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Am I My Body's Keeper?
By Michael Kaufman
Urim / 332 pp

There is nothing worse for our bodies than…food. Yes, between the additives and preservatives, combined with the inexcusably large portions which we eat --that our bodies do not need or want-- we are literally destroying our health one meal at a time. 

Add to this equation the fact that we are Orthodox Jews, making the situation even more alarming. We can’t get away from food. Whether it’s pat shacharit, three meals on Shabbos, Melaveh Malka, a vort, a bris, a wedding, a l’chaim, a Kiddush, a Friday “to'amei’ah” session, or a yartzeit tikkun, we are seemingly trapped into eating. And here’s my favorite: “I’m not sure if I had a kezayis, so please pass me some more [fill in a carbohydrate and fat saturated food] so that I can be sure I can say a bracha achronal…” And I didn’t even comment on the near total disinterest and disregard for exercise in the Orthodox community. (“…because it’s bittul Torah”)

As one who has lost about 50 pounds over the last number of years, I was extremely excited to get my hands on “Am I My Body’s Keeper?” Am I My Body’s Keeper goes into thorough detail about the importance of health, dieting, hygiene, and fitness that is virtually ignored in the Orthodox community (though it is getting better -- there are plenty of joggers and much weight loss here in Ramat Beit Shemesh, but not yet where it should be)

Am I My Body's Keeper contains teachings from sages new and old. There are excerpts from all the classical halachic and haskafic texts. The book is an urgent wake up call for us to realize that a healthy lifestyle is a mitzva d’oraisa, a biblical obligation like all others. Those who ignore this fact are, well, simply not fully Orthodox.

For those familiar with works of this genre, Am I My Body's Keeper is somewhat similar to Rabbi Yechezkel Aschayak’s  “To Your Health” (which certainly deserves a nice dose of credit for my weight loss and lifestyle change) though this work is a bit more thorough and slightly updated (in terms of medical findings and recomnendations). There are extensive endnotes which elaborate on the halachic, medical, and scientific citations in the book.

Some of the more obvious teachings in the book include (contrary to widespread “misconception”): there is no mitzva to eat ad nauseum on Shabbat. It is forbidden to smoke. Alcohol in moderation. Exercise is an obligation. Regular bathing is part of a Torah lifestyle. And the list goes on and on. The book is full of step-by-step tips to change your lifestyle for the better.

Am I My Body’s Keeper is a Torah work worthy of our study like all others. It is unquestionably one of the most urgent and needed works of Torah today.

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