From Where I Stand

By Rabbi Yossy Goldman

This week we read all about the Kohen examining people to determine whether they were afflicted by tzara’as, the leprous curse. It was a physical inspection that had spiritual implications. The person might be pronounced tahor or, G‑d forbid, tamei, all depending on the results of the Kohen’s examination.

I couldn’t help thinking about going to the doctor for our annual medical examination, or a “physical.” We go through the routine checkup–height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress tests on the treadmill and up and down the little staircase.

But have you ever thought of going for a “spiritual”?

What’s our “height”? Do we walk tall? Are we proud and upright Jews or are we apologetic, stooped and bent over by the burden of an inferiority complex?

What about our “weight”? Are we on a well-balanced diet of Torah, the sustenance of souls, or do we suffer from spiritual malnutrition?

And how is our heart doing? A Jewish heart doesn’t only pump blood; it pumps warmth and love. A healthy Jewish heart is the emotional center of the person. It emotes and feels the pain of another. And healthy hearts are inspired by events that point unmistakably to the hand of G‑d in the world. If we aren’t feeling what we should be, then we might be suffering from blocked arteries.

When the doctor took my blood pressure, I immediately made the obvious connection–tefillin. I remembered the story of the simple farmer who went for his first medical checkup. When the doctor checked his pressure, he asked what that was all about. The doctor explained patiently that he was checking the heart rate. “But why are you holding my arm if you want to see how my heart is?”

“When I check your hand,” replied the physician, “I know how your heart is.” The hand that gives tzedakah, for example, indicates a healthy Jewish heart.

Then came the stress test–up the stairs and down the stairs, up again and down again, and again and again. How do we handle the ups and downs of life? Are we smug and arrogant when we’re up, and dejected and depressed when we’re down? How do we deal with stress? Do we trust in G‑d that everything has a purpose, and a positive one at that? Or do we become angry and bitter at life’s unkind twists of fate?

Finally, there was the treadmill. I really dislike treadmills. After two minutes I said to the nurse I’d had enough. “The doctor said you must do four minutes,” she informed me callously. “Four minutes?” I cried. “This feels like four hours!”

Life can be a tedious treadmill. We find ourselves running and running and getting nowhere fast. The treadmill, the meandering merry-go-round, the grueling rat race where even if you win you’re still a rat–all of it leaves us wondering what it’s all about and why we are working so hard with no meaningful, consequential reward.

So this year, in addition to going for a physical, why not go for a spiritual? Find a Kohen, a Jewish spiritual healer, who can search your soul for its healthy characteristics as well as your necessary growth points and prescribe a spiritual fitness program tailored for you and your neshamah. May we all be healthy, physically and spiritually. v

Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn and was sent in 1976 by the Lubavitcher Rebbe as an emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul and president of the South African Rabbinical Association. His sefer “From Where I Stand: Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading” was published by Ktav and is available at Jewish book shops or online at

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