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    It’s Time to Talk About Taking Health Seriously

    Op-Ed by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: “There are certain events that take place that you will always remember where you were when the event occurred. One of those events was a phone-call that I received from a dear friend on a Sunday night in 5777.” Full Story

    By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

    There are certain events that take place that you will always remember where you were when the event occurred. One of those events was a phone-call that I received from a dear friend on a Sunday night in 5777.

    I was in Crown Heights, for the “Chidon Sefer Hamitzvos”, and received the call from Rabbi Chaim Schneur Zalman Baras A”H.

    In addition to being the main Mashpia in our Yeshiva, he was one of my closest friends since my youth. We have been in the same class in United Lubavitch Yeshiva (Ocean Parkway) since we were in kindergarten and attended the same camps. We also went on MIvtzoim together every friday, on our “route”, for many years. I picked up the phone and all he said was three words: “Shalosh Kelipos Hatmeios”.

    Some background: For a while before, he had been experiencing some back pain and discomfort. After trying to change the position that he would sit and rest, to no avail, he went to the Dr. the previous Friday who told him to get some scans done at the local hospital. He was now calling me with results: They had (lo ALeinu) found “Yenne Machla” in his body. After two years of different treatments, and many Tefillos, he returned his pure Neshama to Hashem on 30 Adar 1 5779 (Today is his Yahrtzeit and may this article be L’Ilui NIshmaso).

    It was during this saga, that I realized something: After over 10 years in Cincinnati, I didn’t even have a primary Doctor! I, like many young adults, was living in an illusion that annual visits to a doctor are for “old people” and that young people are guaranteed to be healthy and live well. Seeing first-hand what my friend was experiencing shattered my illusion.

    When I finally found a proper doctor, another one of my previous illusions were shattered: I “found out” that the food that we eat has a tremendous effect on our long-term health.

    As Bochurim, we tend to eat a lot of junk-food (snacks, Farbaisen by Farbrengens), drink sugar-filled Soda and energy drinks, and develop other very unhealthy habits (drinking or smoking etc). At that age, we don’t always see the results of these habits on our bodies right away. But when one gets a little older, our unhealthy habits put many of us at risk for obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

    At a certain point, we – especially yungeleit – must realize that we have a “Chov Kadosh-sacred responsibility” to take care of our health. We have a responsibility to our families, communities and our Shlichus to do all we can to be in the best position to care for them. While in life there are no guarantees, we must do our part. The Rebbe often quotes the Rambam (Hilchos Deos 3:3 and 4:1): “Maintaining a healthy and sound body is among the ways of serving Hashem, for one cannot understand or have any knowledge of the Creator, if he is ill. Therefore, he must avoid that which harms the body and accustom himself to that which is healthful and helps the body become stronger.”

    I would like to share a true story (that I heard from Makor Rishon) that took place this past 20 Av:

    A group of Chassidim were at a Farbrengen with a very prominent Shliach who had turned 50 in recent years. This Shliach is relatively health conscious and is very active in his community. At the Farbrengen say a young member of Anash that did not have a beard. The Shliach was demanding of this yungerman to start growing his beard. The Yungerman looked at him and told him that if the Shliach agrees to get a Colonoscopy (a test for Yenne Machla that is recommended for all people above 50) he will grow his beard. The Shliach, who did not have any health concerns and was not planning on taking this test, agreed.

    A few months ago, the test was performed and the results came back. The Dr. called the Shliach and told him that it is a miracle that he came in to take the test. They had “found something” in his body and if it would have been left untreated it could have developed into a life-threatening situation. B”H it was found and treated. In addition to seeing the power of a Chassidishe Farbrengen, we see the importance of being aware of the necessary health precautions and interventions that are needed.

    This includes the importance of exercise. I have heard that in some Yeshivos, especially in Eretz Yisroel, the talmidim are not allowed to play outdoor activities by the breaks. I do not know the history, or the reasons behind it, but exercise is a very important aspect to health and a very good outlet for the youthful energy that our Tallmidim have. If the energy is not let out on the playing field, it usually gets let out on the walls and property of the Yeshiva.

    May we only share in Simchas and merit ever-lasting health and life with the Hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M Now!

    Please feel free to share your thoughts on the above with me by sending me a personal email: [email protected]



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