May 20, 2014

On Health and Hishtadlus

I've been pondering hishtadlus in health matters.  I know that taking care of one's health is a mitzva (Devarim 4:15) so I do many things in this regard.  At the same time, I know about numerous situations in which a person made efforts to take care of him or herself and they experienced illness or injury in that very area. 

For example, being careful on the steps, holding on to the bannister, and falling anyway.  Doing a screening test faithfully and getting that disease anyway.

Even as Hashem enjoins us to take care of ourselves, He lets us entertain no illusions that we are in control.  Because if we think we are, He reminds us that we're not. 

So where does that leave us? It leaves me feeling unsettled.  I know the proper outlook is to think I do my part and Hashem runs the show.  The Chovos Ha'Levavos talks about this. 

It can be hard to maintain this way of thinking because human nature is such that we either 1) go overboard in taking steps to maintain our health * or 2) we are more lackadaisical about it.  To get it just right, i.e. to take the right steps while believing nothing is up to me; it's all up to Hashem, is an avoda.

So sometimes, when I am careful about how I bend down, for example, holding on and bending carefully, I think how sensible I am; but then I think - who am I kidding? I've heard so many cases of "freak" accidents, of missteps, of unexpected and sudden falls and illnesses.  Do I think I can avoid injury because of my awareness and taking care? But we have to be aware and take care ... And so I keep pondering.

* the same goes for parnassa

1 comment:

  1. Screening tests are supposed to find disease so if a person gets screened and the disease if found in time to be cured, the histadlus was effective. There is a balance in everything. Obviously a hypochondriac who worries incessantly about her health is not going to be any healthier than the more relaxed person. OTOH, texting while driving or engaging in dangerous sports, has a greater likelihood of ruining health. Cheesecake is not healthy but I fully intend to enjoy some this Shavous. OTOH, eating it everyday would possibly ruin my health.
    Some people who get vaccinated still develop the disease that they tried to prevent. Had they not tried to prevent the disease, they would feel guilty for not having tried. Others might fault them for being lax and foolish. Obviously we can't predict that a train will derail, a plane will crash, the boat will sink, etc and we can't live out our lives avoiding trains, planes, and boats, or for that matter crossing the street.