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Mazal tov, mazal tov.

BS”D Two days ago, Hashem Yitborach helped meI reach my goal of losing 70 pounds, going from 232 pounds down to 162 pounds. It took a little over four years, and required a complete change of diet and lifestyle, but it was necessary. The ordeal began with a blood test that caused my doctor to tell me that I was a walking time bomb, with blood sugar at 178 and just about everything else, cholesterol and blood pressure, etc., just as bad. My doctor wanted to give me insulin and I balked. Instead, I went to work on myself, cutting out sugar completely, especially my beloved cake and chocolate and ice cream, and radically diminishing the amount of meat and chicken I ate. And began to walk, ending a 55 year non-stop record of sedentary non-activity, largely limited to sitting in one chair, getting up and moving to another chair. I started walking. 

Tzfat is a great town for walking. The main street, Jerusalem Street, encircles the top of a mountain and to make the loop in a moderately brisk pace took me around 25 minutes with the last seven minutes uphill, ending up at the Shem and Eber shul’s mikvah. So I would walk early in the morning, around 7AM, before things got going in town, and would wind up with a shower and a dunk in the mikvah. The shul is Sefardi and, true to their tradition, and abhorrent to my Ashkenazi DNA, they keep the pool cold. I once asked the gabbai, a neighbor, about heating it up once in while and he blurted out, “Hass v’shalom.”  (Now, in the winter, they take the chill off)

Then I found tai chi and fell in love with it, and became obsessed with it, but tai chi is murder on the knees and after a few months I was crippled to the point of walking with a cane for about six weeks, and it forced me to look around for something else. I found it in jung shin, which is Korean short sword fighting. Jung shin uses two wooden short swords, a little longer than half a meter like a samurai katana sword, and it was not only not hard on the knees, but strengthens them. The details are outside the scope of this post. But jung shin is boring and its movements are almost all sudden and harsh. Then it occurred to me that I could combine jung shin’s moves with the slow and gentle movements of tai chi and trade-in the wooden swords for slightly heavier wooden batons (cut down from meter long mattock handles). And, viola! A new martial art was born. I called it garzen, which means axe in Hebrew and has a martial arty ring to it. For me it worked, particularly when I began to incorporate kavanot (meditational focus) from Talmud Esser Sephirot, which I was learning at the time, and gave it special emphasis on breathing techniques to accompany the movements. When I began, it was difficult for me to sustain a garzen session for very long because it requires smooth integration of complex body movements with focus on the breath and kavanot, all of which left me exhausted after five minutes. Slowly, slowly I built up my stamina and focus. Now, my average session length is around 55 minutes, and two nights ago, I hit a record session length of 70 slow and gentle, but intense minutes, and my goal of losing 70 pounds of schmaltz was reached. Try lifting 70 pounds and see what effort it takes. And I did it without putting staples in my stomach like the wussies do. And the perks are fabulous. There are always moments of true ecstasy when doing the movements, which are five that are ten, meaning five two-part movements. Baruch Hashem, the great Sensei in the sky, Hakodesh Baruch Hu, saved me once more. Hodu l’Hashem ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo. 

The last time I took a blood sugar reading, it was 83. And guess what, my Doctor Jekyll still wanted to give me insulin. They probably have a quota.

Chaim Clorfene