the Rambam, history's greatest doctor, teaches that sickness come from worry and anxiety.

The holy Zohar teaches that sadness is the worst transgression in the Torah. That sounds a little strange, so we really should ask why. How can sadness be worse than eating on Yom Kippur or violating the Shabbat?

Suppose a person accidentally turns on the lights on Shabbat. He or she is disappointed in themselves, but they ask forgiveness the next time they pray and finished. With teshuva, the blemish of a misdeed is totally rectified. The sin has been cleansed and wiped away.

But, sadness is heresy – an expression of dissatisfaction with Hashem's way of running the world, which is none other than denial of Hashem. For that reason, the Zohar says that sadness is the worse type of idol worship. Just as Rebbe Nachman says it’s a mitzvah to be happy, conversely it's a terrible sin to be sad. Sad people neither pray nor do teshuva, so with each day of sadness, they drift further and further away from Hashem.

The basis of genuine joy is contentment with your own lot in life, with whatever Hashem gives you. How do you achieve this? The one-word answer is Emuna

Many people write me and tell me that they have emuna, yet they're still not happy. By emuna, they mean that they have a general belief in Hashem; the type of emuna one needs to attain happiness isn't the living-room discussion emuna, but the emuna in your heart that everything Hashem does is for the very best. With that level of emuna, worry falls; when worry falls, a person's tension and anxiety levels fall way down and the heart becomes free to be happy.

To attain genuine joy, a basic belief in Hashem isn't enough. We must believe that everything Hashem does is for the best. Until a person believes that everything is for the best, he doesn't have emuna.

How do we arrive at the level that we believe that everything is for the best? We speak to Hashem and ask him to help us observe and understand to the limits of our God-given capabilities how everything in our lives is for the very best. And where understanding kicks out, emuna kicks in.

Have a more than a joyous Shabbat! Warmest regards and blessings, LB


Hospice Nurse

Hospice Nurse 12.6
I had every intention to prepare an emuna body-soul health vid for today, but Hashem had other plans for me. I had to get back on a plane and return to the USA to perform a mitzva that no one else can do for me - honoring my 93-year-old Mama, may Hashem bless her.

I have been blessed with awesome sibs, each one a star in his/her own right. While I've been in Israel, they've been caretaking for Mama, who has already been fighting a long and tough bout with congestive heart failure. After careful consideration and consultation - while taking into account both Mama's wishes and Jewish Law and Bioethics - we've taken Mama off the remedy-seeking agenda and put her on a comfort-oriented agenda. In other words, she's in hospice care, usually administered when the attending physicians feel that the patient is approaching the final stage of life on this physical earth.

It's now my turn to care for Mama. Temporarily, the rabbi health & fitness coach is now a hospice nurse. The above image is real, showing the type of meds I must pre-prepare daily so that Mama can have them in times of crisis and/or as regularly scheduled. The responsibility is prodigious, but it's a gift from Hashem to enable me to give back a tiny bit of love and gratitude to a young lass who escaped the Holocaust to become a mother that raised her children with unbelievable dedication despite indescribable hardship. Therefore, everything in my life has come to a temporary halt with my entire focus directed at taking care of Mama during each precious extended moment of life that Hashem grants her on this earth.

Our sages tell us that properly honoring our parents is the most challenging mitzva in the Torah; they knew exactly what they were talking about.

G-d willing, I hope to write a post about hospice care and Jewish bioethics in the near future. In the meanwhile, thanks to the support and cooperation of my cherished wife, may Hashem bless her always, I'll be here in the USA until the end of the month trying my best to keep a smile on my Mama's face just as much as my wonderful three brothers and one sister have been doing. May Hashem our parents wonderful health and help us all to properly honor them always, amen. 


Goat Milk vs. Cow Milk

Goat Milk 7.6
Shavuot is the holiday where we have a tradition of serving dairy products. With many people, that's problematic because of lactose intolerance, which leads to indigestion, bloating, flatulence and irregularity. Ironically, despite the hype, cow milk actually bleeds the body of calcium and can lead to osteoporosis.  What's more, many suffer from milk allergies; a glass of milk is liable to make them break out in acne.

So what do you do, especially of Shavuot? Substitute the "moo" - cow milk, for "maa'aah", goat milk. Even if cow milk doesn't cause you problems, goat milk is umpteen times healthier. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Goat milk is more digestible - the protein in goat milk forms a softer curd than cow milk – and this also decreases the irritation that one might otherwise experience with cow milk.
  2. Goat milk is great for heart health - it contributes to the healthy type of cholesterol - HDL - without upping the bad type of cholesterol, the LDL. What's more, it's a fantastic source of magnesium.
  3. Goat milk combats inflammation - in Israel, we use goat milk to combat mouth sores. Since goat milk is less acidic than cow milk, people with ulcers can also drink it.
  4. As opposed to cow milk, the calcium in goat milk adds to bone strength and reduces the chances of osteoporosis.
  5. Goat milk is a better metabolic agent than cow milk - it boosts the metabolic utilization of minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. It also has A2 beta-casein, which is far healthier than A1 beta-casein that cow milk contains.
  6. Goat milk works well for lactose-intolerant people who can't drink cow milk.
  7. Goat milk more closely resembles human milk and is therefore healthier for babies and toddlers than cow milk and is the next best thing to mother's milk.

The only disadvantage I can think of when it comes to goat's milk is the high price. But, when considering its health advantages and great taste, it's worth it!

By the way, people think that the "Land of milk and honey" (Exodus 13:5) - none other than our holy Land of Israel - refers to cow milk and bee honey. Wrong! The Gemara in tractate Ketubot 111b says the words 'flowing with milk and honey' refer to milk that flows from goats’ (udders) and honey that flows from trees, particularly dates.

With the above in mind, we recommend the "maa'aah" (neigh) of the goat over the "moo" of the cow. Try it, and may you have the best Shavuot ever. Yours with blessings, LB


Fruit of the Soul

With Hashem's loving grace, our emuna broadcasts are back. We hope to record weekly, G-d willing. Meanwhile, today's lesson prepares us for Shavuot, this coming Saturday night and Sunday in Israel, and Monday as well outside of Israel.

In today's lesson, we talk about the four types of fruit mentioned in the Talmud - fruit of the field, fruit of the womb, fruit of one's labors and fruit of the soul. What is fruit of the soul, and what's its connection to the Shavuoth holiday? Here's your answer and we hope you enjoy it:

Fruit of the Soul from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Creative Exercise: Breaking the Gym Phobia

Creative Exercise
Why do people shy away from exercise? Maybe they have PTSD from having been forced to do all kinds of strenuous and unpleasant things in PhysEd class in junior high school, like running until their lungs were on fire or showing up all sweaty afterwards to Trigonometry class because there was no hot water in the gym showers. Or maybe they hated the forced marches and the constant "drop down, get ten" from military basic training. Or, like so many others of the  cyber generation, they feel much happier gripping a game-boy joystick than gripping a lacrosse stick or baseball bat. What's more, regularly-scheduled exercise requires self-regiment (ugh - get outa here!).  Or, maybe they did try exercise and they hurt themselves, or they went to the gym and felt self-conscious.

People have more excuses to avoid exercise than Bayer has little aspirin tablets...

That's a shame, because nothing makes you feel so vibrant as the post-exercise feeling of accomplishment and the exhilaration of endorphin, the feel-good hormone triggered by exercise, which is the world's best natural anti-depressant.

Here's how I crack my clients' gym phobia - I teach them how to exercise creatively. The principle of creative exercise is simply to create an activity that you love, where you can move your body in the process. Here are a few examples:

  1. Walking along the beach, in sand, or up the sand dunes: this is a cardiovascular exercise that equals or even surpasses wind sprints because of the effort your lungs and legs have to exert to move forward in the sand, especially where there's incline. The waves and the sea air are so invigorating that one totally forgets the he or she is exercising.
  2. Walk in the park, along the riverbank, out in the pasture, in the woods or in your favorite environment. Relish G-d's gifts in nature while you're doing it; enjoy the trees, the plants, the birds, the flowers and the animals. Listen to the melody of a babbling brook - you'le love it.
  3. While you're alone with nature, commune with your Creator. This adds pleasure to soul as well as to body.
  4. Mark your periodic time slot of creative exercise in your calendar, just as you would an important meeting.
  5. Treat yourself to good exercise gear - comfortable shoes and garb that you wear especially for your creative exercise session.
  6. Try to do an minimum of 30 minutes at least 3 times per week.
  7. If you love company, exercise with you spouse or a best buddy.

You get the idea - now use your imagination. Maybe you'll get your bike or your roller skates out from under the pile of junk in the garage. The key is to do something enjoyable; don't let it become a dread or routine.

Once you get used to exercising, and you begin to feel great and look your best, you won't know how you ever lived without exercising. Go for it! Start slow, and enjoy it, just like you enjoy a favorite meal. The difference between the exercise and the meal is that the former burns calories and doesn't cost you a cent. There is a life of fitness outside the gyms. G-d bless for good health, LB


The Love Barometer

Love Barometer 31.5
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm one of your non-Jewish readers, but since I consider you both my health and spiritual coach, I depend on you for body-soul guidance. So first of all, thanks to you for opening your heart and for being there for me, and thank you for your lovely new website. You have an uncanny way of writing and saying what I always need to hear.

Here's my issue: I've been dating someone for 6 weeks, and he already says that he loves me and wants to marry me. He seems special, but this is really too fast for me, and to be honest, my head is more than a little bit in the clouds. On the other hand, I'm afraid of losing this dude. What do I do?

Sincerely, Connie from Southern USA

Dear Connie,

“He already says that he loves me…” - Real love is only possible after marriage, when the two partners have a mutual commitment and a common goal. What people in today’s world refer to as “love” is basically nothing more than animal urges and Hollywood-style flash-in-the-pan infatuation that is ever so short-lived as soon as those urges are temporarily satisfied. To be candid, lust is not love, and many people discover this only after they’ve been badly hurt and taken advantage of. I don’t want that to happen to you, Connie.

At any rate, you can try this "love barometer" on your boyfriend - it's simple and foolproof:

1) How often does he think about you: Once a day, once an hour, once a minute? This is reflected better by deeds (notes, phone calls, text messages, small acts of kindness, little presents, etc.) than by words.

2) Ask him if he knows what makes you happy and what makes you sad. If he answers that he can't possibly know the answer because he doesn't know you well enough, then his proclaimed love for you is none other than an illusion. How can he love what he doesn't know?

3) Is he a good listener? Does he value the things you say and treat you with respect? Don't confuse lustful flattery with respect.

4) When he speaks to you, close your eyes and listen to his voice: Is there friendship, kindness, and compassion in that voice, or only lust? Don't let physical attraction overwhelm your good judgment.

5) Is he interested in your family background? Is he interested in meeting your parents and taking you home to meet his? This is a sure-fire sign of an individual with serious and honorable intentions. On this point, if he passes the test so far, I urge you to meet his parents and other people who are close to him. One’s family and friends can oftentimes say quite a bit about a person.

6) Does he talk to you about his goals, dreams, and aspirations? Are they materially oriented or spiritually oriented? Can you identify with them?

In picking a partner for life, you're better off using your brain than your heart. Is the person kind and considerate? Is he even-tempered? Is he decent? Is he dependable? Is he modest? Does he come from a family with healthy interpersonal relationships? Do you have a common goal? In order to make a decision, you need to do some serious homework and check out this guy.

Once again, meet his parents. If he has a connection with a clergyman, by all means make an appointment with that clergyman. Talk to his friends and acquaintances. Speak with his roommates or colleagues. Make sure there are no skeletons in the closet like substance, gambling, or porno addictions. You'll be saving yourself from unpleasant surprises and raising your chances for future success.

Don't worry - if he really cares about you, you won't lose him in the extra few weeks that you’ll need to be doing your legwork and homework. If he's only trying to use you for a good time, then let him walk and good riddance. Whatever you do, don't let meaningless coffee-house expressions of love make your head spin.

Connie, the most important effort in finding the right mate is prayer - the more the better. Keep me posted. Blessings and smiles always, LB


Going Where You Want to Go

Wrong Crowd 29.5

A vital element in emotional wellness is doing what you want and what you believe is right. Anytime you bend to social pressure, and therefore bend your personal principles, you're sewing the seeds of bitterness. Don't go there. Don't run with the herd; do what your heart knows is right. It's not easy but it sure is conducive to a healthy body, mind and soul.

So how do you learn to buck social pressure, do what you want and not what others want from you? Learn to do what most people hate doing - be alone with yourself.

You can't be alone with yourself if you're not at peace with yourself. We attain that peace by taking a daily timeout, going somewhere where we can be tranquil and collect our thoughts, and honestly assess ourselves. When we take daily stock in ourselves, we review what we did during the past 24 hours while thinking of what we need to improve and what we need to reinforce. If we invite the Almighty to be with us and guide us, then we'll have a daily emotional reboot that is priceless. When you get used to such a daily session, you can't live without it.

In the meanwhile, if someone asks you to do something, apply this checklist of questions:

  1. Do I want to do this?
  2. Does this make me happy?
  3. Is this a good deed that will gratify Hashem?
  4. Will this make me a better person?

If you can answer "yes" to all four of the above, go forward! If the answer is "no" to all four, avoid doing you're being asked to do. If your answer is a combination of yeses and nos, ask Hashem to guide you on the right path. When you ask for help, He'll be glad to give it to you. Blessings always, LB


Tips for Senior Fitness - Who Says that 70 is Old?

Are you what folks call a senior citizen? If so, Bro and Sis, you're like fine wine that gets better with age...

Some people are old, round-shouldered, overweight, lazy and sluggish at 23. Others have ramrod posture, stability, agility and flexibility at 83. Your life is doing the very best with the raw material that the Almighty gives you.

I don't care how old you are, but if you want to say goodbye to a load of aches and pains, candidacy for diabetes, cardiac issues and a long list of other ailments, then start eating right and exercising every day. Here are a few tips for seniors (or juniors) just getting started on a personal fitness improvement campaign:

  1. Exercise every day, just like you eat and drink daily.
  2. Take it slow it first; like Rome, you don't build your body in a day, but each day of good nutrition and exercise adds up.
  3. Active walking is the sport of choice. Start with 10 minutes a day and then add an additional 5 minutes every week until you work up to at least 30 minutes a day.
  4. Choose walking over riding in cars; take the stairs instead of the elevator if your heart, lungs and knees are in decent shape.
  5. Once you're capable of walking 30 minutes a day, you can add Pilates and resistance training. I recommend starting out with bodyweight exercises rather than reaching for the iron. 
  6. Do a good warmup before any exercise; the flexibility you get from your warmup prepares muscles for further injury-free activity.
  7. Chart your progress by keeping an exercise log.

We'll be posting specific advice in reference to the above points in the near future, G-d willing. Meanwhile, here at Brody Health and Fitness, if you talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk. Enjoy the following clip and stay healthy! Every blessing, LB

Who Says that 70 is Old? from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


The Pep-Talk Selfie

Pep-talk Selfie 24.5

The secret of winning coaches and mentors is knowing how to motivate their players, to "fire them up".

Even if you don't have a coach or a mentor, you can fire yourself up with "positive self-talk." Essentially, this is a pep-talk selfie.

Use positive language to describe what you hope to accomplish today, tomorrow and in the future. Tell it to God and pray for it, too.

Unfortunately, people are constantly using statements that cause them to berate themselves, their efforts, or their abilities. What could be greater self-persecution? They need to learn how to turn these around into positive statements instead. That's where "positive self-talk."  You certainly know how to take a selfie with your cellphone camera, right? This is just as easy - give yourself a pep-talk selfie! Make 5 to 10 strong statements that reflect your aspirations and abilities. Share them too with the Creator, and tell Him that you're positive that He hears you and that He'll help you. Do this daily and you'll go a long way.

Don't ever forget though: true personal growth doesn't come easy. In fact, it hurts. But it sure feels great.