Protect Your Body
Protect Your Body

Integral to the Jewish understanding of the human body is that the human body was created b’tzelem Elohim--in the image of G-d (Genesis 9:6).  As such, there is something holy and uniquely special about us.  Our tradition would assert that our bodies house an aspect of the Divine within.  Therefore, we each must care for our body as if it were the very body of G-d.  The Jewish value sh’mirat ha-guf encompasses the idea that we must show the utmost respect and care for our bodies.

Showing respect for and caring for our bodies encompasses a variety of different things, such as bathing regularly, brushing our teeth, eating healthy, exercising, and getting an adequate amount of sleep.  When we do these things, we are protecting our bodies from ailments and, in a spiritual sense, protecting the Divine spark within.  Taking care of ourselves brings out the best in us and allows us to do our best.  We learn from the virtue of sh’mirat ha-guf what it means to be responsible for our actions, appreciate ourselves and our bodies, and lovingly care for this gift that we have been given.

Another way to understand the value of sh’mirat ha-guf is that we are to guard our bodies (Deuteronomy 4:9).  Medieval philosophers would explain that we need to protect our body as if it were on loan from G-d.  How we use our bodies is our choice.  Taking care of our bodies is as if we are taking care of the Torah.  We dress the Torah ornately to both symbolize how majestic it is and to guard its teachings.  We make sure that we don’t place our fingers directly on the text so our oils will not smear the Hebrew.  We say blessings when we are about to learn from and teach the Torah as a means of sanctifying its specialness.  Like the Torah, we are told not to place markings on our body, such as tattoos, because they deface it.  We wear clothes on a regular basis as a way to respect our personal selves and as a way to keep our bodies cool or warm.  We say blessings on a regular basis as a way to show our understanding of our actions but also to celebrate who we are and what we can become.

This value can be connected to the holidays of Simchat Torah and Tu B’Shevat.  During these holidays, a discussion could focus on the concept of the "Tree of Life":  In order for a tree to grow, you have to take care of it.  Students can be involved in looking at the Torah, talking about why we can't touch its letters, and identifying how special it is.  By taking care of the Torah, one takes care of life.  By taking care of all life, one also takes care of the self.  During Tu B’Shevat, the theme of taking care of and protecting the body can be extended to taking care of everything around us.  If we take care of nature, we in turn will be provided with fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are healthy nourishment.  

Questions for Reflection:

1. What things can you to do become more aware of the Divine within?

2. How can we both be and act b’tzelem Elohim--in the image of G-d?

3. If you were to more effectively take care of your body, what types of things would you do?

4. What can you do to model this value within your life and within the classroom?

Keep your body safe and healthy through good choices.




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