Towards a Shanah Tovah of Wellness

Among my objectives of the “Spirit of Wellness” project this past year was to design and facilitate a course of study that took a blended approach toward the Jewish holidays and wellness.  Over five summer evenings ten students accompanied me on a surf ride through the seasons.  Aptly called “Surfing the Seasons on the Currents of Spirituality and Wellness,” the study challenged us all to modify our preconceived depiction of the Jewish calendar as a flipbook of consecutive months, weeks and days.  

Each week we encountered an entire season’s worth of significant days as a plank of awareness of our strengths and vulnerabilities.   

The students were then challenged throughout the sessions to cultivate a relationship with the array of seasons: 

  • In the plank of From Pesach to Shavuot and Everything In-Between, we affirmed vigilance and protection as safeguards to our freedom, followed by a counting from the inside out toward our personal redemption and a living wisdom

  • In the plank of The Three Weeks we named “the narrow straits” through which we must all pass in life and our need to respond with acuity when our feet are put to the fire

  • In the plank of the Tishrei holidays we appreciated the importance of rebooting, rebirthing to a clean slate, and unbridled joy through community

  • In the plank of Chanukah -Tu B'Shevat-Purim, we explored the importance of healthy eating, unlimited growth and improvement, the existence of miracles and the discovery of our inner Maccabee

As a prop we engaged in a resource known as “The Seven Dimensions of Wellness,” whereby Wellness is understood to be a  “full integration of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, each dimension contributes to our own sense of wellness or quality of life, and each affects and overlaps the others. At times one may be more prominent than others, but neglect of any one dimension for any length of time has adverse effects on overall health. The culmination of our study together was our analysis of how each dimension is embellished by a dyad of holidays, amidst the spiritual messages embedded therein: 

  • Physical:  Chanukah/ Purim - celebrations of miracle stories in which bold and timely actions were indispensable

  • Emotional:  Simchat Torah/Tisha B’A- tradition is an admixture of joy and tears that balances our daily approach to life

  • Intellectual:  Pesach/Shavuot - heartfelt study and discussion around our tables  and at shul challenge us to remain cognitive

  • Social: Purim/Sukkot - our gatherings for feasting and the high value of hospitality enable us to preserve interpersonal connections

  • Spiritual:  Yom Kippur/Shemini Atzeret - we rely upon our rituals to access a loving and forgiving God Who is reluctant, at the end of the day, to let go

  • Environmental:  Rosh Hashanah/Tu B’shevat - we celebrate creation and nature and an awareness of our duty to be God’s stewards of their care

  • Occupational:  Pesach/Sukkot - we are tested to plan and maintain healthy inventory on each of these week-long festivals, as symbolic of having good strategies for all of our weeks

Hence we see a definitive roadmap of wellness throughout the seasons of the year. 

With the renewal of time at this season, let us take pause not only for the introspection and return that beckon us toward a place in the Book of Life, but also for the wider, longer map of time that involves peaks and valleys, high and low tides, that at times will test our resolve and our strength but, ultimately, undergirds our pursuit of wellness as a thread.