May you live until 120.
People have said that to me since I was a toddler, and I have always wanted my family and me to live long lives, but nowadays 120 looks scary.
On the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah we read Va-Yeilekh. We learn that Moshe was 120 when he told the Jewish people that he could no longer lead them. He said to them: "I am now one hundred and twenty years old, I can no longer be active. Moreover, the Lord has said to me" (Deuteronomy 31-2).
It's uncommon to see someone who is in their eighties hiking through the desert, let alone someone who is 120. We learn in V'zot Ha-Bracha that when Moshe died he was in good shape. "Moshe was 120 years old when he died: his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated" (Deuteronomy 34:7). How did he live that long? What was his secret?
He was walking for 40 years, and walking is beneficial, but I think the walking was only part of what kept him healthy. Moshe lived a life devoted to God and His commandments. I have studied Torah in some fashion since I was in preschool. When I was young, I thought it was a guidebook for how Jews should live. Now I see the Torah as a book of health. We have commandments about how we should eat, act, and live. If we look closely into God's commandments, we can and will be healthy.
The Torah helps us eat right by giving us the laws of kashrut. Keeping kosher is actually healthy. It takes our bodies six hours to digest meat, and it's beneficial to allow meat to digest before adding dairy. In the Torah, we also have commandments that teach us what to eat and how much to eat. It's important to keep our stomachs healthy for our physical and mental health. Although many people believe that serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control our mood balance, is stored in our brains, 90 percent of our serotonin is actually stored in our gastrointestinal tract. A lack of serotonin leads to depression. In order to be relaxed and feel good emotionally, we need to take care of our stomachs. A kosher diet allows us to be gentler on our stomachs.
Observing the laws of kashrut is also healthy because it teaches us willpower, which we need when we go to the grocery store and when we walk by restaurants and smell the aroma of delicious foods. In the 40 years before Moshe's death, he ate manna. No one knows exactly what manna was, but I can tell you right now that it was organic. It did not contain herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides. It was from the Heavens, it was said to be delicious, and it must have been nutritious if it gave Moshe the energy to travel in the desert from when he was 80 until he was 120. We can all eat a modern day manna if we start eating more organic food. We just need to have the willpower (and finances) to buy organic foods regularly.
I have always found it interesting that we read about Moshe's death, right before Rosh Hashanah, around the time we are asking to be written in the book of life. We read about a man who lived a long healthy life, which is what we are striving for. Moshe had a life that most people dream of.
He led a nation, he performed miracle, and he has a legacy. However, he didn't get his wish fulfilled. He was not allowed into Israel. I hope we all live 120 healthy years, and are able fulfill our dreams. Now that the holidays are over, don't only pray for good health, strive for it.
Dana Fine, a Oy!Chicago contributor, is owner of Dana Fine Acupuncture, LLC in Northbrook, and a board certified acupuncturist and herbal medicine practitioner. She loves Judaism and Chinese medicine, and is currently writing a book connecting the two. For more on Fine, visit www.danafineacu.com.