Body and Soul

Disconnect and Connect

Maybe you think you're having trouble losing weight because you eat too much, you snack too much or you don't get enough exercise. Surprisingly enough, overeating, unhealthy eating and lack of exercise are not always the culprits that prevent a person from losing excess weight. Have you ever heard about cortisol? That's the stress hormone, public enemy #1 to body and soul. Here's how to get rid of it.

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Love, According to Halacha

Here's an important message for  the Nine Days that begin tonight: our sages tell us that we don't have to learn how to hate - that comes natural to a person because of innate egotism. Loving someone else, on the other hand, is something we all must learn to insure our emotional and physical health, as we'll learn here in today's podcast. Shabbat Shalom!

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Conservation in the Mini-Universe

Mini Universe Conservation
Kabbalah defines the three dimensions of Divine influence on our lives and refers to them as olam, shana, and nefesh, or the dimensions of place, time, and body. 

The message of olam, shana, and nefesh - place, time, and body – teaches us vital information about ourselves and how to properly utilize our resources. The Talmud says that the human being is a miniature universe. With that in mind, just as conserving the earth's resources is vital to our sustenance, we must learn to conserve our own resources. Now that we're aware that Divine influences are manifest on three levels, we can do much to improve the quality of our lives.

The Creator enables our souls to fulfill their specific mission also by giving us the three dimensions of influence – place, time, and body. These are the soul's prime resources, which it must utilize effectively for a person to feel happy, fulfilled and successful. Consequently, when an individual squanders these vital resources, the soul suffers in the same manner that the entire world suffers when its natural resources are misused. Let's see how this works on an individual level:

Olam, Place

One should always consent with a capable spiritual guide before moving or changing one's place of employment or learning. Why? Just as each plant thrives on certain soil and in a certain location that provides optimal conditions for that plant's growth, each soul thrives in its optimal place. Suppose you were sent to this world to heal people; you won't thrive on a desert island living in solitude. But, if you were sent to this world to refrain from idle chatter, then a desert island is a great place to be.

Our olam is divided into our general place and our specific places. One's general place is Brooklyn, for example, and his specific places might be his home, his place of employment, his place of personal prayer, and his place of learning and worship. The Creator sends this person influences of abundance in these four places.

How is one's resource of olam squandered? If he is in a bar drinking beer rather than in his place of study or employment, he squanders Divine abundance and influence. Clearly, if he's roaming around in a shopping mall when he should be in school or at work, he'll see an immediate loss of Divine abundance and influence in the form of a stiff reprimand from his employer or teacher, a fine, and maybe even total failure such as losing his job or flunking out of school. We therefore must be careful about being at the right place in the right time. For a soldier on guard in a border outpost, this meanings staying alive.

Shana, Time

Conserving the priceless resource of our time is the easiest concept of olam, shana, nefesh to understand. Each of us has a predetermined allotment of time on this earth, depending on the nature of our task on earth and our needed soul correction.

If one systematically squanders time, he will not only fail to accomplish his mission on earth, but he won't be happy, fulfilled or successful. If a pre-Med student spends the night before final exams in a billiards parlor or in a discotheque instead of reviewing his organic chemistry notes and getting a good night's rest, he seriously jeopardizes his chances of scoring high on the final exam and being accepted to medical school. His entire future is at stake because of one evening's wasted time.

Woe to the children whose parents social-media and chatroom addicts or those who aimlessly surf for hours on the web. Can they justifiably complain that they don't have time to devote to family? Hashem has given them the time to devote to enhancing their marriage or raising wonderful children, but they've squandered it.

The hallmark of history's spiritual luminaries was their utilization of time. It's mind-boggling to think about what the father of Kabbalah, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria Ashkenaz1 (1534-1572) accomplished in his brief lifespan of 38 years. We therefore want to utilize each day to the max and be especially careful about what we do with our time.

Nefesh, Body

The body is the housing of the soul. We must protect it and use it for the right purposes. For example, the Creator gives us a heart, whose task is to pump blood through a slim and healthy body for 120 years. If a person overeats and indulges in junk food – which are detrimental to the health of body and soul – his body will accumulate fat cells. The poor heart must now supply blood to these wasted areas of the body, which unlike the bones and the muscles, contribute little to performing one's task on earth. To add insult to injury, the cholesterol and saturated fats of junk food will clog the arteries, cause a rise in blood pressure, and make the heart's job of providing blood to the “dead-beat” fat deposits even more difficult.

Our prime consideration in utilizing nefesh should be the question of what's good for nefesh rather than what's comfortable, convenient, or tasty. A proper workout in the gym may be excruciating and uncomfortable, but the nefesh will thrive as a result. Hashem gives us certain parts of nefesh to perform specific commandments, such as procreation and granting marital bliss. When these parts of nefesh are misused, the flow of Divine abundance to the soul is sorely impaired.

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Practically, we should all strive to be our own personal conservation agencies, using the resources that Hashem gives us for the very best. Start with one resource, such as time, and make a conscious effort to improve while asking the Almighty in your personal prayers to help you. Wait and see how happy and successful you become. An awareness of  olam, shana, nefesh can help a person lose weight when no other diet would help, and is a wonderful aid in helping us find our mission on earth. May we all be blessed to utilize the wonderful resources that the Creator gives us for the very best, amen!

Six Steps to Proper Standing Posture

Your entire health depends heavily on good standing posture - a strong and stable spine, your balance and your breathing, just for starters. Did you know that your mood sinks when you slouch and you become prone to back pain and headaches? Bad posture weakens a person, and he or she becomes easier prey for muggers, anti-Semites and worst of all, the evil inclination that wants to weaken our connection with Hashem, Heaven forbid. This instructional vid will teach you the 6 steps to proper standing posture, and it will undoubtedly enhance both body and soul health.

Six Steps to Proper Standing Posture.mp4 from lazerbrody on Vimeo.

Invest in Your Nest

Invest in Nest
As I was eating breakfast this morning, something caught my eye. After hanging up laundry on our balcony, my wife left for her Monday-morning Torah class. I knew the basket was empty, but suddenly I saw something moving inside of it. Then, a male dove landed on our balcony railing with a dry twig in its mouth. He descended into the laundry basket where there was already movement. I stood up to get a better look. He and his female were building a nest, perched on top of our little basket of clothes pins within the big basket. he then took off to bring another twig. Wasting no time, he returned and placed it in the nest, but before he departed for another sortie, he gently pecked his female on the beak as if he was kissing her.

Within twenty minutes, they had a nest comfortable enough for her to lay an egg. I wanted so much to document this, but the male was very shy and flew away, The female smiled at the camera as you see in the hastily-snapped photo above.

There is no such thing as seeing something that's meaningless. Hashem communicates to us by way of our environment. King David, who wrote Perek Shira, was a cogent observer of his environment. So was his son, King Solomon, who says, "Go to the ant, sluggard; observe her ways and become wise" (Proverbs 6:6). King Solomon sends the lazy individual to go learn industriousness from an ant.

Here's what I learned from the pair of doves on my balcony:

  1. Invest in your nest - invest your time, resources and efforts into what's really important: your soul (and your body insomuch as it houses the soul), your spouse and your children. Don't waste your personal assets on inconsequential endeavors. 
  2. Build your nest and raise a family while you're young and full of agility.
  3. Make sure that whatever you do contributes to fulfilling your task on earth. If you don't know what that is, read Path to Your Peak.

That loving pair of doves are doing what they're supposed to and we should to. Now is the time to prepare ourselves for receiving the Torah anew on Shavuos (this coming Sunday night and Monday in Israel, with the addition of Tuesday overseas) and making ourselves a little bit better than we were yesterday. Many people have asked me lately, especially in the aftermath of the Meron tragedy, for something not too difficult to take upon themselves. Here's my suggestion: waste five less minutes every day and use them toward either learning Torah or reciting Psalms.

Symbolically, the pair of doves on my balcony had only concern - building their world. We should learn from them and concentrate on building our world, making it a much better place, amen!

Get it Right!

Fitness trainers have an expression: “Get it right!” Any exercise, from simple breathing to the most complex routine, must be done in the best possible form to ensure optimal performance, gain and benefit to the body. Just as doing exercise is a workout for the body, doing mitzvas is a workout for the soul, making the soul strong and healthy. In that respect, good spiritual form is important for fulfilling a mitzva, so when it comes to observing the Torah, we have to "get it right" too.

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A Healthy Self-Image

When you feel good about yourself, other people will feel good about you. There are three ways to pursue happiness and to build a healthy self-image: strengthening the body, strengthening the soul, or to understand that body and soul are inseparable and to strengthen both simultaneously. Today's Emuna Beam teaches us how to do that. Enjoy today's six-minute chizuk and have a lovely Shabbat!

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