Extraordinary Times

2019/Paweł Jońca. Wall calendar.

We are in extraordinary times.  Judaism has something to say about that.

In Hebrew, there is a term:  Sha’at Had’chak, which roughly means at the time of an emergency.  I would argue–as have many of my colleagues across the observance spectrum–that we are in such times right now.  As you may know, in Jewish laws there are often various rabbinic opinions on observance.  Some positions are more stringent while others are more lenient.  During Sha’at Had’chak, it is permitted to follow a more lenient position if necessary.  Our tradition also records majority and minority opinions.  Typically, we follow the majority, but during these times there are those who suggest that it is permitted to follow the minority if necessary.
The overall guiding principle here is that we must do whatever we can to save lives; we are required (not just allowed) to violate all but three laws in Judaism in order to save lives; these are committing murder, committing a sexual offense, or denying the nature of God.  Otherwise, we must do what we can to save lives–and even to prevent illness when the chance of a fatality is low.

Most synagogues are following the principles of Judaism by adhering to the current CDC recommendations on social distancing.  This is why most congregations are not holding Shabbat services–or any services for that matter. We are all finding creative ways to carry on the life of the community, stay connected and sane using the technology available to us–some of which many will not use on Shabbat and holidays.  

Because of Sha’at Had’chak, most JCCs and other gyms are closed. They are also adhering to the CDC recommendations. That doesn’t mean that our fitness has to be delayed as well. There are many ways that we can stay in shape and maintain social distancing. I’ve been offering daily workouts for free through Facebook. The Mandel JCC here in Cleveland has virtual workouts several times a day that are free as well. Do some research. Find out how you can stay active and stay healthy. BTW, it is OK to get outside as long as you follow the rules there as well.

I pray that all of these measures will be temporary–although no one knows just yet what that means.  Once the Sha’at Had’chak ends, we will (God-willing) return to the regular activities in the community, perhaps with some adjustments that may become permanent.

Over the years, the Jewish people have faced massive changes.  We were thrown into slavery in Egypt and centuries later miraculously and spectacularly freed.  We settled a new land, were exiled, resettled, were exiled again and resettled again.  We have survived pogroms, plagues and mass murder.  Through it all, we remained true to ourselves, our tradition, our observances and to God.  

We will get through this with God’s help–and with each other’s help too!

Wishing you an early Shabbat Shalom!

When a Trainer needs a Trainer

Last week I went to Columbus and signed up for a training session with my long-time personal trainer. It had been 8 months since my move, and frankly I was a little nervous. I’ve had some health setbacks and was worried that I had atrophied while I was gone.

It was a tough workout but I made it through. What it made me realize–which is kind of like a “duh”–is that there really is a benefit to working with a trainer. Of course, as a personal trainer myself, I see the results in my clients. So many of them are reaching their fitness goals, have greater stamina, improved balance, and have taken control of their health. Sometimes it takes a trainer–not a doctor or family member or friend–to push you beyond what you think is your capability. As I said in a recent blog post: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

I left Columbus knowing that I may not need to hire a personal trainer, but that it makes sense for me to ask one of my fellow trainers (which I did) if we could work out together. We had a short 20 minute session today. He told me that he pushed himself because I was there, and I certainly went beyond my usual. It felt great!

I know this sounds self-serving, but if you feel like you are in a rut, not getting the results you want, and that you are continually playing out the same fitness drama…seek professional help. I did. You can too! 🙂 Personal Trainers make a difference.

Tonight’s Purim Workout

This is the workout that I did this evening. It is based on the Book of Esther, and is annotated to explain the rationale behind each exercise from the story of Purim.

Try it out! It was a very schvitzy experience for all of us.

Purim Workout I – Hamantaschen Buster

Rabbi Michael Ungar

50 minute workout

Tabata:  40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest; each superset completed twice, followed by 90-second rest.  Total of six rounds of supersets (plus warm-up and cool-down)

Equipment needed:  mats, dumbbells, medicine ball, kettle bell

Achashverosh’s party – to reflect the party we stretched and danced for 1 minute to Hebrew Workout music from Spotify. King Achashverosh threw a party at which he asked his queen, Vashti, to dance. She refused so she was banished and the king searched for a new queen.

Warm-up:   Stretch & Dance

Beauty pageant – Not exactly politically-correct, but the king held a pageant to find a new queen. He chose Esther who (unbeknownst to him) was Jewish. The lunges represent the walk down the runway that pageant competitors do; Warrior 3 is like talent competition; floor hip abductions are because Esther managed to get a “leg up” on the competition.

Walking lunges with dumbbells

Warrior 3 (lean forward, balance on one leg, arms forward)

Floor Hip Abductions (on side, raise upper leg – each side 20 seconds)

Mordechai discovers the plot while sitting at the gate – Mordechai overhears a plot to kill the king and reports it to the authorities; he is not rewarded, but his deeds are recorded in the king’s records. Sit-ups because the plot had have caused Mordechai to sit up; single-arm side bends because it looks like you are listening in when you do these; the Russian twist because…well…so many twists to the story.

Sit-ups

Dumbbell Side bends (one arm with dumbbell, other at ear)

Russian twists with weighted ball or kettlebell

Mordechai won’t bow to Haman – Haman, the king’s vizier was a power-hungry guy and no friend to the Jews. He had quite an ego and demanded that everyone bow down to him. The bent-over dumbbell rows represent those who did bow down; the upright rows or presses represent the Jews who would not bow down; the supermans because Mordechai was a super guy!!

Bent-over Dumbbell Rows

Upright Rows or Dumbbell Overhead Presses

Supermans

Haman plans to kill the Jews – Haman was so incensed by Mordechai’s and the Jews’ refusal to bow to him that he convinced the king to allow him to kill all the Jews with the excuse that they were different and not loyal to the ruler. Lots (in Hebrew, Purim) were drawn to determine the day it would happen. To represent his evil plot, this is the most evil superset in the workout; no one was killed in the workout, but it was close!

Burpees

Kettlebell swings

Push-ups

Esther intercedes – Mordechai knew the only way to save the Jews was to have Esther speak to her husband, the King. This would involve her revealing her true identity. It was a gamble, but Mordechai convinced Esther to do it. Her fear and ambivalence are reflected in shrugs; the front raises represent the king raising his scepter (a sign of his allowing her to speak); the hammer curls represent the strength Esther needed to confront the king and challenge Haman.

Dumbbell shrugs

Dumbbell Front Raises

Bicep Hammer Curls

The Jews are victorious – The king could not rescind the decree to have the Jews killed, but allowed the Jews to defend themselves. This prevented their being destroyed; Haman and his sons were hanged and the Jews were, once again, victorious. The squats represent our enemies who were reduced to squat; we crushed our enemies; and the tricep kickbacks? A reminder of the three-cornered hat worn by Haman that is the basis for the three-cornered Hamantaschen pastry we eat on the holiday.

Dumbbell Squats

Dumbbell Skull Crushers

Tricep Kickbacks

The Celebration – After a tough workout, there is no better way to celebrate than to cool down and stretch it out. And that is a workout based on the Book of Esther and the Purim Story!

Stretches