Before I got married, many year ago, I was by all accounts a gym rat, even taking two semesters of “Weightlifting” for my PE requirement with Brandeis’s legendary Coach Covan. His timeless encouragement “Lez go lez go lez go!” Motivates me until today. As part of my intensive gym regiman, I would naturally stand on the scale frequently, to monitor my gains. I took bulking season very seriously, and was very pleased with the results.
Somehow though, after getting married, the gym sessions decreased in number, as did the daily check-ins on the scale. Now that I was married, I was eating a lot more salad, and figured I would naturally remain at my pre-marriage weight. Never did I realize that eating 7 slices per meal of The Better Half’s divine challah every Shabbos might lead to the wrong kind of gains. Seven years later, when living in Albany, I, and my esteemed colleague, challenged some of our college students to a 2 on 2 matchup in basketball. Extremely confident in our own ability, and equally confident in their lack of ability, I talked a lot of smack leading up to the big game. At first the game went as expected. When my poor opponent tried to shoot the ball over me, I stuffed him like a Thanksgiving turkey. We scored a quick layup, and assumed we were on to a seemingly swift victory. However, on the third possession, I became overwhelmed with exhaustion and fatigue. My opponents, 8 years my junior, seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy. They proceeded to destroy us, and run us off the court. I required a halftime, where I could lay down and rest for 15 minutes. After this humbling experience, I realized, “Wow,I ain’t in my early 20s any more. This body aint what it used to be.” When getting home, I casually stepped on the scale, and realized right away, that my weight, to put it mildly, was not what it used to be.
I proceeded to put a weight logging app on my phone, and every morning I simply logged my weight. To my pleasant surprise, doing this activity, enabled me to lose about ten pounds over the course of three weeks. When I had to be accountable for my weight every morning, I thought twice about what I put in my mouth. But inevitably life would get interupted, I would take a trip to Israel, or an intense Jewish holiday of eating food would appear, and after the trip, or the holiday, I would be too ashamed to step on the scale. I did not want to see what the scale would reveal, so I kept noshing and fressing to my stomach’s content. Then, two years ago, I brought a group of students to Colorado for a week of skiing, and inspiration. On the slopes for the first time in 10 years, with my BFEE, about half way down our first painful run, I told him I needed to pull over and rest. So I sat down on the fluffy snow, enjoying the gorgeous view that the Almighty placed in front of me. After 7 minutes of basking in the cool mountain air, and the surreal scenery around me, I attempted to stand up. I had done maneuevers like this hundreds of times in my teens. But for some reason, now, 10 years later, like Humpty Dumpty himself, I could not get up again. I realized, again, that this body wasn’t what it used to be, and after the trip, I stood on a scale, and started my diet once again, logging my weight every morning.
This cycle continued on sporadically over the past two years. A couple days ago, as I stood on the scale after yet another long hiatus, I realized that this phenomenon also has a deep spiritual lesson. You see, oh Henry, one of the greatest challenges in our service of G-d is simply to build up the guts to stand on the scale. To have the courage to take stock of where we are holding, and to objectively get a sense of where we are at. Once we know honestly where we are, we can make a plan. We can brainstorm ways to improve ourselves; to be more careful how we treat each other. If we never stop to evaluate how we are doing, we will recklessly continue on the way we are going, continuing our detrimental habits, wasting precious time, slandering others, etc…Only by objectively recognizing where we are, can we do a 180, and get back on track. By standing on the scale I can objectively recognize if I am overweight, and therefore respond by exercising extreme caution by monitoring what goes in my mouth. Similarly, by stepping on the spiritual scale, I can recognize if perhaps I spend too much time on my phone, or I don’t spend enough time with my kids. With that recognition, I can take steps to improve in these areas.
The question is, when is it possible to even stand on this spiritual scale? Is it even possible? I would like to suggest that we have an opportunity to do just this once a week, every week, during Shabbos. From Friday night until Saturday night we put our phones away, desist from regular weekday activity, and don’t go to work. This allows us the opportunity to not only connect to our families, but also to connect to ourselves. To get on the spiritual scale and to get a sense of where we are at, and to make a plan for how to get back on track. All of us– myself, and my thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands, of readers world wide have a lot of areas in which we can improve. But the first step is very simple. We just need to work up the guts to stand on the scale.