The Keys to Life

Sensitivity Towards Your Fellow Man – Rabbi Zamir Cohen

It is important to emphasize that while one is taking care of his physical health, he must be careful not to damage his spiritual health in the process. For example, he should not look down at people who lead their lives according to the accepted social standards or see them as senseless individuals, driven by their desires. He must respect his fellow man and judge him favorably – as some people are simply uninformed. He may educate those who are interested in learning, and show them how they too, can maintain their health. And so, just as it is necessary to follow the principles of proper health, it is also important to protect the soul and make sure no one gets hurt along the way.

Therefore, if a child grows up in an environment that consumes unhealthy sweets, and his parents sense that he is constantly jealous of his friends, they shouldn’t completely deprive him of these sweets. Instead, they should limit the amount the child consumes, and offer him healthier snack alternatives without him feeling deprived. Here’s a good tip to end with: When a child receives an unhealthy snack in school, he should save it and exchange it for a healthier alternative when he gets home.

When a person is a guest at someone’s house and he is served mediocre food, he must eat the food that he is served so as not to hurt his host’s feelings, even if he is not used to that level of quality. Especially because it is also harmful to drastically avoid food that has been labeled “unhealthy”. For instance, completely refraining from fats increases the risk of stroke and other harmful health hazards. Also, some opinions suggest that in order to maintain a strong body clean of toxins, we must consume a minimal amount of unhealthy products.

We must also remember that radicalization to the point of having 'health anxiety' is also harmful to the body as well as the soul. Therefore, tough-minded health fanatics who are overly stressed and cautious will ultimately achieve the opposite effect; they may actually cause harm to their health and ruin their sense of joy. If they reduce their menu options to a small variety of food types, they may eventually become deficient in some basic nutrients – this might be one of the reasons why some health fanatics still die relatively young – as Rabbi B’chayeh so wonderfully says:[1]

“Be careful not to be too careful.”

Therefore, as we’ve already said, a person has to maintain the right balance and have a cheerful and positive approach to life. He should try to be more lenient as a guest and respect his hosts by eating their food even if it is considered medium quality (provided that there are no problems with the kashrut). Exceptions can be made when the food is extremely harmful, or his health condition restricts the consumption of that particular food. In such a case, he should apologize and explain the matter to his host. But a healthy person should remain sensitive to others while maintaining a balanced diet – as the mitzvah of respecting your fellow man offers safekeeping and protection.


Notes and Sources

[1] Introduction of Duties of the Heart by Rabbeinu B’chayeh

Adapted from “The Keys to Life” by Rabbi Zamir Cohen


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