| Parshah |

Stress, Out!

Pinchas naturally lived for hundreds of years because was he was at peace with himself

“Pinchas, the son of Elazar, the son of Aharon HaKohein, appeased My anger against Bnei Yisrael by his zealously avenging Me… Therefore, say, ‘I hereby give him My covenant of peace.’ ” (Bamidbar 25:11–12)

Pinchas was granted a “bris of shalom” for defending Hashem’s honor. The Sforno explains that due to this bris, Pinchas lived far beyond an ordinary life span. However, the Sforno continues, the reason for his longevity wasn’t supernatural, but a consequence of this bris. Since he was granted shalom, he was at peace with himself, and so didn’t suffer the normal internal conflict that causes damage to our bodies.

The Sforno explains that all deterioration, disease, and age-related infirmity happens to the body because of internal conflict. (Rabbi Bentzion Shafier, excerpted from TheShmuz on the Parsha)

“This is perfect!” Dassi stretched and dropped down on the sand next to me.

The beach was completely deserted and we lay there on the sand basking in tranquility. It was the first day since Purim that all our kids were finally back in school. Since Dassi and I work together, she was part of my “capsule” of acquaintances — the limited group of people we interacted with. Today we’d decided to take a mental health day and “work” outdoors.

It seems that this Sforno negates our basic understanding of health. Humans age. The body was only made to last so long, and infirmities and weakness come naturally with old age. So why does the Sforno say it’s due to internal conflict?

The answer to this question is based on 20th-century medical findings. For years it was assumed that a person’s mental condition had no effect on his physical condition. Any reported effects of stress and anxiety on physical health were taken as psychosomatic.

However, nowadays it has become an accepted medical fact that stress causes a marked deterioration to a person’s health — precisely what the Sforno taught over 500 years ago.

Pinchas naturally lived for hundreds of years because was he was at peace with himself. As such, his body was healthier and able to live to an astonishingly advanced age.

“This beats all the breathing exercises I’ve been trying during lockdown.” I took a deep breath of the salty air.

“Do they help you? The breathing exercises?”

“You know what they say, when the body feels peaceful the mind feels peaceful… blah, blah, blah.”

“But is it blah? I mean, I know the opposite is true. Like I always get a cold the week before Pesach.”

“And my heel aggravates me when I’m late for work,” I added, grinning. “And my ears start ringing in the dentist’s office, so I know that’s stress. But I don’t know how to go about convincing my body or my mind to make the source of the stress disappear. So what’s the secret?”

This concept has major ramifications in our lives. When Hashem created man, He implanted within each of us an inner sense of right and wrong. Hashem created the human to be healthy and happy, and to live a fulfilling life. If a person lives in accordance with the wishes of his Creator, he will grow spiritually and live a contented life. However, if he chooses to ignore that path, not only doesn’t he accomplish his life’s purpose, but he also suffers physically.

We were quiet for a few minutes, letting our minds adjust to the rhythm of the pounding surf. “You know why I love the beach?” Dassi asked, lazily trailing some sand between her fingers. “It’s looking ahead at that expanse of water, all the way to where it meets the sky. It’s that place that heavens touch earth. And that’s a place of peace. Does that make any sense?”

I gazed up at the deep blue sky, the cotton candy clouds. My brain felt lulled and loose. “Deep, that’s real deep, Dass. But I do know what you mean. It’s kinda like, l’havdil, a Ne’ilah moment. Your body should be so stressed out from not eating and davening for so long, but instead, you’re at peace with yourself and it feels right.”

“So barring Tishrei, we should come to the beach every week.”

“No, the minute you say every week, that’s pressure. We gotta take this slow.”

We were both laughing now, the sound more soothing than any symphony.

“Okay, so once in a wild week, we come.”

“Maybe we should market this idea? Make some money?”

“Nah, too stressful. Makes my stomach hurt.”

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 700)

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