Book Review: Body and Soul: The Torah Path to Health, Fitness, and a Holy Life

Body and Soul: The Torah Path to Health, Fitness, and a Holy Life by Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld and Dr. Daniel Grove MD.

Body and Soul is an outstanding health book. With sources from over a wide range of chazal (rabbinic literature), it sheds light on how one can maintain one’s health in an optimal manner over one’s entire life.

Exercise is so important- but how exactly is one meant to exercise? To exercise in the best way possible so one can be healthy and high functioning well into old age. This book shows how. More than that it covers a wide range of points which others might overlook which contributes to avoiding many illnesses lo aleinu (may it not come to us) and keeps us healthy so we can feel great in all ways. Such as which foods to avoid and which to pursue, weight balance, serenity, sleep and more.

In this book the authors quote in many places from the works of the Great Rishon (early commentator) the Rambam who was a doctor himself. It is said that the Gadol Hador Rav Shach zt”l would follow the Rambam special unique diet. Why specifically the Rambam’s diet? What about other up to date medical knowledge which during Rav Shachs time had? (Very recently.)

My theory is as follows: “The Rambam was Daas Torah” (the correct outlook on Torah-views) but it is more than that. I believe that the Rambam used his greatness in Torah to draw out from the Torah itself how one is meant to take care of oneself so that one can always be in optimal health in order to make the most out of life. Think about it: God created man right? So it stands to reason that He had to also supply him with the knowledge as to how to take care of himself. Because after all Hashem knows the correct way of maintaining one’s health in the most optimal way- because He created Him!

To add on this point the commentary of Rabeinu Yonah writes on Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) that all of the wisdom of the world is contained in the Torah. Therefore it stands to reason that the Rambam in his great wisdom of delving into the Torah drew out this wisdom as how to maintain one’s health in the best way possible! This may be why Rav Shach specifically undertook to follow the Rambam’s diet for the Rambam knew- from the Torah- how one is meant to take care of oneself! 

Overall this book is a great read in that its health teachings are very relevant for our lives in that it can increase our mood, vitality and enjoyment of how it feels to live a healthy lifestyle for our entire life.

Shmuel Brodersen is a talmid of Rav Binyomin Moskovitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Midrash Shmuel, Yerushalayim. Shmuel lives in Far Rockaway, New York.