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Thursday, February 29, 2024 - 20 Adar I 5784
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Health Promotion

In 1986, the first international conference on health promotion was held, during which the famous “Ottawa Declaration” was signed. The declaration enunciated the principles that turned international convention on its head and established a new standard for human health. No longer would “health” be defined as the absence of illness. The new conception of health is a state wherein a person has all the necessary conditions to reach his or her full physical, mental and spiritual potential.

The Ottawa Declaration states that every person, wherever he or she may be, is entitled to a supportive environment to help him achieve greatness. It is the duty of the states to provide their citizens with peace, adequate food, a stable ecology, access to educational and medical resources, social justice and equality. All political and societal forces – governmental, economic, industrial, social, cultural and environmental – must mobilize in order to enable all people to achieve and realize their health potential.

Health promotion is a new field, more advanced and far-reaching than preventative medicine. Its aim is not merely to prevent illness, but to ensure the highest level of wellness and functioning by all members of society. In order to ensure this, we need to look at health not only on an individual level but a communal and societal level. Only when all these factors are functioning in an optimal way can each individual reach their maximum potential.


A new field, did we say? Not quite. This concept is actually quite an ancient one, which we find articulated by none other than Maimonides, as a halachic ruling: “Being that a healthy and whole body is part of Divine service…” With this statement, Maimonides establishes that good health is a prerequisite to Divine service. We need all the proper physical conditions to be in place so that we can, in turn, devote ourselves to serving G-d fully.

This goal will be fulfilled in its entirety with the true and complete Redemption, described by Maimonides as the era of ultimate perfection: “And in that time there will be no hunger and no war, no jealousy and no competition… All good things will be freely available and all delicacies will be as accessible as dust.”

And what will be the purpose of all this bounty? Maimonides continues, “And the sole occupation of the world will be to know G-d.” This state of perfect health and abundance will enable us to fulfill the true purpose of creation, to experience G-dliness within the physical world. According to our prophets, all ailments will be healed, and death will be eradicated forever.



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