Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Belz Does Pilates

It is outrageous that Ultra Orthodox men and women in their fifties look, act and feel old. It is equally outrageous to see over the top obesity looked at as a sign of ascetic saintliness. I find it very depressing to see rabbinic leaders 100 lbs. overweight. I think chasidim more than yeshiva people, are resistant and fearful of change. The Mir will be eating organic foods way before Vishnitz will stop eating kugels. I might be missing important special circumstances, but in the absence of special explanations I would say someone ought to buy the Belzer Rebbe a treadmill. And from the photos I have seen of his kid checking out the cars in London, the heir apparent is maintaining the family tradition.

I am using Belz just as one of many possible examples. I am not saying this out of any special animus against the Belzer Rebbe. Quite the contrary, I have a favorable opinion of the Rebbe’s politics, ever since Arthur Hertzberg praised his views in the New York Review of Books many years ago, and his accomplishments speak for themselves.

I’ll say it differently. When the Belzer Rebbe built his magnificent castle in Jerusalem, talk about McMansions, why didn’t he build a gym with a track. I don’t want to hear that ‘maen hut zich nisht azoi gefeert in der alter Belz’, (‘‘such was not the custom in the Belz of old,(in Galicia))” That is retarded. I am waiting for the day when a single Belzer will refuse to accept any medical technology because we didn’t have it back in good ‘ole Belz. Mein shteitele Belz had mud and horse manure to spare. I don’t sense an overwhelming cry to remove the concrete from Kiryas Mattesdorf.

Psychoanalysis teaches that the primary form of narcissism is body narcissism. When a human being exercises and the body shape becomes more toned and muscular, the image we have of our bodies changes for the better. When flexibility and stamina increase, when athletics become more interesting, there are corresponding changes in personality. Self esteem begins to rise, initiative and entrepreneurial talents emerge, and the world seems a more hopeful place. Who knows where such changes might lead? My guess is that no one in Belz is eager to find out.

There is something of an epidemic of breast cancer in the Jewish community. Obesity and the consumption of excessive amounts of fat aggravate the problem.

One last twist. I offer a url to a web site that has many photographs of great rabbinic leaders and talmudists of the present and recent past. It is a lovely site, especially for those who know of these people and their intellectual accomplishments. Here’s the punch line: How many of these leaders could pass a stress test? I say not many. I need not remind my readers there is a specific mitzvah in the Torah to protect and properly care for one’s body.


At 2:41 PM, Blogger LitaLives said...

Dear Evanston Jew:

I disagree with your observation on 2 points.

Firstly, I don'tknow if obesity is a particularly Jewish trait. If you travel through the U.S.- as opposed to Europe - you will find that Average Joe/Jane (not counting the upper socio/economic classes of "beautiful people')is quite prone to be obese - many of them SERIOUSLY so.

Secondly, I suggest that Chassidim are more prone to obesity because they are more prone to enjoy life. Chassidim teaches us to be happy with our lives whereas Misnagdim are more prone to enjoy suffering a little.

I could expound on this, but you get the idea.

That's all for today folks.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

Dear Mr.Litalives,

Emes is emes, and I agree with you on both points. My blog is really about breast cancer,diabetes,and heart attacks. It hurts me to see that nothing is really being done to prevent these terrible life threatening diseaes in the frum world.


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