Caring for Our Bodies – Our Congregational Theme

November 7, 2019 in Rabbi Greg Harris

Beth El’s theme of the year is Shmirat HaGuf – Caring for Our Bodies.  Across the congregation, we will explore our physical, mental, spiritual, and relationship health.

Our lives are pulled in so many directions and caring for ourselves often gets lowest priority.  There are countless podcasts and numerous articles encouraging us to slow down, eat right, be mindful, exercise more and to discover what ‘sparks joy,’ as Marie Kondo says.  The reality is our health, in all its facets, is complicated and difficult to manage.

Rabbi Marina Yergin points us to the verse in Deuteronomy which says: “Guard yourself and guard your soul very carefully” (Deut 4:9).  She brings the classic commentator Kli Yakar who explains: “‘Guard yourself’ means taking care of the body.”Yergin continues: “Bodily health is the foundation for keeping all the commandments of the Torah since in most cases they are bound up with physical action of some kind. When the body is unfit and unhealthy, this detracts from proper fulfillment of the commandments.”

I believe there is a connection between our body and our spiritual selves.  In the prayer for healing, we ask for refuat ha’nefesh, refuat ha’guf – a healing of the spirit and a healing of the body.  While our spirit and body are separate from each other and thus requiring individual mention in the prayer, they are also linked and therefore connected in the prayer.

We will be unpacking these connections over the year.  Look for programs in the Scroll and highlighted in the announcements.  From nutrition to mental health, cycling to the sacred, we will understand Shmirat HaGuf more fully and possibly even open ourselves up to healthier habits.

If you are interested in working with me on these programs, email me at