Body Neutrality… A Jewish Value?

Running taught me to balance chesed (kindness) and gevurah (judgment). In Midrash Leviticus Rabbah, we read that the soul is a guest to the body and that care of the body is deemed a commandment. No longer was my body a physical manifestation of my devotion to “exercise” and “healthy eating.” I started to consider the physical agony of running not as a punishment for eating too much, but as a way to tend to my vessel, my soul’s house.

The prayer Asher Yatzar is the thanksgiving to the functions of one’s body. That prayer taught me that, instead of being grateful for things like the appearance of my calves, I felt admiration and absolute awe and respect for my body’s ability to continue.

One criticism of body positivity is that it places an emphasis on finding joy in one’s appearance, as opposed to body neutrality— a relatively new concept which encourages an appreciation for the mere function and existence of the human body. In my search for peace, I realized that aspects of Judaism inherently encourage a mindful and neutral relationship to one’s body.

From the Lilith Blog, June 2022. Read the full article here.