Thoughts from the Rabbi...
(I received this story from a colleague some years ago. I liked it so much I thought I would share it with all of you.)
The other day got a phone call from my doctor. He was reporting on the results of my cholesterol test. Here's how the conversation went:
"Rabbi, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that your numbers are much too high. The good news is that you're young enough to do something about it."
"Well, what can I do?"
"Well, for one thing you need to change your diet. No more ice cream with every meal. And you’ll need to watch your intake of hard cheeses."
"Yes, you need to be exercising at least three times a week. You're in terrible shape. Why don't you come with me to the health club? I need to trim down a bit, myself."
I promised my doctor I would give it the ‘old college try’. I've been watching my food intake and trying to work out as he instructed me. But his words also set me thinking. What would happen if a person received a similar phone call from the Rabbi? Except that the Rabbi wasn't reporting on physical health but on spiritual well-being.
About two years ago a colleague wrote an article in Sh'ma Magazine in which he described a new practice he had instituted in his congregation. On a voluntary basis people would come to his office once a year to discuss their moral health. It was a kind of spiritual checkup. I liked this idea, but not wanting to try it out cold I decided to experiment on a friend. After an intensive interview and a battery of tests, I phoned him to discuss the results.
"Mark, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, spiritually speaking, you’re out of shape. The good news is you're still young enough to do something about it."
"Rabbi, how bad is it?"
"Well your numbers are way down. We work on a scale of "613" (the number of mitzvot – commandments – found in the Torah). Within that number there are two categories: One for the mitzvot between one person and another; the other for the mitzvot between people and God. Mark, you've got to bring those numbers way up in both categories."
"So, Rabbi, what do I do?"
"Well for one thing you need to change your habits. But remember, it's not just what you eat it's how you eat it. For example, saying the Kiddush over the wine on Friday night, and the Motzi before you eat your meals would do wonders for your spiritual health. And while you’re at it, why not say a few words of praise and encouragement for your wife and children. It's part of the ritual, you know."
"Is there anything else?"
"Yes, you've been so busy lately you've missed a lot of important cues. You've been impatient with your fellow workers and you've ignored some of your closest friends. Don't forget, too, there's a big world out there beyond your own personal worries. What have you done for your humanity lately? Have you given as much tzedakah as you can afford? Do you give of your free time to a worthy cause?"
"Well, I guess I could do better."
"We can all do better. In fact, I am very glad we had this conversation. You know, it is Passover time and the Rabbis tell us that when we clean our houses from top to bottom we are also supposed to give our souls a thorough scrubbing, as well. If you're going to make changes in your lifestyle, now is the perfect time to do it."
"I know what you're going to tell me. No chametz products throughout the holiday".
"No, I figured you knew that already. I was going to tell you to go easy on those chocolate macaroons. They're not good for your cholesterol."
On behalf of my wife, Shelly, and our children, Abby and Steven, I wish you all a zissen Pesach!!!
Rabbi Jeffrey R. Astrachan