Many think that religion is confined to the realm of other-worldly matters. Yet, Judaism rejects this sharp division between secular and religious spheres, and urges us to sanctify the mundane. The ordinary elements of our life, including our recreational activities, can be raised to a higher, more elevated – even spiritual – level.
Judaism does not offer specific instructions for all human behavior. However, we can find general guidance in Jewish sources to help us navigate our personal decisions in all aspects of life. For example, the Talmudic jurisprudence we use to analyze the Torah’s laws of compensation for damages can also provide guidance for the physical activities we engage in, whether for fitness or for fun.
In this class we will explore the Jewish approach to health, fitness, and recreational activity. Judaism teaches that we have a religious duty to maintain our health and to avoid potential hazards to it. Even an activity that does not harm anyone else may still not be permissible. In order to understand why, we will need to address the following questions:
- What does Judaism have to say about keeping healthy?
- Do Jewish thinkers recommend a particular diet or lifestyle?
- What is the Jewish perspective on the importance of healthy living?
- If we believe in God and Divine Providence, why do we need to take steps to ensure health and avoid danger? Doesn’t God take care of us anyway?
- Which sports and recreational activities does Judaism condone, and which does it condemn?