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Good Stress
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Exercise is known to have many important health benefits. Besides its weight loss effects, exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, gives a boost to your immune system, helps you to relax and to sleep better. Exercise helps to keep your blood pressure low, and raises levels of “good” cholesterol while decreasing the “bad” cholesterol.

How does exercise have its beneficial effects? Research shows that exercise puts the body in a state of mild stress. As a response, the body ups its production of stress hormones, which have some miraculous properties of their own: They boost the immune response; resist the development of genetic mutation in other cells of the body; break down dysfunctional proteins, and help the functional proteins carry out their necessary tasks.

Exercising isn't always pleasant; you may experience fatigue or muscle tension. However, the health benefits are incomparable.

In a spiritual sense, we are quite familiar with the phenomenon that temporary stress can yield long-term benefits. There is a common saying, “If it doesn't break you, it will make you.”       

This is also the explanation behind the phenomenon of exile: G-d sends us into a situation that taxes us to the maximum, and appears to be a punishment. However, the true purpose of exile is that we should emerge stronger and healthier than ever before.

This is true, too, of the descent of the soul into a physical body. Even disregarding the effects of sins and misdeeds, the very fact of existence in a physical world is difficult for the soul. The desires and demands of the physical body strangle the soul, which has only spiritual cravings. It longs for a state of Redemption, when it will be released of bodily constraints. At the end of the soul's journey to earth, if it had followed the instructions of its Creator and lived a life filled with Torah study and good deeds, the soul returns to G-d restored, elevated, to a far higher state it could have achieved prior to its descent.

The same is true of exile. After our nearly two millennia in exile, filled with sorrows and challenges, this stress-filled period is about to come to an end. The goal has been reached. Now we await the redemption of each individual soul, when we will all join together in an expression of strength and unity, towards the final and ultimate Redemption.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.



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