As the Jewish calendar moves ever closer to the observance of Tisha B’Av, awareness highlights the significance of certain numerical parallels within our beliefs.
The human body contains 248 limbs. Jewish sages have drawn a comparison to the fact that the Torah requires us to fulfill 248 positive commandments. An accident? A coincidence?
Deuteronomy 18:16 instructs us to “Be wholehearted with G‑d…” The word “wholehearted” can also translate to mean “complete”. Thus, this verse implies that we must strive for nothing but wholeness in our relationship with G-d.
Our bodies likewise contain 365 sinewy connective tissues, ironically aligning with the 365 negative commandments from which Jews must abstain. Ironically — or perhaps by design? – this can conveniently correspond to the 365 days in the year.
Through the ages, a bit of Jewish folklore evolved to inform us that this sinewy cartilage distributed within the human body carries instructions to the limbs from the brain, requiring them to “act”. Consciously obeying the will of G‑d, by abstaining from or resisting a behavior in a situation where a person might feel tempted to act, possibly with less than favorable results, strengthens the corresponding sinew and causes holiness to dwell upon it.
If this truly seems like mysticism, and admittedly it does, a kernel of truth lies in this belief. Consider those days when you feel tempted to skip your usual workout. The effects can range from disappointing your training buddy by not showing up to depriving your body of the stress release that the workout provides, leaving the day’s tension to act upon the body in deleterious ways. Also, consider who you really let down by abstaining from this positive commandment of self-care: sure, your workout buddy must dig deep to find solo internal motivation; but also, your own body takes a big hit when you skip a workout.
Such an act translates differently from when we choose not to engage in a negative behavior, such as selecting a healthy meal choice for lunch instead of those oh-tempting empty-calorie foods. This behavior invites holiness to dwell within our souls, whereas avoiding a positive choice invites the same negative vibes as making poor choices that harm the body.
Often in life one feels tempted to give in to negative emotions — honking at the car in front of us, losing patience when the man ahead of you in the “10 items or less” lane places 27 groceries on the conveyor belt, or even sabotaging a meal plan or workout just because you had a bad day at the office. Consider this: should any of these annoyances keep us from the behaviors we know that invite holiness into our lives??
Whether you adhere to such practices or not, and whether you choose to believe in these Biblical numerical coincidences, the fact remains that a good and prudent soul seeks to act in a manner that honors his body and nurtures those around him. Consider the ways in which you daily engage in as many of the 248 commandments as possible. Does that feel wonderful deep down in your soul? Of course! Resisting the negative behaviors requires a bit more effort, but always feels rewarding in the end.
Blessings to you as you go forward in life, honoring all that your body can accomplish; and always choosing the path of righteousness, in the name of health and holiness.
Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.