New Jersey Jewish News
The doctor is in
I have a confession to make: I am not a doctor. I know that this may come as a total shock to those of you whom I have been diagnosing and treating for years. But Dr. Farfel is not my real name, and that rash on your stomach that I told you to put antibiotic cream on may not go away. My husband, who is a bona fide doctor, continually reprimands me as I insist on helping out family and friends with their aches and pains.
So what medical school did you graduate from? he asks coquettishly as I prescribe lots of salty foods for my friend who is having dizzy spells. (I know when Im dizzy I always feel better after eating pickles or drinking tomato juice so why wouldnt she?) Admittedly, I have made a few mistakes, like the time I told my mother to put Clorox on her skin to bleach age spots. But hey, 20 percent of all patients are misdiagnosed, so cut me some slack.
Where does my expertise come from, you may wonder? From the same place that yours does from having a body which miraculously functions every day without any instructions from me. And over the years, from childhood illnesses to broken bones, from stress related conditions to chronic ones, I know what it feels like to be healthy and how miserable I am when I am not.
The human body is an incredible thing. We do not need to stand before any greater wonder of nature than our own bodies in order to appreciate the intricacy and beauty with which our world is endowed. Consider the very concept of our bodys homeostasis, the mechanism that strives to create a balance between the hundreds of interdependent elements. The nervous system and the hormone system regulate, via intricate feedback loops, various systems in response to changes in our internal environment. With no conscious help from us, our body constantly monitors and regulates circulation, respiration, digestion, and excretion. Frankly, I can think of no greater proof of God than in the workings of the miracle that we call our bodies.
And I am not alone in my awe. A sense of wonder and amazement at the workings of our body is the starting point of the daily Jewish morning prayer service. More than a thousand years ago, the rabbis recognized how essential it is to acknowledge our extraordinary bodies and created a daily blessing which praises them with these words:
Blessed are You, our God, Who shaped the human being with wisdom, making for us all the openings and vessels of the body. It is revealed that if one of these passageways was open when it should be closed, or blocked up when it should be open, we could not survive and stand before You. Blessed are You, God, who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.
It doesnt take more than a terrible cold or a bad case of constipation to understand the significance of passageways that are too open or blocked. Human nature being what it is, however, we tend to think about our good health most often when we lose it.
Jewish prayer stands as a daily reminder to honor our miraculous body not only in the absence of health, but in its presence. Paying tribute in this manner leads us to a deeper, more spiritual appreciation of the physical nature of our being.
When we eat a big meal with lots of sugar, our bodies produce insulin in order to absorb it. When we get an infection, our body recognizes it and produces specific antibodies to kill it off. When its beastly hot and we become dehydrated, our body produces hormones which help us retain fluids. All of these are small miracles at work within us every day.
I may not be a doctor but I am deeply grateful for what my body teaches me about humility, strength, healing, and the delicate balance that goes on every day to keep me active and healthy. And just in case you feel a cold coming on, my advice is to take plenty of Vitamin C and echinacea. Dr. Farfel swears by it!
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