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Thursday, 23 June 2016

In our morning service, we thank God for the wonder of our bodies in a prayer known as n’kavim n’kavim and follow it by a prayer thanking God for returning our souls to us each morning (elohai n’shama). Body and soul are separated in our liturgy and as a result it can be easy for us as Jews to disconnect body and soul. Even a Rabbi splits the two off in the Talmud:

Rav Huna said to his son, Rabbah, “Why are you not to be found before Rav Hisda, whose dicta are so keen?” “What should I go to him for,” he answered, “seeing that when I go to him, he treats me to secular discourses?... He talks of health matters.” He exclaimed, “And you call them secular discourses! All the more reason for going to him!”[1]

While still alluding to a differentiation between body and soul, 12th century Moses Maimonides made it clear that a healthy body is essential for a healthy soul:
“Since by keeping the body in health and vigor, one walks in the ways of God – it being impossible during sickness to have any understanding or knowledge of the Creator – it is a person’s duty to avoid whatever is injurious to the body, and cultivate habits conducive to health and vigor.”[2]
As profoundly moving the Rabbinate can be, it is not a healthy profession. Rabbis tend to either sit a lot (for example, when meeting people or when studying) or they stand still a lot (such as when teaching or leading prayers). We eat a lot, too, especially when celebrating Shabbat or festivals. I have come to realise that during my Rabbinate so far that I have forgotten, to paraphrase Rav Kook, that we have holy flesh no less than holy spirit. I intend to change that and for the community to benefit from this change.

It is therefore my intention to complete the Tour of Acoma, a 100-mile bike ride on September 18th 2016. It has been four years since I cycled properly and I have never faced an endurance challenge like this for a number of reasons – (1) I have never been this unfit before, (2) I have never cycled this far before, (3) I am asthmatic, (4) I have never cycled at this kind of temperature before, (5) I have never cycled at this altitude before. If I am to do this, I need your serious support. The biggest way you can help me while training and on the actual day itself is to sponsor me per mile cycled. The more I raise for the Temple, the more likely I will be to finish this challenge.

My hope is to become much healthier for my benefit, for the community’s benefit and also to raise funds for the community at the same time. I will, essentially, be changing pounds into dollars, and yes, I believe that joke alone deserves at least some kind of sponsorship! This is without doubt the hardest physical and mental challenge I have ever faced, and I really hope that members of the community and beyond will sponsor me accordingly.
You will be able to follow my training exploits here, learn more about how to sponsor me and just send general words of encouragement on this blog.

[1] Talmud: Shabbat 82a
[2] Maimonides, Book of Knowledge, Laws Relating to Moral Dispositions and Ethical Conduct, Law 1.

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