Issue 5 - Summer 2007 - The Healthy Issue
DON'T PUT SALIVA IN YOUR EYES
Health tips from the Shulchan Arukh
BY EDDY PORTNOY
The Shulchan Arukh, otherwise known as “The Code of Jewish Law,” has been the go-to guide for Jews of all stripes since the mid-sixteenth century. Culled from a wide variety of sources and penned by Rabbi Joseph Caro in Tsfat (the Miami Beach of the medieval rabbinical set), the Shulchan Arukh was created to give Jews on the run a concise anthology of Jewish legal reference. But “concise” in rabbinical terms means four fat volumes, so Hungarian genius Shloyme Ganzfried came up with a one-volume version that anthologizes the anthology and lets you in on the laws you really, really need to know. This Reader’s Digest version of the Shulchan Arukh tells you exactly what to do in the most basic life situations, from the time you are born until the time you die, and pretty much everything in between.
Among the many rules and regulations that govern Jewish life, a significant number deal with health issues. For your edification, we have distilled some of them here. Considering it was written in the sixteenth century when the guy who cut your hair was also your GP, and general medical procedures included bloodletting, trepanning, and leeches, the Shulchan Arukh is pretty sensible. Not bad for a 500-year-old guide. Some people, after all, still use it religiously.
Hand washing plays a significant role in the Jewish tradition, and ablutions must be performed on the following occasions: on awakening from sleep, on leaving the lavatory or bath, after paring your nails, after having your hair cut, after taking off shoes with bare hands, after having sexual intercourse, after touching vermin or searching clothes for vermin, after combing your hair, after touching body parts that are usually covered, after leaving a cemetery, after a funeral, and (of course) after bloodletting.
The Shulchan Arukh also wants you to stay away from certain foods, even though they may be kosher. Among them are stale salted fish, stale salted cheese, mushrooms and truffles, and anything that might stink too much or taste bad. There is also a category of foods that may be eaten but, because they are unhealthy, should be consumed only once in a while, including the meat of large oxen or he-goats, barley bread, cabbage, leeks, onions, garlic, and radishes. You should also never eat any kind of fruit that comes from trees (one has to wonder what exactly they’re talking about here, since a sentence later it is mentioned that figs, grapes, almonds, and pomegranates can be eaten until you explode). Don’t eat any pickled fruit.
If you find worms in your cheese, you can eat them, but not if you think they’re loathsome.
Any kind of blood in food is bad. Keep away!
Don’t eat or drink stuff with worms in it. And don’t try to pawn your wormy food off on anyone else, even a gentile.
It is forbidden to place any food or drink underneath the bed, even if it is covered, because evil spirits may descend upon it.
Drink water. But don’t drink water in the bathhouse; it’s bad for your liver
Don’t drink it after having sex, either; it allegedly causes paralysis (where this paralysis occurs is not mentioned).
Wine is good for you. In moderation.
Eat only when you’re hungry.
Don’t talk while you eat — you could choke.
Don’t do anything that might make bread loathsome.
Don’t sit on a bag of fruit.
Tip your waiter.
If you overeat, you may stick your finger down your throat in order to vomit.
Keep calm and get enough sleep.
Guard yourself against human perspiration, because it is deadly poison, except for perspiration of the face. Therefore, you should not carry food underneath your clothes where it may touch the body, neither should you place coins in your mouth (feh, who knows where they’ve been?).
If you have a cough as the result of a weak heart, you are permitted to suck milk from a she-goat. This should be done in private. Make sure your webcam is off, too.
Get a decent night’s sleep. But don’t sleep too much, because this causes the foul gases from your belly to enter into your head, which is injurious. You can try to avoid gas-head syndrome by sleeping with your head propped up.
Take a bath once a week.
If you’re hoarse, eat sweets and a raw egg. This is known in some circles as “gogle mogle.”
If you have a sore throat, drink liquor. But don’t gargle with it.
ILLNESS, INJURY, DEATH, AND DYING
If someone in your house is sick, you should give money to charity and bless the person in synagogue. If that doesn’t improve his or her condition, change the sick person’s name. That way the judgment against them may be averted. In other words, the rabbis think the Angel of Death is a bit scatterbrained.
Sick people should not rely on miracles. So call the doctor already. And make sure he’s a specialist.
Watch out for incompetent doctors.
Wine is good for cuts.
Don’t put saliva in your eyes, especially if they are sore.
A man is not permitted to tend to a woman who is suffering with a bellyache, lest he become passionate, since he is healthy. A woman, on the other hand, can tend to a man if he is suffering without worrying that the guy is going to jump her.
No bandaging of wounds on the Sabbath is allowed, even if you made the bandage on Friday morning. You may, however, put cobwebs on a bleeding wound, since cobwebs are known to have curative qualities.
You can squeeze pus out of a wound on the Sabbath, but only if you are in pain. Giant, pulsating white zits should also qualify. Use your own good judgment.
All Sabbath laws are moot if a life is in danger. This is basically a Jewish get-out-of-jail-free card. Don’t abuse it.
If you’re seriously ill, you can do anything you want to cure yourself, provided it doesn’t include idolatry, immorality, or murder. So if you feel like you might be saved from certain death by eating a bacon cheeseburger with a side of popcorn shrimp and a huge glass of milk, you can do it.
If a person dies, don’t eat any food or drink any water in their house — it could be contaminated. Wait until the shivah starts and the caterers get there. &