Mark Sutton, the stuntman who parachuted into the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London dressed as James Bond, was killed on Wednesday in a wing-diving accident in the Swiss Alps. He was 42. Mr. Sutton, a former Gurkha rifle officer for the British Army, died after jumping from a helicopter and crashing into a mountain ridge only minutes from the French border near Trient, Switzerland, the Swiss police said. Wing-diving is an extreme sport that involves using a special jumpsuit with wings that allow the wearer to glide. (Mark Sutton, Parachuting Stuntman at Olympics, Dies at 42, Reuters, August 15 2013).
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Imagine that you are the custodian of a delicate building, such as the recently re-opened leaning Tower of Pisa. You are asked to guard it from decay, destruction, and all other threats to its future. You know that the building will not last much longer without constant monitoring and upkeep. You could surround it with concrete barriers and steel girders, but that would hide the beauty of the building, making it virtually unusable. And even this could not prevent the eventual loss of the building. How do you balance the need to use the building with the need to protect it?
This presents an interesting metaphor. Judaism teaches that God gave each person a body to use, but we are required to protect it. This is a difficult balancing act. If we are overly cautious, we limit our activities and opportunities in life. Yet if we are reckless, we risk destroying the very body we were given to protect. What is the prudent course and what are the limitations? (www.aish.com, “Taking a Risk” by Daniel Eisenberg, M.D.)
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We can easily recognize the value in healthy living, eating right and getting sufficient exercise. However, many people these days find it difficult to strike a healthy balance. Overeating can be detrimental, but excessive dieting may be just as harmful. Exercise is beneficial to the body in many ways, yet extreme sports can be hazardous to our health. How can we be sure to get it right, to distinguish between what is healthy and fun versus what is risky and dangerous?
The Jewish approach is that a person must navigate the fine line between a healthy or hazardous lifestyle. The boundaries emerge from the recognition of our obligation to maintain good health, and at the same time, to avoid danger. In this class we will explore the Jewish approach to health, fitness, and recreational activity.