There is more than one way to take care of ourselves….We might take care of ourselves physically. We might take care of ourselves spiritually. We might take care of ourselves individually. We might take care of ourselves communally.
Our parsha speaks about the mitzvah of erecting a parapet (guard rail) on our roof/s to prevent accidents from occurring (Deuteronomy 22:8). For the most part, our sages connected this mitzvah of the parapet to the general call in an earlier parsha (Deuteronomy 4:15): “v’nishmartem me’od l’nafsh’chem” [be most careful], and interpreted it most often as an injunction to take care of ourselves (and of others) physically.
However, some say that the plain meaning of “v’nishmartem me’od l’nafsh’chem,” taken in the context of the preceeding verses, is the injunction to take care of our souls spritually and not to allow ourselves to be pulled toward idolatry.
There is great wisdom in this mitzvah and in the various ways of understanding its scope.
In this time of Covid awareness, the physical care of ourselves tends to take center stage. When we get vaccinated, we are taking care of ourselves as well as of the others around us.
But we are also right in the midst of the Jewish month of Elul, when we begin to work on re-centering our souls, setting he spiritual ground work for a better year. And, this spiritual work of Elul benefits ourselves as well as others.
When we are more centered, we are less angry. We are more focused, more effective, and more prone to communicate with others even if their views do not reflect our own views. We are more apt to listen with empathy, and to be listened to as well.
It seems that, in the eyes of Torah, the mitzvah of taking care of ourselves is inexorably related to our obligation to take care of others.
May we take care of ourselves, physically and spiritually, and may those around us be blessed by our caring presence!
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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