Monday, October 15, 2018

Why build an ark that was far too small?

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Research: Tefillin may offer heart benefits

A new study suggests people who wear tefillin enjoy cardiovascular health benefits.

Mordechai Sones, 14/10/18

A pilot study led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine suggests Jewish men who observe the commandment to wear tefillin, which involves wrapping one arm with a leather strap as part of daily morning prayer, may enjoy cardiovascular health benefits.

The researchers suggest benefits may occur though "remote ischemic preconditioning" that would protect during heart attacks, reports Medical Xpress. The results are available online in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

Cardiovascular Health Division Associate Professor and UC Health cardiologist Jack Rubinstein, MD enrolled 20 Jewish men living in Greater Cincinnati in his study, nine who wear tefillin daily and 11 who do not wear tefillin. The men participating in the study were between the ages of 18 and 40 and all in good health. Researchers recorded early morning baseline information of all participants and then measured additional data after subjects wore tefillin for 30 minutes.

They measured vital signs, drew blood to analyze circulating cytokines and monocyte function and also measured blood flow in the arm not wrapped in tefillin.

"We found people who wear tefillin in either the short or long term, recorded a measurable positive effect on their blood flow. That has been associated with better outcomes in heart disease," says Rubinstein.

"Blood flow was higher for men who wore tefillin daily and improved in all participants after wearing it just once as part of the study, explained Rubinstein. Men who wore tefillin daily also had fewer circulating cytokines—signaling molecules that can cause inflammation and negatively impact the heart—compared to non-users, suggesting that near daily use elicits an effect similar to that observed with other methods of eliciting remote ischemic preconditioning-like effect," said Medical Xpress.

Wearing tefillin, also called phylacteries, dates back to scriptural commandments in the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus urging Jews to follow Torah laws and to "bind them as a sign upon your arm".

"Tefillin are used for morning prayers by Jewish men over the age of 13 on an almost daily basis," says Rubinstein. "It is placed on the non-dominant arm around the bicep and the forearm in a pretty tight manner. It is never worn in a fashion as to preclude the blood flow. This is worn for about 30 minutes continuously. Prayers are sitting and standing so often you have to retighten the strap around your arm."

Rubinstein says binding the arm and the discomfort users sometimes report may serve as a form preconditioning and offer a substantial degree of protection against acute ischemic reperfusion injury (a section of the heart is deprived of oxygen and then damaged when re-oxygenated) that occurs as a result of a heart attack.

"One of the ways that protection occurs is through pain," says Rubinstein, also a member of the UC Heart, Lung, and Vascular Institute. "Feeling pain is actually a preconditioning stimulus."

Researchers have studied preconditioning by inducing small heart attacks in animal models for years. They found the small, induced incidents protected the animal from larger, more serious heart attacks in the future. This same preconditioning could be used by partially occluding blood flow in one part of the body and thus serving as a protective element in another part of the body to lessen the injury, says Rubinstein.

"The problem with translating this to people is we don't know when someone will have the heart attack," says Rubinstein. "It's almost impossible to precondition someone unless they're willing to do something daily to themselves. Tefillin use may in fact offer protection as it's worn on an almost daily basis."

Rubinstein cites Israeli studies that found Orthodox men to have a lower risk of dying of heart disease compared to non-Orthodox men. The protection is also not found in Orthodox women, who usually don't wear tefillin.

Several Torah commandments observed by Jews until this day have been found to enhance health, sanitation, social cohesion, economic prosperity, and other areas of life. However, Judaism stresses that while material benefit may indeed result from a Torah lifestyle, such benefit is not the reason for the commandment, which remains inscrutable.

From Isaac Mozeson on parsha Noah

The Noah portion פרשת נוח contains the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis of human political history.

First comes the anarchic דור המבול Dor HaMaBOOL, Generation of the Flood. In ten generations humanity degenerates into a corrupt society of theft and sexual perversion. A selfish capitalism gone mad. In pursuit of happiness, your neighbor's wife, children, farm and animals are yours for the taking. Might makes right. It's the cruel chaos of EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF.

After the deadly deluge that flushes the toilet comes a society that is angry at and fearful of G-d. Like children, they blame the punisher rather than those that warranted the punishment. The flood was a drastic divine correction to give Earth a second chance to justify existence. The ten generations of flood survivors, the דור הפלגה Dor HaFLaGaH, Generation of Dispersal, go to the other extreme. They build a collectivist, socialist-communist super-state where NO MAN IS FOR HIMSELF. Humans are now merely bricks in the wall, building a Kremlin tower of centralized government. Equality is achieved. Everyone is dirt poor -- except, of course, for the godlike dictator and his politburo. Heaven is challenged. Their glorious tower is so huge that everyone is now above G-d's ability to drown them.

The thesis of Human "Rights" to whatever one wants gone wild, zero borders or restrictions on greed and private ownership lead to a trajectory of שחת SHaK[H]aT (corruption and theft) that meant that only near-total שחת SHaK[H]aT (destruction) was necessary for Gen-F (the Flood generation). The earth itself loses all borders, is בלול BaLooL (all balled up) between waters above and below, and a dryness for habitation.

The antithesis of a centralized society at least has cooperation and togetherness. G-d can forgive antagonism, if his children are living in peace. But the Soviet-like solid block of Godlessness, which listens to one human commander, and which refuses to populate the globe, undergoes the פריקה PReeYQaH (break-up) of their one Edenic human language. The super-state of Shinar/Sumer disbands, now dispersing to the newly broken land mass with the one group of people they find who are not babbling incomprehensibly.

Only at the end of Parshat Noach/Noah, with Abram (Genesis 11:27), does the Eternal introduce us to the synthesis of a metaphor people and state. Over the next 4 ¾ books of the Five Books of Moses we will get the history, title deed and constitution of the ideal nation that combines the positive aspects of the two earlier failed societies. Rights, private property, freedom and a just justice system is established. Because a free market will lead to income disparity, there is a "socialist" correction every 50 years called the Jubilee. The prophets elaborate how the ideal is not one state marching in lockstep, but that lion states and lamb states will eschew theft and violence

Inspiring story "The Praying Hands"

Description: The Praying Hands" is a famous ink and pencil sketch drawing of Albrecht Dürer. This sketch-drawing is linked to a Heart-warming story of Family-love, sacrifice and Homage.

Why Build a Too-Small Ark? By Eli Block

At the heart of the movement for inclusion is a simple claim: Every human being is created in G‑d's image; we each possess a soul of infinite worth; and differences in our bodies, minds and abilities are therefore external and should not define our interactions with one another.

While the assertion that every one of us is created equal is not likely to turn many heads, the implementation of that idea still encounters some resistance. And it's not an insensitive resistance. It is the perception that inclusion asks too much—that it is a logically sound but quixotic endeavor.

In conversation with peers, lay people and community leaders, one finds that the subject of inclusion often leads to a response that, yes, every member of our community should feel welcome and at home in our synagogues, programs and schools. But wholesale reform is costly and difficult for most average-sized communities, and the task seems too vast for any single action to be meaningful.

Can the construction of every 20-year-old synagogue be revamped? Can every congregation afford an ASL interpreter? We assume that inclusion means an overhaul of our institutions, an all-or-nothing quest. If we cannot provide cutting-edge accommodation, we might as well leave it for others who are in a position to make real change.

In this week's reading of Parashat Noach, a curiosity concerning the ark seems to confront this common reaction of resignation.

Some 120 years before the impending submersion of Earth and its inhabitants, Noah is commanded to construct an ark with very specific dimensions: 300 cubits in length, 50 in width and 30 in height.1 This corresponds to approximately 470 feet in length, 78 in width and 47 in height. For antediluvian man to construct a box of that size is certainly an architectural achievement—and an arduous assignment.

And yet, for all its capaciousness, it is wholly inadequate for its designed use—to provide shelter for a representation of every living beast, bird, reptile and insect in the land. It is absurd to think that an ark the length of a football field-and-a-half can house the nearly million species of animals that roam the Earth. Factor in storage space for a year's worth of food, and the ark is useless as the salvation of the world's animal kingdom.

So how did the ark contain the multitude of Creation? Nachmanides offers that it was a miracle. "The small space contained a large volume."2 But Nachmanides doubles back: If G‑d intended to defy the constraints of space and miraculously accommodate all living things, then why did Noah and his family need to exhaust themselves in the construction of the ark? Let it be a modest yacht, a floating shoebox, a sailboat—it doesn't matter if G‑d is making the arrangements.

And here the commentator arrives at a resonant conclusion. G‑d will tend to His creations, regardless of whether it squares with the laws of physics or not. But He prefers human innovation over Divine intervention. Miracles come on the heel of human effort; they do not replace it.

G‑d looks to humanity for an overture—an attitude of preparedness that says that we are committed to doing what we can to shelter G‑d's handiwork. Spend 120 years chopping trees, gathering wood, cutting planks and assembling a boat that provokes the disbelief of those who see it. Astonish Me and the world with what you are capable of. Then you'll find that even your limited structures can miraculously hold much more than seemed possible.

This, perhaps, is a response to the reluctance well-meaning communities sometimes feel about creating more inclusive environments. The ark that will encompass every living thing may not be within our hands to build. We may not be endowed with the resources or the clout to re-engineer our facilities and neighborhoods. But we can certainly change our attitude, being conscious of how we speak to others, being attuned to the different needs of people with different abilities, and yes, make incremental changes to our brick-and-mortar structures to allow an increasing number of fellow Jews to participate in Jewish life.

When a purposeful effort is made—when we build what we can with the materials we are given—then even if the physical space falls short it becomes clear that this is a community that cares for all its members. If we broadcast that we are striving to invite every Jewish body and soul, we will see our communities expand and our congregations enriched, strengthened and beautified by the welcoming presence of Noah's miraculous, yet human-made ark.

Footnotes 1.

Genesis 6:15.


Ramban to Genesis 6:19.

By Eli Block This article was produced in partnership by the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative (RCII) and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI). The Ruderman-Chabad Inclusion Initiative (RCII) is dedicated to building on the philosophy and mission of Chabad-Lubavitch by providing Chabad communities around the globe the education and resources they need to advance inclusion of people with disabilities. RCII engages Chabad's network of human and educational resources to create a Culture of Inclusion so that all Jews feel welcomed, supported and valued throughout their entire lifecycle. Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom. More from Eli Block  |  RSS

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Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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