As Rosh Hashanah approaches again my thoughts turn to...my weight. I've been gradually gaining weight since I left school and nearly 40 years later, I'm at the point where permanent poor health is just around the corner.
This gives me a moral dilemma as well as a physical one. I teach that we have a holy obligation to look after our bodies. Yet I am not fit. I can't teach what I don't practice myself, not with any integrity.
So as both a moral and a physical imperative I recently embarked on yet another diet. At their most basic, weight-loss diets are about avoiding food. I've found one that works for me, but it's hard. So be it. I'll get the benefits if I can stick with it.
Living an ethical life isn't that much different. A good part of it is knowing what to avoid. Like avoiding fattening foods we are used to, it's hard to avoid certain patterns of behaviour. We are hard-wired for self-preservation, for self-interest. Yet living in communities as we do, we have developed notions of behaviour that contradict our instincts. We suppress our desire to injure or even kill someone who has angered us. We ignore our wish to take something we like, which belongs to someone else. We choose to share our food rather than hoard it.
Rejecting behaviours we consider “bad” is one thing; but actively doing what is “good” is a quantum leap harder. This coming year perhaps I should be praying for the strength to not only avoid doing what is bad, but to find it in my heart to do more of what is good. And if I can stick with it, maybe it will do some good both for me and for those around me.
--Cantor David Bentley