Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, well-known speaker, shared a life-changing, invigorating shiur, live-stream, on behalf of TorahAnytime and Chazaq on Monday evening, April 27.
This was a shiur that everyone should listen to and take to heart. It is literally going to change your life and help you to maintain good health. Rabbi Rietti began: “How do you help support the perfect body in its battle against a virus, disease, and germs?” Never in history has there been such a plethora of information about nutrition and health. There are so many opinions it is quite confusing to know what to believe. Thankfully, 800 years ago Maimonides wrote about what to do to maintain health and this gives us clarity. He claims that anybody who follows his directives will be guaranteed they won’t come to illness and won’t need a doctor. How could he claim this? Rabbi Rietti noted that he does add a disclaimer. That this may not be a guarantee if a person was born with a serious illness or if there is a plague. All of the information that the Rambam offers is collected from statements about healing in the Talmud. These are simple details. “Everybody needs this information.”
Rabbi Rietti explained that the nature of the human being has changed, so that many descriptions of r’fuah in the Talmud cannot be applied. However, in Hilchos Daas, the Rambam is giving a guarantee for excellent health. The Rambam teaches that having a healthy body with no dysfunction is going the way of Hashem. “After all, how can a person focus on Torah and mitzvos if he is ill?” Rabbi Rietti continued, “Therefore a person must distance himself from anything harmful to the body. He must partake of things that help his body’s strength.” The Rambam offers 23 directives. Rabbi Rietti shared some of these.
First, a person should not eat unless he is hungry, and he should not drink unless he is thirsty. In addition, he should not delay going to the restroom even for a moment.
It is interesting to note that the Rambam became a physician at age 31; when he was 39, he was appointed the Sultan of Egypt’s physician. On his grave, it says that from Moshe [Rabbeinu] until Moshe [Maimonides] there never rose as great a teacher for klal Yisrael.
Rabbi Rietti explained about the above three ideas that the Rambam is establishing up front that your body was created by Divine intelligence. You can 100 percent respect its integrity. “Hashem created our body perfectly. Perfect Designer, perfect design.” He shared a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “One day in the life of the human body is enough to steal all the luster in all of fiction.” This is the immense wonder of the human body that Hashem created.
Rabbi Rietti went on to share three cardinal principles of the Rambam: 1. Under-eat. 2. Exercise daily. 3. Soft bowel movements.
“Undereating gives excellent health and long life. It is superior to under-eat unhealthful food than to overeat healthful food. He explained that overeating overtaxes the digestive system. You should try to reach one quarter or one third of your full capacity when eating. Eat one third or one fourth on your plate.
Exercise, according to the Rambam, is defined as any physical exertion forcing you to have deep breathing and sweat. Sweating is huge in removing toxicity.
You should continue that exercise until you reach one of the following signs: If your facial expression changes to strain, stop. If you have any joint pain, stop. If you are getting dehydrated, stop.
The Rambam teaches that the best time to exercise is the morning. This is because this is when you will store energy for the rest of the day. He cautions to never exercise on a full stomach. This is dangerous. You must wait for food to be digested. This is because exercising causes your heart to pump faster. Digestion takes the most energy. If you exercise right after eating, then it causes difficulty for your body. It overtaxes your heart.
He taught that the best exercise of all is the one that causes you to be happy, such as a ball game. “Happiness will heal the body just by its very presence.” Rabbi Rietti explained that joy and happiness alone make illness better. We can’t separate the mind, the emotion, and the body. If the mind is unhappy, every cell is listening to this and germs can enter the cells. The immune system is compromised. On the other hand, happiness goes to every cell and the cells listen. In this case, the chances of recovery are much stronger. The Rambam is teaching that happiness is a stronger force than exercise itself.
When you listen to music, you are happy. Your arteries increase in volume by 30 percent. This means that nutrients and oxygen will go to brain cells. It increases the healing by 30 percent.
Rabbi Rietti shared that dancing with your children is also a great idea.
Next, he spoke about soft bowel movement. If a person exercises a lot and doesn’t overeat, then he will have soft bowel movements and no illness will come to him and his strength will increase. Toxicity of the body is expelled twice a day.
If we are sitting all day, this is very bad. Also, he taught that overeating is like taking poison. It is the main root cause of all illnesses. A professor at Harvard University taught that the major cause of death and disability is related to the diet we eat. The common cause of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic disease is overeating. The Rambam is telling us that overeating unhealthful food overtaxes our body. There is a 10-20-percent increase in lifespan by cutting down on food even in middle-age. Rabbi Rietti cited a book titled Only the Skinny Will Survive.
Rabbi Rietti shared that we should not eat our food but rather drink it. In other words, we must chew until it is liquid and then swallow. This is the way the Rambam says to eat. There are many benefits to this. By eating until food is chewed to a liquid, you enjoy your food longer and your taste buds are stimulated. You have more pleasure by eating slowly. Also, you reach satiation one third sooner. Rabbi Rietti noted, “It’s natural dieting.” He knows someone who lost 70 pounds just by following this advice of chewing food until it is liquid.
Next, Rabbi Rietti spoke about the Rambam’s recommendation for the proper amount of sleep. You should get eight hours. It is essential as your first line of defense to protect your immune system. Also, do not go to sleep soon after a meal. Wait three or four hours. Also, eat the lighter food before the heavier food. So, for example, eat vegetables, then fish, then chicken, and last meat. Always avoid any food that doesn’t smell or taste fresh.
Rabbi Rietti then shared the Rambam’s advice on staying happy and avoiding stress. “Everyone should be cheerful.” He taught that every physician should try to improve his patient’s state of mind. Ways to do this include music, telling stories, distracting his thoughts, and making him laugh. He then listed things that increase body strength and things that diminish it. Moderate wine, moderate food, and moderate exercise increase body strength. Fasting, insomnia, anxiety, stress, trauma, anger, constant improper thoughts, lust for political power, jealousy all diminish strength.
This shiur can be viewed on www.TorahAnytime.com.
By Susie Garber