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By: Dave Gordon

Are there hidden advantages
to abiding by a Jewish lifestyle?

The answer is yes! Originally, following the Torah given to us by Gd more than three thousand years ago was thought to have only spiritual benefit – but, actually, there are physical side benefits too! Below are just a few of the ways Hashem’s instructions for living have just recently been recognized by science and medicine.

In Sefer Beresheet, Hashem issues the commandment ofbrit milah:

“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between me and you. At the age of eight days, every male among you shall be circumcised, throughout your generations….”

Hashem frames the brit milahas an act that binds us to him –
and indeed it does; but it also reduces our chances of getting urinary tract infections, cancer and inflammations of the skin. These findings have been recently confirmed by institutions like The Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
They are only now discovering what Hashem knew to be to our benefit all along.

In Sefer Va’yikra, Hashem prohibits us from eating shellfish:

“Everything that does not have fins and scales in the seas and in the streams…they are an abomination to you. You shall not eat of their flesh and you shall abominate their carcass.”

Hashem urges us here to be forever disgusted by shellfish – and for good reason; shellfish toxins are potentially fatal! By giving us this prohibition, Hashem protects us from shellfish poisoning – yet another reason we owe Him our lives.

In Sefer Devarim, Hashem tells us,

“You may slaughter from your cattle and your flocks that Hashem has given you, as I have commanded you.”

There is sound logic to our only eating meat after it’s been slaughtered in the way that Hashem commanded. Kosher methods kill the animal instantly, protecting against the spread of infection transmitted in the blood. These methods are far more humane than those of the secular world. There, animals are shot up to five times in the head before they collapse, releasing a large amount of epinephrine from the animal in the process. High levels of this hormone being ingested by humans can cause difficulty procreating –
directly interfering with our mitzvah of peru urvu.

Not only do meats slaughtered in the kosher fashion help ensure the continuation of the Jewish nation, they also reduce the possibility of the contraction of mad cow disease. Halacha demands that we eliminate the use of cows with broken bones and cows that are visibly sick. Additionally, kosher slaughterhouses have a policy of only killing cattle that are under 30-months old – young enough that mad cow hasn’t had a chance to set in. Jews are thereby spared exposure from viruses, bacteria and other communicable diseases.  This is very different from the situation gentiles find themselves in. Their slaughterhouses routinely scrape areas “near the brain and spinal column, where [mad cow] could reside.” Inevitably, some of these scraps end up in packaged meat, a frightening outcome to non-Jewish consumers. So much so that a recent Los Angeles Times article entitled “Turning to Kosher Cuts” reported that non-Jews are turning to kosher meat as “a safer choice.”

There are still other scenarios in which our wellbeing is protected by Jewish law. The Shulhan Arukh brings down that eating a combination of meat and fish is a danger to one’s health. Because meat and fish are two highly salted proteins, they should not be eaten together in one sitting. Here is the story of how that got to be the case: In Biblical times, since the main bodies of water conducive to fishing were the Jordan River, the Mediterranean coast, the Sea of Galilee and the waterways in Egypt, many miles would have to be traveled and a span of many days passed to bring fish to a city. To last the long journey, the fish would have to be preserved by heavy salting. Since meat was already heavily salted during the koshering process, and the fish was heavily salted before being transported to market, the effect of their mixing in the stomach was chaotic.

Science substantiates this: Consuming highly salty foods may impair the functioning of blood vessels within thirty minutes, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “The high protein load along with the high sodium load would put stress on the kidneys and heart. If severe enough, the person could experience a heart attack,” says medical dietician Adrienne Raimo. Morton Tavel, a Cardiologist in Indianapolis, concurs, adding that the maximum amount of salt one should consume per day is about 1.5 teaspoons. That would assuredly be exceeded if salted fish and meat were to be combined!

We’re all well aware of the prohibition of mixing meat and milk – “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.”Indeed,there is scientific validity in avoiding milk products after consuming meat. Nadya Adreeva, a certified wellness coach, recently wrote that combining the two proteins of cheese and meat can tax the digestive tract, given that they both require significantenergy to digest. It’s also been noted that meat products form acid in the stomach, while milk products form alkaline. Their direct combination causes potential problems for digestion.

All of us wash our hands before eating, a practice exhorted in the Mishna Berura. Did you know that, at any one time, there are
5,000 germs on your hands? According to the Center for Disease Control, a twenty-second hand washing scrubs the majority of germs off the skin. This ritual, so quick and simple, is something we’ve always performed – for the sake of cleanliness and to remain holy. Who knows how many germs we’ve eliminated and sicknesses we’ve prevented in the process!  

Various gemarot advocate sleeping on the left side – and the medical industry substantiates this as best practice. Doctors say that sleeping on the left side helps with circulation to the heart and is better for digestion, whereas sleeping on the right side can cause acid reflux and even heart failure.

In recent years, science has begun to recognize what our Sages already knew for thousands of years: The Torah laws benefit our health as well as our souls. How lucky we are that Hashem established his dictates with the longevity of His people in mind! May the fields of science and medicine continue to reify His greatness and bring more people to appreciate the Wisdom of our Creator.