My family and I subscribe to PJ Library, which is a wonderful resource for people who have kids and people who like to tell stories. Every month we get a children’s book from them, at no cost to us, thanks to the generosity of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation as well as private donors from around the world. (Check out pjlibrary.org for more info and to sign up!)
We recently received a book called, “Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons.” As sad as I was to learn it was not about a rabbi who aged backwards, I was interested to note that the lesson in this children’s book was a very good one for rabbis. In a nutshell, “Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons” tells the tale of a beloved rabbi whose congregants give him a beautiful holiday vest on Rosh Hashanah, and at each holiday they feed him and feed him and feed him. After his buttons pop off of his vest, he decides that instead of only eating to celebrate holidays, he would find physical activities to celebrate with his congregants. Because he does this, his vest starts to sag and he needs a new one for his new, slender body by next Rosh Hashanah.
On the High Holy Days we are often focused on cheshbon hanefesh, “self-improvement”: usually in the form of making spiritual and behavioral improvements. It is a Jewish value (shmirat haguf) to take care of our bodies, too. How can we work on improving ourselves physically this year as well as spiritually? By making healthful food choices, going to the gym, walking instead of driving when possible, taking the stairs, drinking lots of water and many other positive choices can help us make our bodies and our souls fit for the New Year.